Maximise Seafreight Container Fill

Manage Purchase Order Consolidation and Container Fill Rate to Reduce Freight Cost

Managing container fill and consolidation is important in small and large organisations to reduce freight cost across container, wharf and cartage.  Purchase order planning, logistics and carton size calculated to maximise container fill, is the key to maximising container space utilisation, improve lead-times, reduce handling and save cost.

Standard Carton Sizes that Maximise Container Fill

Development of standard carton size that works for the business is critical, but this will depend greatly on the product being shipped.  Small apparel product like swimwear will need to be in a small pack size carton, larger apparel product like down jackets will be in considerably larger size cartons.  The largest carton should be divisible by the width, and the height of the container, the medium and smaller sized cartons must be; half, quarter or eighth divisible of the largest carton so they are stackable.

Where a product is larger and may have several components, packaging needs to be developed in the development process that reduces the size as much as possible ensuring where possible the height and width are divisible by the container width and height.  For larger goods, this process is critical due to transportation cost impact on total cost of goods.

Carton Quality and Pack Quality Reduce Bulge and Maximise Container Fill

All cartons must use the correct grade cardboard which maybe 3 or 5 ply corrugated depending on the weight.  Using ECT (Edge Crush Test) rating to determine the best card quality is one of the preferred methods for choice the right quality carton.  Example 32 ECT is rated to a maximum load of 40lbs or 18kg.

Cartons not packed correctly, that are bulging or when the carton quality is substandard should be rejected before by the quality team or freight company at CFS before cargo loading.

Having standard carton sizes and knowing carton fill quantity will make it easy to calculate the order CBM.  This will enable order destination planning to maximise CBM fill rates across the various container sizes.  Knowing container break even rates to be able to choose LCL or FCL is an important process although you should always strive for FCLs to eliminate the CFS packing at the origin and again at the destination to save cost and lead-time.

Manage the Consolidation Process to Maximise Container Fill

Logistics teams need to manage the consolidation process to maximise container fill while ensuring into store delivery targets will be met.  Planning shipments based on purchase order FOB, vessel sailings, maximising container fill and hitting delivery goals can be a juggling act, but it is a role that is critical to the business.

Use Software to Create a Container Packing Plan

Once the list of purchase orders that are due to be shipped on a vessel have been planned, a container packing plan must be completed.  The packing plan will calculate the percentage efficiency of the packing plan, group purchase orders and place purchase orders in order of importance or warehouse bin location from the rear of the container through to the front.  Achieving an 85% or over percentage efficiency is consider excellent.

Two software packages that are suitable for container pack plans;

Cape Pack –

Cube IQ –

Container Fill

Managing Container Fill Reduces Cost

If your organisation has a total sea freight spend of US$1 million, and you can improve container space utilisation by 5% due to carton size and container space planning you just saved US$50K.  If your spend is US$10 million, you just saved US$500K!  Managing consolidations by moving purchase orders to earlier or later vessel sailings that don’t fit into the current consolidation will drive high capacity container fills that could easily save you that additional 5%.


A Global Sourcing, Procurement & Supply Chain Leader with 25+ years proven skill transforming complex Retail, Wholesale, Catalogue and Ecommerce sourcing, supply chains and operations for global Apparel, Textile and Consumer Products businesses that source from low cost production regions and distribute to global markets.

%d bloggers like this: