Oversized shipping charges can prove very costly in dollars and even in terms of customers, especially when they are unexpected. On our own e-commerce site, we try to bundle products together in an effort to minimize shipping cost for our customers. However, occasionally an order gets out the door that exceeds the maximum 130” overall girth plus length limitation, resulting in a $50 over size charge from our carrier.
What bothers us most about these expensive charges is that in most cases, they are completely unnecessary. By combining a little packaging expertise with minimal packer training, many of these charges can be skillfully avoided with three simple steps. 

1. Review the Void Fill Being Used
“We’ve been using the same void fill forever” is a statement I’ve heard many times. It doesn’t matter if the packaging product being used is foam peanuts or inflatable pillows; quite often, more void fill is used than is truly necessary because the wrong void fill is being used for the application. 

Loose fill (flowable) products are especially vulnerable to overuse and, in some cases, we meet people using shipping boxes that are 20-30% larger than absolutely necessary because their packers were trained to place two to four inches of cushioning material under, over and around the product being shipped. In most cases, that is over kill and completely unnecessary. By comparison, molded pulp requires minimal head space so the cushioning and void fill you use can make a huge difference in box size. 

Last year alone, we added four new void fill materials to our lineup, so don’t assume what you are currently using is the most effective or the most economical if you suffer oversized package charges. 
2. Reduce Box Sizes
“Right sizing” is a good idea when a packer uses boxes that are larger than they truly need to be. In most cases, we find it is not the packer’s fault because the correct size box is simply not on hand or available. 

The situation is usually created by well-meaning inventory managers or packaging suppliers who consolidate box sizes to reduce packaging SKUs or even to make room at cramped packing stations. This is something we ourselves suggest at times but it is a recommendation we never make casually or without a thorough review of how the current box sizes are being used. 

For example, if a 20” tall box is stocked but only really necessary 10% of the time, it would indicate the packer may be over sizing his boxes on 90% of his orders. “We do it to avoid having to buy two different height boxes” is the usual response when we ask why. 

A situation like the one described more than justifies having two different size boxes on hand. For example, perhaps the best combination is utilizing a 17-1/2” high custom box for the majority and a taller 20’ stock box for their taller, occasional need. Keep in mind using smaller boxes whenever possible also means using less void fill, and less tape to seal them. 

3. Repack and/or Redesign to the Maximum Allowable Dimensions
A favorite truism in shipping is “one package is always less expense to ship compared to shipping two.” That unfortunately is not true when you tack on a hefty oversized package fee. The fact is that in some cases, redesigning the package and shipping two smaller packages can actually result in a savings. 

Recently, a client asked us to help redesign his current twelve-pack of extremely long product to bring it under the maximum allowable, penalty free, dimensions. We helped him create a new six-pack and were able to prove that even with the additional box cost included; the overall cost savings will be substantial. 

You can see that a lot of these problems and costs are a result of internal processes not keeping up with external changes such as new packaging products or new shipping charges. I repeat and am rarely proven wrong – if you are packaging the same way, using the same products as you were two years ago, you are probably leaving money on the table. 
Dennis Salazar is president and co-founder of Salazar Packaging, Inc. and one of the most prolific writers in the area of sustainable packaging. Contact him at dennis@salazarpackaging.com.