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Amazon Master Carton Calculator

AMAZON MASTER CARTON CALCULATOR OPTIMIZED FOR DESKTOP ONLY

The FBA Fees Calculator is HIDDEN on mobile & tablet. Visit this page using a desktop or laptop. This tool is not optimized for mobile phones & tablets.

06/27/2022: Packing Material Thickness & Weight Added

You can now add your cardboard thickness, padding, and packing material weight to get a more accurate estimate of carton dimensions and further optimize your carton savings.

Packing Material Thicknes and Weight Update
05/24/2022: New UK and EU Pallet Types Added

We added five new pallet types (shown in the image below) to the Amazon Master Carton Calculator for UK and EU sellers.

Pallet Type Update
04/19/2022: Metric Feature Has Been Completed

You can now choose your default measurement system (metric or imperial) using the Amazon Master Carton Calculator. Mix and match measurement systems as needed by clicking/toggling each individual form field between inches, centimeters, pounds, ounces, and kilograms on the fly.

Metric System Update

Preferences

Unit Information

in
in
in
lb

How Are Your Currently Packaging?

lb
in
in
in
in
lb

How Many Are You Currently Ordering?

Current Storage Costs

🥳 Nice work! Your current configuration is optimal.
Further profitability improvements may be seen by reducing your product size to improve your units per carton and per pallet as well as
reducing your FBA storage and fulfillment fees.

Oops! Something went wrong... 🤔
Hmm... the math just isn't adding up. Perhaps you keyed in the wrong data.
Jump back and look at your numbers again and we'll see if we can get it right this next time around.

Your carton exceeds the weight maximum.
Please check your weight inputs, including Packaging Material Weight to ensure this information is correct so that we can better calculate for your carton/pallet optimization.

Your carton's packing material exceeds the maximum carton length per side according to Amazon's guidelines.
Please check your inputs, including your Packing Material Thickness to ensure this information is correct so that we can better calculate for your carton/pallet optimization.

Based on your current order, one of your pallets will not be fully loaded and is only being partially utilized. We recommend adjusting your order to better optimize your pallet utilization.

To do this, your order should be

Units Savings Current New
Cost per Unit
Cost per Total Units
Carton Savings Current New
Total Cartons cartons
Units per Carton units per carton
Total Carton Cost
Pallet Savings Current New
Total Pallets pallets
Total Cartons per Pallet cartons per pallet
Total Units per Pallet units per pallet
Total Volume Usage
Total Pallet Cost
Total Cartoning/Palletizing Savings

Because you did not include your daily velocity within the calculation, we have assumed your order at a one month order size.
Therefore, your pallet storage is estimated as one month worth of pallet storage. This estimate will not be fully accurate if your order size is large than one month. In order to increase the accuracy of your savings estimate, please enter the daily sales velocity above.

Pack List

Carton Length  units across with  orientation
Carton Width  units across with  orientation
Carton Height  units high with  orientation
Carton Weight
Units per Carton

Important! Each carton equals months of inventory. This is something to be mindful of based on your restock limits. We recommend each carton to contain 2 months of inventory or less but this is something you may not be able to easily achieve given the slower sales velocity of this product.

Pallet Length  cartons across with  orientation
Pallet Width  cartons across with  orientation
Pallet Height  cartons high with  orientation
Pallet Weight
Units per Pallet

Savings Report

Units Savings Current New
Cost per Unit
Cost per Total Units
Carton Savings Current New
Total Cartons cartons
Units per Carton units per carton
Total Carton Cost
Pallet Utilization Current New
Total Surface Usage
Total Volume Usage
Total Pallets pallets
Total Cartons per Pallet cartons per pallet
Total Units per Pallet units per pallet
Pallet Savings Current New
Pallet Cost per Month
Pallet Storage Savings
Pallet Handling Savings
Total Pallet Cost
Total Cartoning/Palletizing Savings
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Units

The Master Carton Calculator is designed to increase profitability by reducing your total cartons and total pallets per order, thereby reducing your carton and pallet storage, shipping, and handling costs. The first step is to provide your unit dimensions and weight which will help to determine your ideal master carton and pallet configurations.

Watch the Video

Cartons & Pallets

This section provides us with your current carton dimensions and per carton and per pallet costs in order to allow us to compute your savings after you reconfigure your packing.

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Savings

This section illustrates the difference between your Current costs and New costs per carton and pallet and the general carton and pallet savings you might earn by reconfiguring your shipments. It also indications the difference between the Current and the New. A more detailed accounting of your total savings is provided in the Savings Report that can be accessed below, along with your Packing Blueprint, which provides instructions on how to build out your master cartons for optimum profitability.

Packing Blueprint

This blueprint lays out the instructions for creating your optimal master carton and pallet configuration. It provides you with information on exactly how to construct your master carton, including which direction each unit should face within the carton. It similarly lays out your optimal pallet configuration and how to place each carton to ensure the most units per pallet to help reduce your total number of pallets. Provide this blueprint to your supplier to instruct them as to how to build your new master cartons.

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Master Carton Calculator For Amazon Sellers

It’s common practice among sellers to pack smaller boxes into a master carton, as this allows them to ship multiple items while keeping costs low by achieving the smallest dimensional weight possible. Dimensional weight is the amount of space a shipment occupies in relation to its actual weight. More on that later.

However, if you don’t know how to choose the correct carton size for your products or how to pack them correctly, it quickly can lead to costly errors.

A good example of a costly packing error is additional shipping charges. A box that is unnecessarily large due to excess packaging may be subject to an additional handling surcharge on top of other applicable fees because the bulky box may require special handling or equipment in order to be loaded into a truck properly. Plus, the box would take up more space that the carrier could use for other packages so they have to be compensated for that, too.

Weight-related oversize charges may also apply if your package exceeds the maximum weight limit (usually over 70lbs). This is because the carrier cannot fill a trailer when heavier shipments prevent them from loading more items when the truck’s max loading capacity is reached.

The rates for handling oversize packages vary by carrier. Let’s take FedEx’s additional charges as an example. Additional oversize handling fees, ranging from $16 to $25 per package as of 2021, apply to oversize packages that exceed 48″ on the longest side, 30″ on its second-longest side, or 105″ in length and girth combined. An oversize charge of $105 also applies to packages that exceed 96″ in length or 130″ in length and girth combined.

In addition, you could potentially be charged fees all along the way for those oversize packages – from ocean/air shipping to ground freight to Amazon – each carrier could charge you an additional fee and all that would really start adding up to some significant financial damage.

With Amazon, shipping unnecessarily large boxes can be even more punitive than with other vendors. According to their strictly enforced box dimension policy, boxes that contain several standard-size or oversized items must not exceed 25 inches on any side. A box may only go over the 25-inch limit if it contains oversize products that measure longer than 25 inches. Boxes that are excessively large relative to the oversize units may lead to additional fees, restriction of shipping privileges, or refusal at an Amazon FC.

So, unless you’re actually selling oversized products, it’s critical to stay off Amazon’s (and your carrier’s) oversize categorization as much as possible to minimize shipping costs and avoid ​​blocking of future shipments.

In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about master cartons, including some tips for optimizing your packaging to reduce shipping costs.

What is a Master Carton in Shipping?

Master Carton Definition

Also known as master case, a master carton is the durable outer packaging unit of inner packages. The best way to describe it is like an exoskeleton that protects your smaller boxes (or products) from damage during storage and transit.

3 Common Types of Master Cartons

  1. Regular Slotted Containers (RSC). This is one of the widely used types of master carton. The space between the inner flaps is in proportion to the ratio of width and length of the box. It can be utilized to ship all product types and sizes, from lightweight to heavyweight. It’s also the most commonly used carton for shipping products into Amazon.
  2. Telescopic cartons. This type of master carton has a separate top lid that fits over the separate body of the box. It is suitable for storing food items that usually require ventilation.
  3. Fully overlapped cartons. This is a heavy-duty box for heavy-duty purposes. The cartons have flaps of the same length and equal to the width of the box. The flaps fully cover each other when folded, hence, the term “overlapped.” The overlapping flaps offer extra cushion to protect the contents against rough handling, making it ideal for storing or shipping heavy items, such as antique pieces and food products.

How Do Master Cartons Work?

How Master Cartons Work

Master cartons are designed to provide a large storage space and excellent protection against pressure and damage by absorbing the rigors of handling and shipping environments, keeping the goods stored inside safe and whole during transport.

Master cartons also make it easier for manufacturers to write important information on them with their smooth surfaces. In logistics, it’s standard practice to mark the boxes with carton numbers, the quantity of units inside each box, and hazard icons to help ensure shipments are handled properly.

You can also ask your supplier to include specific details on the master carton (e.g., product sizes, colors, or expiration dates). And in addition to these specific requests, many suppliers will also include the following information by default:

When a master carton is broken down, Amazon will scan each unit inside the carton, add it into your inventory, and distribute to multiple FCs. This also means that packing each item into an inner carton may not be necessary when shipping to Amazon, allowing you to save some money on packaging. Inner cartons could possibly be used for sending to 3PLs and then further broken down, but that would lead to extra fees.

How to Choose the Right Master Carton Size and Type

Tips For Selecting The Right Master Carton Size And Type

When choosing the right master carton for your inventory, consider the following:

FBA Packing Type: Individual vs. Case-Packed Products

When creating a shipping plan in your Seller Central account, you’ll be asked for the packing type that you will be using: individual products or case-packed products. Making this selection will help you to figure out what size master carton to use.

Select “individual products” if you’re planning to ship boxes that contain one or more products with varying quantities or conditions (New, Renewed, or Used). Individually packed boxes can also contain more than 150 units per box.

Alternatively, choose “case-packed products” if your cartons contain identical items with matching SKUs in the same condition. Once selected, enter the number of cases and units per case for each SKU in your case-packed shipment.

Make sure that all boxes with the same product contain equal quantities of that product in each box. For example, a case pack of 12 units must always contain 12 units. It is important to note that this case-packed option only allows you to ship up to 150 units per case.

It’s also crucial to follow Amazon’s FBA products labeling requirements and packaging requirements to avoid issues in receiving your inventory. For instance, case-packed products must not have any scannable barcode on the case itself. Only the individual items inside the case should have scannable barcodes. Failure to comply might result in refusal, return, or disposal of inventory. Additional charges for extra preparation or for non-compliance at the fulfilment center might also apply.

Note: Case packs are different from multi-packs. Case packs are intended to be broken down and the units sold individually. In contrast, multi-packs are sold as sets or bundles (e.g., a shampoo and conditioner set). A case pack may be sold as a multi-pack, but it must be packaged according to the requirements for products sold as a set. Check out Amazon’s Packaging and Prep Requirements for more information.

Restock Limits and Sales Velocity

Your restock limits and sales velocity also determine how many units you can pack and send to Amazon. If you send in large amounts of slow-movers, let's say cartons containing no less than 3 months of stock, this is a bad idea. Cartons that are packed with too many weeks’ or months’ worth of slow-moving inventory will make it difficult for you to improve your sell-through and can be harmful to your restock limits and Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score. So, your restock limit and sales velocity are also two important factors to keep in mind when planning your carton sizes. Units per carton as it pertains to days of stock need to be considered with slow-movers.

Pro tip: Read my Amazon Restock Limits Tips and Updates post to learn how to improve your restock limits.

Master Carton Sizing and FBA Box Limit per Delivery

Figuring out the right master carton size for your shipment can be a tough balancing act. There’s always the possibility of miscalculating things, so careful planning is extremely important.

For instance, using a master carton that’s excessively large relative to the size of your packages can easily push you into oversize categories with major carriers like FedEx (dimensions with a girth of more than 130 inches) and UPS (package length and girth exceeds 165 inches). On the other hand, using master cartons that are too small may result in you having to create more shipments than necessary.

While you’ll have more cartons this way, it will increase your handling fees in the form of per carton fees. It could also increase your overall shipping cost as some freight forwarders (FFs) are now imposing a carton weight minimum. For example, if your FF is applying a 12kg per carton minimum, anything below that would still be charged 12kg per carton.

This new cost structure was likely put into place so that package handlers aren’t handling more packages than necessary. They would rather load and unload 200 slightly larger cartons in and out of warehouses/delivery vehicles than 300 small cartons, for example. These imposed minimums help to encourage exporters to use more efficient packaging methods (more on that later).

In addition, Amazon also has a limit on the total number of cartons per shipment. Exceeding this limit may result in refusal of inventory at FBA.

Make the most of your LTL or SPDs by increasing the carton size enough to both increase the number of units per carton and reduce the number of cartons needed to ship all of your inventory. Having more units per carton simply means less cartons, which means reduced shipping and handling costs.

Pallet Size

As a general rule, it’s best to pick a master carton size that’s planned around fitting on a standard pallet. When choosing the right pallet size, consider the following Amazon pallet requirements:

Pallet Type

The standard pallet that sellers use for their Amazon shipments is a 40″ x 48″, 4-way access wooden pallet (allows a forklift to get under a pallet on all 4 sides). But if a single, large unit cannot fit on a 40 x 48 inches pallet without overhanging the edges, you can use a pallet size and type that’s suitable for the unit.

Pallet Weight

The total weight of your pallet must not exceed 1,500lbs (680kgs). To ensure the most efficient unloading, receipt, and storage of your inventory, each box on the pallet must not exceed the standard weight limit of 50lbs (22.6kg), unless the box contains a single oversize unit that weighs more than 50lbs.

Pallet Height

Pallet height varies depending on whether you’re using a:

Clearances Between Pallets and Other Elements

The overall height of your pallets must allow 6 inches of clearance from the top of the stack to the roof of your trailer or container. Also, allow for at least 3 inches between pallets and container walls while in transit by using:

Lastly, allow for at least 8 inches of clearance from the last row of pallets to container doors to properly engage a dock leveler, a piece of equipment used to bridge the height gap between the semi-trailer and loading dock floor.

Ensuring there’s proper space inside and around the pallet will help forklift operators or package handlers work faster and more safely. When they have proper operating space, they can easily load or unload the pallets from one location to another.

While too much clearance between your pallets and the trailer roof, walls, and doors won’t necessarily slow things down, it will likely waste a lot of space.

Not accounting for pallet height and clearances can also be disastrous (and expensive). Let’s say you’re shipping cartons that are 24″ high each on a non-stackable 72” pallet. In that case, you would only be able to stack two cartons (48″ in height total plus 6” of pallet material for 54” total height), leaving you with 18″ of unused space (72” – 54”) on your single pallet. That is significantly less space efficient.

However, if you downsize your cartons from 24” to 16”, you could stack it 4 layers or 64″ high, leaving you with only 2″ left of usable height, which is much more space efficient.

If you stack it too high, as some have done by not accounting for the 6″ of wooden pallet height clearance, and build it up with 72″ of actual box height, all of those pallets would have to be unpalletized and repalletized to actually be able to fit in the trailer or shelving system of your 3PL warehouse, costing you palletization fees. They could also be rejected by Amazon.

Get advice from your 3PL on how best for optimized storage and the most streamlined, efficient delivery to Amazon.

Note: For non-partnered carrier shipments that cannot be shipped on pallets and need to be floor-loaded, see Amazon’s Floor Loading Policy.

Cardboard Styles

Master cartons are typically made up of pieces of corrugated cardboard (shaped into alternate ridges or series of waves, aka flutes) and linerboards (smooth outer facing material of the box). It is the cardboard style and size of the flute that usually determine the strength of the box.

Understanding this part is crucial because some products require a certain cardboard style or flute size to ensure maximum protection against pressure and puncture during storage or shipping. Read on to better understand the basic qualities of corrugated master cartons.

4 Cardboard Styles

Single Face
A single face board only has two layers–a linerboard and a corrugated cardboard. Because it’s lighter (or thinner) than other cardboard types, it’s often used as an added cushioning inside larger boxes.

Single Wall or 3-Layer Cardboard
This board style is the most common type of corrugated cardboard. It consists of two linerboards and a middle layer of corrugated medium. It’s ideal for transporting items weighing less than 50lbs over relatively short distances. For longer-distance shipping, consider using 5- or 7-layer cardboard to ensure your packages stay in good shape during extra long transit times.

Double Wall or 5-Layer Cardboard
This board has three linerboards and two layers of corrugated medium, making it highly durable and perfect for packages weighing 60lbs to 160lbs.

Triple Wall or 7-Layer Cardboard
This carton is strong and durable enough to be utilized in place of wooden crates. It is made up of three layers of corrugated cardboard and four layers of linerboards, making it the best choice for shipping extremely fragile or heavier items that require special handling, such as glass or construction materials.

Pro tip: Often in the Amazon space, people talk about 5-layer or 7-layer and many sellers have found that 5-layer wasn't even strong enough for the wear and tear during shipping these days with the sloppy, rushed handling and also increasing number of units so many have advised using 7-layer cardboard, especially when increasing their units per carton due to shifting and added weight strain.

Flute Sizes

The term “flute” refers to the corrugated element of a carton. It is used to strengthen the linerboards that are used in shipping boxes.

There are different sizes of flutes, and they are designated by the letters A, B, C, E, or F. The letter designation relates to the order in which the flutes were invented, not the relative sizes of the corrugated boxes.

A Flute (¼” flute thickness)
Considered as the thickest flute, A-flute corrugated cardboard offers excellent stiffness qualities, crush resistance, and stacking strength. It also provides great cushioning, making it ideal for packing fragile items.

B Flute (⅛” flute thickness)
This type provides excellent resistance against crushing pressure and puncture. They are often used as packaging for canned goods, glass-to-glass packs, and beverage trays. It’s also the preferred choice for inner packaging, i.e., pads, dividers, or partitions. Amazon requires standard boxes to have a B-flute board.

C Flute (3/16” flute thickness)
C-flute cartons have great crush resistance and a smooth flat surface for decent printing quality, especially for display packaging. They are most commonly used for regular slotted container boxes, making C-flute cardboard perfect for storing food items, books, toys, among other types of products. Approximately 80% of corrugated boxes are made of C-flute board.

E Flute (1/16” flute thickness)
This carton has a thin construction, which makes it easy to fold, and thus takes up less storage space. The slim profile also gives the board a smoother printable surface than C-flute cartons. In fact, the single-face E flute sheets usually go well with litho-laminated boxes, in which paper is laminated on the board where high print quality and presentation is crucial. And although slim, the 1/16” thick corrugated medium is enough to offer good crush resistance. That’s why it’s commonly used for pizza boxes, shoe boxes, displays, and consumer goods boxes.

F Flute (1/32” flute thickness)
F-flute cartons have an extra-thin construction that allows for stiffer boxes with less fiber content. With less fiber, there’s also less solid waste going into the landfills. F-flute cardboard is often used as a fast-food clamshell container and retail packaging for jewelry, cosmetics, and footwear.

Overall, larger flute sizes deliver greater stacking strength and cushioning, making them perfect shipping boxes. Smaller flute sizes are typically designed to provide excellent structural strength and printing capabilities for retail packaging.

Box Weight and Strength Requirements

Amazon requires standard boxes to score a minimum of 200lbs on the bursting strength test (the face of the box can withstand up to 200lbs of force) and 32 Edge-Crush Test (ECT) or stacking strength test.

ECT is a method for measuring how much force a corrugated box can withstand on its edges without crushing or before deformation takes place. A box’s ECT strength is measured by compressing a small part of the board between two pressure plates. Pressure is applied until a peak load (the max amount of force the board can withstand) is established.

ECT is measured in pounds per lineal inch of load bearing edge (lb/in), but typically expressed as an ECT rating (e.g., 32 ECT). Scoring 32 on ECT means that the corrugated box can withstand up to 32 lbs per inch vertical compression, i.e., crush resistance strength when sandwiched between upper and lower boxes. ​​A 32 ECT corrugated box can also hold up to 65lbs of weight.

Certain box weight restrictions also apply to prevent sellers from sending overweight packages. Make sure that your cartons meet the following weight requirements before shipping to FBA:

Aside from Amazon, trucking carriers have also set their own box weight and strength requirements to ensure you select the correct carton type based on the weight of your products. These requirements may vary by service provider, however, so check with your carrier for more information.

To give you an idea, here are some details within the UPS packing guidelines:

UPS Box Type
30lbs 32 ETC Single Wall
40lbs 200lb Bursting Strength Single Wall
50lbs 44 ECT Single Wall
60lbs 48 ECT Double Wall
80lbs 51 ECT Double Wall

Master Carton Calculator

Tips For Selecting The Right Master Carton Size And Type

Master cartons come in several sizes to suit the needs of the buyer. Therefore, the quantity mainly depends on your requirements, such as your budget, restock limits, max weight limit per carton, and Amazon box limit per shipment.

Manufacturers also design these cartons with freight consolidation and carrier packaging requirements in mind so that packages can be shipped and delivered on time.

Use a master carton calculator to configure your master carton properly. We're currently building a tool that will not only help you calculate how many cartons fit in a master case but also factor in common packaging fees so you can plan your shipping more thoroughly. These fees include freight forwarder minimum weight fees, over and under-size fees, carton labeling, carton pull fees, and warehouse labor costs. We'll let you know once the tool is ready to use, so subscribe to get notified!

How Much Will It Cost to Ship Each Master Carton?

Factors That Determine Master Carton Shipping Costs

Shipping rates vary depending on several factors – package dimensions, weight, shipment origin and destination, insurance, warehouse fees, and so on. Once these factors are factored in, your carrier will be able to provide you with a quote.

Package Dimensions

As mentioned earlier, major carriers now use the so-called dimensional weight (DIM) pricing technique to calculate shipping fees.

Dimensional weight, aka volumetric weight, is determined by multiplying the length, width, and height of your carton, then dividing by a standard DIM factor or DIM divisor. A DIM divisor is a number set by carriers that represents the volume of a package allowed per unit of weight. It’s basically the number by which you multiply the package dimensions to find the weight.

How to Calculate DIM divisors?

There are two different ways to determine DIM divisors. One is calculated using inches/pounds and the other, using centimeters/kilograms.

Finding a DIM divisor using in/lb

If each cubic foot (12” x 12” x 12”) has a min weight allowance of 12.5lbs, the DIM divisor would be:

(L” x W” x H”) ÷ Minimum Weight Allowance = DIM Divisor in/lb

- or -

(12” x 12” x 12”) ÷ 12.5lbs = 138.24 cubic inches per lb

Finding a DIM divisor using cm/kg

If each cubic meter (100cm x 100cm x 100cm) has a min weight allowance of 200kg, the DIM divisor would be:

(L cm x W cm x H cm) ÷ Minimum Weight Allowance = DIM Divisor cm/kg

- or -

(100cm x 100cm x 100cm) ÷ 200kgs = 5000 cm³/kg

How to Calculate DIM Weight?

UPS, USPS, FedEx, and other major carriers calculate shipping rates based on whichever is greater between the actual weight of the package (refers to how much your cargo weighs, including its pallets and packaging) and its DIM weight. Whichever is higher becomes the billable or chargeable weight.

DIM Weight Sample Calculation in Inches

Let’s assume that you have the following variables:

12.7 x 6.34 x 13.5 ÷ 139 = 7.85 lbs DIM weight

If the actual weight of the shipment is less than 7.85 lbs, the carrier will charge for the dimensional weight of 7.85 lbs since it is the greater number.

If the actual weight of the package is more than 7.85 lbs, DIM weight pricing will be based on the actual weight, since shipping companies charge for the greater number.

DIM Weight Sample Calculation in Centimeters

Another way to calculate DIM or Volumetric Weight is by multiplying the length, width and height of a parcel (in cm) and dividing that number by 5000. Example:

64 cm x 20 cm x 44 cm ÷ 5000 = 11.26 kgs DIM weight

Again, you will be charged based on whichever is greater out of DIM weight and actual weight.

Note: As mentioned earlier, DIM divisors vary by carrier. Some carriers use 4000 or 6000 instead of 5000 as the divisor, so this is something that you should look out for as it could increase prices from carrier to carrier in terms of DIM/volumetric weight.

Another important thing to take note of is that some freight forwarders (FFs) are instituting a carton weight minimum. For example, we found our FF was imposing a 12kg per carton minimum, so anything under that we would still be charged 12kg per carton. Check with your FF or carrier to find out if they impose such minimum chargeable weight per carton to maximize your packaging.

Why is DIM Weight Important?

DIM weight pricing can be beneficial to shippers who remove extra packaging materials that makes boxes bulky or unnecessarily large. By doing so, shippers can fit more units into their cartons and carriers can load more cartons into their trucks and planes. Plus, eliminating excess packaging can make shipments more environmentally friendly by helping to reduce fuel emissions, and can help you to avoid overpacking, which wastes material and money.

Package Weight

The package weight describes how heavy your package is. And there’s no DIM weight calculation needed. As mentioned above, if the actual weight is higher than the DIM weight, it’ll be used to determine your shipping costs. Therefore, the heavier and larger your package, the more expensive it will be to ship.

Shipment Origin and Destination

In truck freight, carriers use shipping zones to calculate shipping rates. Shipping zones measure the distance between a shipment’s point of origin and its destination. In the US, these zones can range from Zone 1 to Zone 8. Zone 1 is the area that’s nearest to a package’s point of origin, which also means it’s the least expensive, while Zone 8 is the furthest and the most expensive.

UPS, USPS, and FedEx shipping zones:

Anything a carrier ships within 50 miles of their warehouse location would fall under Zone 1.

Pro tip: Make sure that the correct shipping zone is assigned to your LTL/FTL destination postcode, as using an incorrect shipping zone (e.g., your carrier assigned Zone 4 instead of Zone 2) can increase your shipping costs. And of course, excellent cost savings would be achieved by eliminating the highest shipping zones. You can eliminate those zones by using multiple FCs as compared to one, as this would allow you to ship more products to less expensive zones, significantly decreasing your shipping costs.

Value of Products Shipped

High-value items like jewelry, antique collections, and electronic gadgets typically require more comprehensive insurance coverage to help ensure sellers will be able to recover as much value as possible in the event that these items get lost, stolen, or damaged during transport. While helping to safeguard against risk, getting additional coverage can increase your shipping cost.

Pro tip: If you want a more comprehensive coverage for your shipments, consider getting an all-risk cargo insurance. It covers the full value of your shipment while en route to its destination.

3PL Service Rates

Some sellers outsource fulfillment to a 3PL or prep center when they don’t have the resources to pick, pack and ship items directly to customers and/or FBA themselves. However, using these services involve various fees that you’d definitely want to discuss with your warehouse manager so you’ll know what to expect on your invoices. When you know exactly what you’re paying for, you can plan in advance to protect your margins without surprises.

For example, the total cost of preparing and sending a carton from your 3PL into FBA might include:

Rates may depend on 3PL, product size (or weight) and number of cartons being shipped. For instance, the cost per unit is going to be more expensive with a 6-unit carton than with a 50-unit carton because the cost per carton for labeling fees and pull fees (fees charged in order for warehouse staff to pull cartons off the warehouse shelves) are going to be the same for each carton. This means that if the fees are $3.60 per carton for pull and labeling combined, that will be $0.60/unit for the 6-unit carton and only $0.07/unit for the 50-unit carton. Labor fees will similarly impact your bottom line with higher per unit costs for the less units per carton.

Work with your supplier, inspection company, and FF to help to optimize your shipment, so that it increases your cost efficiency while making sure it’s being packed well enough to prevent shipping damages and still meets Amazon, customs and your freight forwarders shipping requirements.

Tips To Optimize Your Packaging And Reduce Shipping Costs

Lower Shipping Costs By Optimizing Your Product Packaging

Assess Your Packaging

If your carrier is charging oversize fees, it’s time to rethink your packaging.

How are you packaging your items to be shipped? What are you packing them in? It’s best to keep your packaging compact, avoid excessive use of inner packaging materials, such as bubble wrap or foam pallets. Amazon also recommends removing hangers from accessories, bras, hats, shorts, socks, hosiery, sweaters, swimwear, and underwear, except for blazers, suits, dresses, leather/fur/wool outerwear, and other garments that cost $299+ each.

Read Amazon's Packaging Requirements for more information.

Perform a Cube Optimization Analysis

Cube optimization is a method for right-sizing your packages. Right-sizing means using only what you need so you can fit your product into the smallest packaging dimensions possible without threatening its integrity.

Cube optimization analysis is a study of actual weight versus DIM weight with a goal to minimize OR eliminate DIM weight charges in favor of actual weight charges. If you keep getting oversize charges because the cube size of your package is greater than the actual weight, you need to figure out better ways to optimize your boxes.

Pro tip: If you’re paying based on physical weight rather than DIM weight, be aware of heavy packaging materials that can increase your cargo weight and shipping cost.

Conduct a comprehensive cube analysis to identify improvement areas in your packaging so you can make the most of your master cartons or pallets. Optimizing a carton may include thoroughly examining your packaging materials to reduce box dimensions and weight so that you can fit more units per carton or pallet. This method also helps you identify heavy packaging materials that should be replaced with lighter, recyclable ones.

By optimizing your cartons, you’ll be able to:

Sort Your Packaging Costs Based on the Durability of Goods

Not all of your products require maximum packaging budget and attention. Some products are naturally more durable and thus need less packaging materials, while others will require over-boxing (e.g., placing a packaged product in a double-wall corrugated box for added protection) or lots of inner packaging materials due to safety concerns.

To plan your logistics budget wisely, consider dividing your products into the following packaging categories:

Fragile

Use multi-layered corrugated boxes with a considerable amount of internal packaging materials and protective covers (for pallets) to keep your fragile products secured during transport. Benchmark: 3% to 7% of product cost for packaging.

Complex

These are the products that need complex packaging because they’re oddly-shaped, extremely heavy, or they contain sensitive or calibrated components like household appliances, electronics, and musical instruments. Therefore, they usually require custom-made and highly durable boxes. Benchmark: 8 to 10% of product cost for packaging.

Review Your 3PL Warehouse Labor Charges

Ask your 3PL whether their labor charges are broken down into increments of time or if they roll up to 1 hour minimums. Let’s say your 3PL charges you $40 per hour. If it only takes them 15 minutes to process a shipment out of their warehouse, are they charging you in 15 minute increments (e.g., $10 per 15 min) or will you pay the whole $40 for that 15 minutes of time?

How warehouse labor is charged at your 3PL makes a huge difference in your total processing fees.

If you have 6 cartons shipped out and it takes 15 minutes to handle those, you could either be paying $10 for that 15-minute labor which would be $1.67 per carton or $40 which would be $6.67 per carton.

For 6-unit cartons that is either $0.28/unit or $1.11/unit. You can see how these labor fees can quickly start to add up to overspending if you don’t know how your 3PL charges you.

Keep An Eye on Your Shipments With SoStocked

Use SoStocked To Track Your Shipments

Track your shipment’s movements, from the moment you place a purchase order to in-production to in-transit to arrival at its final destination using the following SoStocked software features:

Purchase Order (PO) System with Lead Times

Streamline your order and transfer processes with a system that lets you generate purchase orders and assign lead times to each of your POs.

SoStocked has a built-in PO system for new inventory orders from your suppliers. You can also use our PO system in tandem with our secondary order management system called Work Orders (WO).

Our WO system allows you to set transfer times for processing and shipping goods from your 3PL warehouse or prep center to FBA. Assigning lead times to your POs or WOs also makes tracking your shipments within SoStocked easier.

Order Tracker

Track the progress of your new inventory orders, from in-production to shipping to final destination. This tool uses a well-organized Kanban board that automatically moves orders and shipments from In Production to En Route to 3PL warehouse/FBA based on your assigned lead times.

Inventory Tracking Dashboards

Our Inventory Tracking dashboards are especially useful in tracking in-transit shipments and monitoring inventory on-hand levels at FBA and 3PL.

Split a Shipment

Split a shipment within the same PO to be able to send inventory to two or more different FCs or by multiple modes of shipping (air, sea, or ground). You may need to split a shipment when your inventory level at FBA is running low, and you need to send in more stock from 3PL or your supplier’s factor by air express or Small Parcel Delivery (SPD) versus LTL (Less Than Truckload) to prevent a stockout. Instead of creating two separate POs or WOs, simply use this tool to split your shipment within the same PO or WO. Then, send a portion of your inventory by one shipping method (e.g., air for rush shipping) and the rest by another (e.g., ocean).

Optimize Your Packaging To Lower Shipping Costs

Lower Shipping Costs By Optimizing Your Product Packaging

In sum, shipping costs are all about space – the more units you can fit into a single master carton, the more you can ship and sell on Amazon without overspending on transportation costs.

Choose the right master carton to match the size and fragility/durability of your products. The right packaging materials can help to lower shipping costs, whether you’re shipping from 3PL or supplier by LTL/FTL, rail, ocean, or air freight.

For added protection, use the right amount of bubble wrap, poly bags, partition pads, or foam pallets and avoid packaging your products in a way that makes them bulky or oddly shaped.

Lastly, use our Master Carton Calculator to figure out how many units you can fit in a master case and how much it would cost you to ship them. And utilize SoStocked to track your shipments as they move through the supply chain.

If you need more expert advice, talk to your 3PL, FF, or packaging engineer (an engineer that designs and develops effective packaging solutions for various products). They may be able to help you determine the best way to resize your packaging so that you can get as many units into your master cartons as possible, eliminating the need to buy more pallets.

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