Recently, I had a call from a customer who wanted to understand an international small package invoice. Here are two of the tips I provided:

Dim Weight
Her package actually weighed two pounds, but the invoice said “billed weight four pounds.”
Some packages take up a lot of room on an airplane but weigh so little it is unprofitable to carry them. Dimensional weight (dim weight) is a concept that ensures each package pays its own way. To calculate the dim weight, you determine the cubic inches of the package and divide by a carrier supplied factor, the solution of which is the least billable weight for the package (always round weight to next higher whole number). The carrier charges the heavier between the actual weight and the dim weight. The present dim weight factor for international shipments is 166. As an example, suppose a package measures 10 x 10 x 5 inches and weighs two pounds. Using the formula, you calculate the cubic inches and divide by the factor, or 10 x 11 x 6 / 166 or 660 /166 = 3.97 pounds (rounded up) = four pounds. So even though the actual weight is two pounds, you will be invoiced based upon four (the higher of two weights).

If your shipments allow it, you can reduce dimensional weight charges using smaller boxes by compressing the goods or by reducing the use of some packing materials. To minimize the impact, always ship in the smallest box possible.

European Service Terms
My customer was used to Domestic and International terms, but the express package choices she was offered for packages originating in U.K. were National, Transborder and Worldwide. What do they mean?

Small package carriers in Europe offer three shipping services to differentiate domestic, intra-Europe and extra-Europe. The final package destination determines the service and applies to all shipments that originate within Europe.
•          National refers to packages that terminate within the origin country
•          Transborder refers to packages that terminate within Europe
•          Worldwide refers to packages that terminate outside Europe
DHL, UPS, TNT and FedEx (the four major carriers in Europe) all offer similar services. Within each service classification are several options that designate the time of day for delivery, which are typically by 9:00 AM, by 10:30 AM, by 12:00 PM or by end-of-day. Each of these options has a different cost, and picking the correct one is critical to ensuring least cost routing for your packages.

Take the time to exactly identify the service required for destination arrival time and day and write an internal routing guide to identify the carrier and least expensive method that meets your requirements. Use the terms and service commitments on your contract or carrier’s website as a guide.
Tom Stanton is with AFMS Logistics Management Group in Portland, OR. He can be reached at 800-246-3521 or