UPS dimensional weightIf your e-commerce order fulfillment company performs its own shipping, then you likely think about delivery costs in relation to product weight and size. After all, a product’s weight has a direct impact on the amount of fuel needed to transport it, so there is a very real benefit to keeping shipments light when possible. When using UPS and FedEx as your e-commerce shipping companies other considerations—in addition to physical weight—need to be taken into account to proper calculate costs. This is called “dimensional weight,” and understanding its use and calculation is essential for mastery of e-commerce shipping solutions.

What Is Dimensional Weight?

Dimensional weight is used in calculating the billable weight for any given item. Initially, UPS dimensional weight was only for packages over three cubic feet, but it made changes to this policy back in 2015. Now, dimensional weight is used for all packages. Although it can sound complex, understanding dimensional weight is fairly important for making the costs of e-fulfillment activities much easier to comprehend.

How to Determine Dimensional Weight

Step 1: Volume

Finding dimensional weight begins with finding out a package’s volume. Measure the sealed package’s length, width, and height in either inches or centimeters and round the measurements to the nearest whole number. This means that a measurement with a length of 1.00 to 1.49 will be considered 1 for the purposes of this calculation, and a product with a measurement of 1.50 to 2.00 will be considered 2, and so on. Each measurement needs to be taken from the most extreme point on a package, so it’s widest part, its tallest part, and its longest part. If the package has any bulges or other irregularities, then they need to be taken into the measurement as well.

Once you have these measurements, the formula for calculating volume is simple: length x width x height. The result will be in cubic inches or cubic centimeters.

Step 2: Apply the Modifier

UPS and FedEx have several different modifiers by which a package’s volume gets divided in order to find the dimensional weight. The modifier that gets used depends on the type of shipment involved.

  • For all domestic, import, and export shipments other than UPS Standard, dimensional weight is determined by dividing volume by 139 (if in inches) or 5,000 (if in centimeters), rounding any fractions to the nearest whole number
  • For UPS Standard, dimensional weight is determined by dividing volume by 166 (if in inches) or 6,000 (if in centimeters) and rounding any fractions to the nearest whole number

Step 3: Find and Compare Actual Weight

The second-last step is to physically weigh the packages to learn their actual weights. Compare this to the dimensional weight. Whichever is higher is considered the “billable weight” and is used for the final step in the calculation.

Step 4: Calculate Billable Weight

If you are measuring in pounds, add up the billable weight of each package in the shipment. If you are using kilograms, any fractions in actual weight or billable weight need to be rounded to the next half kilogram before adding them together. If the total billable weight ends in a half kilogram, round up to the next whole kilogram.

Why Is Dimensional Weight Used?

The idea of dimensional weight first came about as shippers sought ways to avoid losing money on large, lightweight packages, like pool noodles, that took up a lot of physical space but were allowed to be shipped at low cost. Dimensional weight takes into account how much space a product takes up and helps recoup the opportunity costs incurred from not being able to use that space for heavier items.

In 2015, the FedEx and UPS dimensional weight changes that extended dimensional weight to smaller products were done for similar reasons: FedEx and UPS want to get what they feel is proper compensation for the use of their vehicle space. Obviously, this has caused some annoyance on part of fulfillment companies. However, if you regularly ship items that are less than three cubic feet, there is no reason you need to take dimensional weight lying down. There are some things you can try to reduce costs and improve your e-commerce efficiency overall.

Ways to Lower the Costs of Dimensional Weight

Efficient Packaging

The whole idea behind dimensional weight is that you will be charged based on the amount of space your packages take up. Being more efficient with packaging will let you see savings by using less space. Ideally, your product packaging will conform as closely to the shape and size of the product as possible without extraneous spaces, gaps, or material. Right now, you may be shipping items in 8″ x 8″ x 8″ packages, but you might find you can fit everything into a 6″ x 6″ x 6″ box, or maybe even 4″ x 4″ x 4″ box if you’re lucky. Experiment with different options, and you might discover new ways to cut down on space and earn shipping savings as a result.

Consider Other Options

FedEx and UPS are big players when it comes to order fulfillment, especially e-commerce fulfillment, but they aren’t your only options. The postal service is a somewhat obvious but perfectly valid option if you find yourself shopping around for alternatives. The United States Postal Service (USPS) uses dimensional weight but only on zone 5 shipping or higher. Additionally, products less than one cubic foot are not subject to dimensional weight. Lastly, the USPS has a higher modifier for dimensional weight compared to FedEx and UPS shipping rates. USPS uses 194, not 166, so the dimensional weight on any given package will be lower when calculated by the postal service.

Look to APS for e-Commerce Order Fulfillment Services

APS Fulfillment Inc. is a leading order fulfillment service company that operates out of Miami, Florida. Our integrative approach tackles supply chain management, real-time inventory management, warehousing services, shipping, and everything else needed to ensure your goods get to their destinations. We’ve stored, sorted, delivered, and quality-assured products of all shapes and sizes for all kinds of companies across a wide variety of industries. Contact us by phone at 954-582-7450 or reach out to us by email at for more ways our fulfillment services can support and grow your business.