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For Food & Beverage companies, proper container management can mean the difference between profitable importing and losing tens of thousands of dollars per month. To effectively manage containers, you need to consistently and accurately track the true dimensions of the products you are importing. This is the only way to ensure your containers are as full as possible and you don’t leave money on the table.

In addition to saving thousands of dollars per container, you also ensure better delivery times and the possibility of far fewer inspections and hassles incurred from government inspectors when your containers are optimally packed.

ERP software has specific food and beverage warehouse and distribution capabilities to help you achieve import and container management best practices to deliver the right products to your customers at the right price and quantity, and on time.

The Impact of Tracking Product Dimensions and Volume

As global trade has standardized, the containers used to ship goods now come in set sizes. Containers have standard sizes, so you always know just how much you can pack into it once you know the correct dimensions and volume. For example, standard ISO shipping containers measure 8 feet (2.43m) in width, 8.5 feet (2.59m) in height, and come in lengths of either 20 feet (6.06m) or 40 feet (12.2m). A 20-foot container has an interior capacity of 33.1 cubic meters.

By tracking your product and container dimensions in ERP, you can run a script or workflow that automates the calculation of exactly how many pieces of a product (or multiple products) to buy to fill a container. This lowers your per-piece product cost.

Shipping is a volume business, so your goal is to fill a whole container. Otherwise, you are dealing with LCLs (less-than-container-loads) and are paying a higher per-piece price. Risk is another drawback to LCLs because of the unknown. If you don’t fill a container, your goods could end up sharing a container with products from other companies you don’t know. Are they reputable? Are your products sharing a container with illegal contraband or legal imports that have been classified incorrectly on the bill of lading? Many factors come into play when you share a container with other importers, and many of them could end up delaying the release of your product from U.S. Customs.

Tip: When U.S. Customs holds up a container for inspection, all products in that container incur the delay, not just the suspicious or wrongly classified items.

Yet another reason to use ERP to track your product volumes and dimensions – avoiding sloppily packed containers. When you pack a container in a sub-standard manner, U.S. Customs is more likely to flag your container for inspection, delaying your delivery.

How Modern ERP Can Streamline Container Management to Save Cost and Time

Delayed delivery of imported products, lost sales, and higher-than-necessary per piece prices can all be avoided when you use your ERP system to store the dimension and volume data for each product or sub-component you import to determine the exact quantity to fill a container. Instead of making educated guesses or buying quantities based solely on manufacturer discounts, you know the exact amount of each product you need. Moreover, if special discounts do become available for certain quantities, you can run “what if” scenarios and flexibly organize how your containers will be filled.

If you don’t trust your own conversion skills (English to Metric), modern ERP systems will let you specify piece quantities, and from there, the system will make the necessary conversions and calculate the correct total order amount. Of course, since a modern ERP system unifies all product and vendor data into a single database, you can compare the costs from different shippers and select those that offer the best combination of savings and reliability. It becomes easy with each shipper’s rate table stored within your ERP database.

Things become easier the more you import using your ERP system. For example, you can specify your general ledger in any major denomination (Yen, Euros, Yuan, Dollars, etc.) and have that stored in the system, right alongside vendor-specific shipping instructions, historical costs, and any other criteria that helps your team make the best shipping choice every time.


Food and beverage companies importing products need to optimize their container management, as import efficiency can make or break your competitive position and long-term success in an increasingly global market. To find out more, contact Sapphire today.

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