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Understanding Cube Utilization

Posted by IFCO Systems
May 25, 2017

The delivery just arrived, and your pallet of soft fruit is nowhere in sight. The driver says that there wasn't room in the truck, which is peculiar when you think about it. After all, the pallets you did receive are stacked only five or six feet high. The remaining empty space between the top of the pallets and the trailer ceiling is just one example of poor cube utilization. Everywhere in the supply chain, from the field to the shelf, the effective use of cube is an ongoing challenge. Getting it right can be a windfall for your supply chain.

So what is cube? Cube utilization is an industry term that refers to the amount of the total available space that is actually utilized, expressed as a percentage. When a space is completely filled with product, the cube utilization is 100 percent. Industry insiders refer to this as being “cubed out.” This term is often used to describe a trailer when no more product can fit in it.

Cube Utilization in the Container

Companies increasingly are taking aim at wasted space inside the container. In dry grocery, for example, consumer packs are becoming more compact. With greater density, more consumer packages fit into the same shipping container, or alternately, the shipping container can be made smaller. Another approach to improving cube utilization is to ship product in bulk form to avoid packaging - such as the emerging business of shipping wine to restaurants in kegs to eliminate the need for bottles. When it comes to perishables, finding the right fit is also critical. IFCO RPCs come in a variety of sizes to offer an optimal fit across a range of products.

Cube Utilization in Storage

Storage facilities make use of sophisticated racking systems to optimize storage density, an important aspect of warehouse cube utilization. If unit loads or pallets of fresh produce are leaning or unstable, however, they cannot be introduced into such systems. Over time, companies typically devise backup processes to deal with nonconforming pallets, accepting such inefficiency as a cost of doing business. Unstable pallets must either be manually restacked or stored in ad-hoc locations, both suboptimal solutions.

With RPCs, however, pallets of product are stable and allow for the racking systems to perform exactly as designed. Additionally, RPCs enable pallets of product to be safely double stacked, another opportunity to create floor space and store product more efficiently.

On the loading dock, RPCs offer another benefit. As selectors can safely build taller pallets (more containers per pallet), this translates into fewer total pallets to be built and staged for loading - welcome news in the busiest part of the warehouse.

Cube Utilization in Transport

As mentioned above, the ability of order selectors to build stable loads to maximum height means fewer pallets to be shipped. This is a powerful advantage for retail delivery. The other cube utilization game breaker for RPCs is the elimination of pallet overhang, which ensures that loads fit onto the trailer as planned - with no pallets left behind. Improved cube utilization in trailers can easily translate into fewer outbound loads required for retail delivery, as well as fewer pallets to be unloaded at each stop. The savings can quickly add up.

Opportunities for cube utilization improvement can be found all along the supply chain. Why not take the first step by leveraging the power of IFCO RPCs?

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