Volumetric Weight: An Introductory Guide

admin-8 January 2020

What is volumetric weight ?

When we think of the word “weight” in a traditional sense, we are usually referring to the mass of an item. This is generally measured in kilograms or pounds. However, when it comes to the world of shipping, packaging and storage, another metric comes into play – volumetric weight (as known as dimensional weight ). Volumetric weight is a new metric that takes into account actual weight as well as the actual package size. This allows for density, package volume, and weight to be combined into a metric that makes more sense for package handlers to use on a day-to-day basis.

volumetric weight - an introductory guide

Why is the volumetric weight used?

In simple terms, dimensional weight allows for package handlers and shipping companies to get a more realistic estimate of the work involved with a particular package. This is because the actual volume of a product can greatly affect the costs involved with storing and transporting it. For example, a gold brick that weighs 1kg is quite easy to transport and store – it doesn’t require any special handling and can be added to a plan in air freight with ease. This is because it is sufficiently dense and doesn’t take up a large amount of volume. However, if we look at a painting that weighs 1kg, it could be up to 3 meters in length. The painting, although equal in weight to the gold brick, requires a lot more effort to handle and store than the brick. This will require bringing in specialty workers, paying more for package storing, paying more for shipping costs, arranging for bigger boxes, and so on. This is a great way to visualise the need for dimensional weight calculations, and why the actual weight of a shipment is often not very helpful.

For any business, it is important that business costs are determined correctly. If weight was the only factor used in determining shipping costs for a customer, then it would lead to severe complications (since the gold bar and the painting would cost the same to ship, but would have radically different storage and transport costs involved for the carrier). This is why each carrier analyzes the costs involved and comes up with a formula to calulate volume weight. It allows for the right shipping fee to be charged to the customer – one that makes pragmatic sense, and allows for the carrier to operate efficiently. Generally, both the true weight and the volumetric weight of a package are considered, and the higher of the two shipping prices is chargeable weight to the customer. This is done so that the carrier can be sure that the price the customer pays covers all involved transport, storage and packaging costs involved.

How to calculate volumetric weight?

The calculation of dimensional weight depends on the carrier. Each carrier has different mediums of shipping, and thus has different costs involved per package. The formula used to derive dimensional weight from a shipment must result in a shipping price that covers all necessary costs. Various carriers use differing storage and transport services (some carriers ship out packages by air, others by sea, and some by land), so all of these factors must be accounted for. To get a good estimate of how volumetric weight is calculated, we’ll take a look at a popular carrier’s volumetric weight calculations.

There are two quantities one must know to calculate volumetric weight: package dimensions and the volumetric divisor. First, you are to multiply the package dimensions (length, width and height) to get a value. Then, you divide the value by the provided volumetric divisor. This divisor depends on the specific carrier at hand, and the shipment costs that they incur with each package. DHL uses a volumetric divisor of 5000. Express services like DHL offer volumetric weight caculator in its website.

Shipping a square package that has a length, width and height of 25cm will therefore result in a volumetric weight of 3.5kg (25 * 25 * 25 / 5000 rounded up to the nearest 0.5kg). If the package is heavier than 3.5kg, then it will be billed at its actual weight, but if it is lighter than 3.5kg, then it will be billed at its volumetric weight.

volumetric weight - length-width-height

How can I reduce the dimensional weight of my package?

For packages that are very large, sometimes there’s nothing much you can do about a high volumetric weight. However, there are some techniques you can employ to reduce the volumetric weight of a package in order to save on shipping fees.

  • Request the merchant for eco-friendly packaging. Hopefully, your product will come with less packaging surrounding it, making for an overall smaller product. This reduces its dimensions and thus its volumetric weight.
  • Ask the carrier to take the product out of its packaging. If you like unboxing products, this option probably isn’t for you, as the packaging will be removed – but, if you don’t care much, why not save some money? Many package forwarding companies allow you to request the removal of extra or unnecessary packaging in order to reduce the total volume of your package.
  • Have multiple items repackaged into a single box. This can cut down volumetric weight greatly, since the volume of several different boxes can be condensed into that of a single box. This involves asking the shipping company to remove the items from their respective boxes and repackage them into a single box. This generally involves a repackaging fee, but even after the fee, you can potentially save a lot of money thanks to the reduction in overall dimensional weight.
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