integrates with your shipping software.”
For all their strengths, pallet dimensioners also have
their weaknesses. Perhaps the biggest downside to using
these devices is that the process of picking up, moving, and
scanning pallets is a bit cumbersome, says Jack Ampuja,
The good news, Ampuja says, is that
“in-line” pallet dimensioning systems
are on the horizon. He reports that
manufacturers are currently testing a
couple of different solutions, includ-
ing one in which laser sensors are
placed on the forklift itself to measure the load as it’s picked
up, and one that captures the load’s measurements as a
truck drives through a tunnel outfitted with sensors.
DIMENSIONING FOR PARCELS
In contrast to pallet dimensioning systems, parcel dimen-
sioning systems are already available in both static and
in-line varieties. The first type, the static dimensioning sys-
tem, could be considered a “semi-automated” solution. To
use this type of machine, an operator places a parcel or item
on the dimensioning system, which then measures (and
often weighs) the product. The equipment can be station-
ary—for example, located at a packing station—or placed
on a cart and wheeled around the distribution center.
With an in-line/in-motion or dynamic dimensioning
system, by contrast, a package or parcel moves down a
belt and passes through a tunnel,
where its dimensions are captured by
either a 3-D camera or laser sensors.
These tunnels are usually placed after
pick and pack stations and before
labeling and shipping stations, says
Dan Hanrahan, president of warehouse automation specialist Numina
Both static and in-line dimensioners can be used in DCs at the outbound end to gather dimensional data needed for calculating shipping costs. They can also be used at a facility’s
inbound end to gather the dimensions of stock-keeping
units (SKUs) in order to calculate how much storage space
the item will require or determine the best size carton to
use to ship it.
THE SCOOP ON STATIC
Static dimensioners come in an almost dizzying array of
varieties, with different brands providing varying levels
Eight questions to ask before choosing a dimensioning system
What’s the best dimensioning system for you? The
answer will depend on your slotting and shipping volume, the size and types of items you handle, and how
much you want to spend. Here are some questions to ask
yourself as you narrow down your search:
1. What are you dimensioning? This is more than just
a matter of knowing whether you’ll be measuring parcels, pallets, or letter packs, says Jason Wiley of Mettler
Toledo; you also have to consider factors like the items’
shape—that is, whether they’re regular- or irregular-shaped. Don’t immediately assume that all your items
are regular-shaped, adds Will Crosby of QubeVu. For
example, polybagged items might seem regular-shaped
but a package may bulge depending on what’s in it or
how it’s packed, which could prevent some machines
from obtaining accurate measurements.
2. What are the maximum/minimum lengths, widths,
and heights of the items that you’ll be measuring?
3. What is your throughput? Often, this will determine
the degree of automation you need.
4. What is the surface of the item that you’re dimen-
sioning? Is it shiny? Is it dark? Some systems will have a
harder time measuring those items than others, Wiley
says. For example, a dimensioner that uses lasers may be
better at measuring items with reflective surfaces than
one that uses a camera.
5. How much are you willing to invest? When determining how much you can spend on dimensioning
equipment, be sure to take into consideration any labor
savings that the equipment might provide.
6. How well will the dimensioning system interface
with your shipping software—such as UPS WorldShip or
FedEx Ship Manager—or your warehouse management
7. How fast do items need to be dimensioned? Crosby
notes that when comparing the speeds of various models, it’s important to consider not just the speed of the
equipment itself but also how long it takes the operator
to place the object on the dimensioner and complete
any steps—like moving arms or pressing buttons—
necessary for taking the dimensions.
8. Do you want to capture other information along
with the dimensions? In addition to taking an object’s
measurements, some tabletop and tunnel systems can
also determine the item’s weight, scan bar codes and
text, and even capture an image of the item itself.