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What Are the Different Types of Pack Sizes?

2021-07-08
9 min read

Learn about:

  • The different pack sizes in logistics
  • How warehouses choose pack sizes
  • How to calculate pack sizes

Whether you sell to a brick-and-mortar store or you make your living by way of e-commerce, knowing different pack sizes can be helpful in more than one way.

This guide will make you familiar with the precise terminology associated with packaging. Not only that, you will be able to make better decisions with pack sizes that benefit both the distributor and the store that receive the items.

Keep reading to discover the advantages and disadvantages of using specific pack sizes to inform decisions with your distribution process!

What are the different pack sizes in logistics?

Different pack sizes present specific advantages and disadvantages for both the supplier and the stores depending on the size of the pack. The definitions below will help you to understand the terminology of the pack sizes. Doing so allows you to track your inventory better.

Here are some definitions to better understand pack sizes:

Vendor Pack (Case Pack): The vendor pack or case pack goes from the supplier to the retailer’s distribution center or fulfillment center. This vendor pack contains sellable units called “eaches”.

Warehouse Pack: The warehouse pack is the box inside of a vendor pack that contains one or more eaches.

Vendor Pack (Break Pack): The break pack contains one or more warehouse packs. Suppliers can send a break pack to different stores.

Concrete examples of the different pack sizes

Here is a concrete example of different pack sizes:

If the item in question has a Vendor Pack 48/Warehouse Pack 48 (Case Packs) configuration, then the supplier is shipping one box with 48 units to a distribution center where it will, in turn, send that box to the individual stores.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this configuration. One pro is that this method is cost-effective for the supplier.

However, there are cons to this method. The stores have limited flexibility; this is especially true for slow-turning items. With this configuration, a store can only order 48 units at a time. More specifically, if a store only happens to sell 10-15 units per week, the system will not register that it needs to order 48 more units and, therefore, will not place an order.

If a supplier sells an item with a Vendor Pack 48/Warehouse Pack 12 configuration, it has one box with 48 units. The supplier divides each case into four warehouse packs with 12 units each. The supplier sends this package to distribution centers, which in turn will send warehouse packs to their stores.

The pros of this configuration include that it provides better flexibility for the stores. This strategy allows distribution centers to send 12 units to their stores at a time. Moreover, if a store sells 10-15 units per week, its system will register a need for 12 more units and order them accordingly.

However, this method happens to be less cost-effective for the supplier because the supplier must pay for additional corrugate and printing for each warehouse pack.

If a supplier’s item has a Vendor Pack 48/Warehouse Pack 1, it is shipping one box with 48 units to a distribution center. The supply chain then sends the individual units to their respective stores.

A significant advantage of this method is that it is cost-effective for the supplier. There is also a tremendous amount of flexibility for retailers with this kind of order. With this configuration, distribution centers can send units of any increment needed for a store. It’s less likely to cause pack size replenishment issues as well.

Related Reading: What Is Vendor Managed Inventory?

Understanding the terms: Master (or Case) Pack vs. Inner Pack

What is the difference between a master pack and an inner pack? Let’s take a closer look at these terms.

Master Pack

The Master Pack refers to the outer box. This box holds the supplier’s products, and it helps to protect the smaller packages inside of it. It also reduces the overall number of packages handled during the process of shipping and handling. 

A retailer can expect to receive all Master Packs on pallets or floor-loaded inside of a container. A pallet has Master Cases stacked on top of a wooden frame

Inner Pack

On the other hand, the Inner Pack is the smaller grouping of products that usually arrive inside the Master Pack. Note that all of the products that are inside the inner packs should be the same Base Product (one unit of any product). If there is more than one type of product, retailers consider it a kit rather than a pack.

To protect fragile, large, and heavy items, inners go within the inner cases. 

So, in conclusion, a Master Pack, or a Case Pack, is a large package that contains a specific number of Inner Packs. 

For organizational purposes, we reiterate that all of a supplier’s cases should hold one type of SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). The SKU is a number or item code assigned to products that help retailers keep track of their inventory. Once the supplier labels its boxes, and the retailer places the orders, the warehouse can begin the picking and packing. 

When suppliers manufacture and package products into the inner cases and master cases, the warehouse stores them this way until a retailer places an order. 

It’s a good idea to know the dimensions and the weight of the cases. For example, if you have five units in the inner case instead of six, and that makes the package less than one pound, this is a huge win when it comes to shipping. Understanding the logistics can make or break a business. 

Related Reading: What Is Aggregate Inventory Management?

How do warehouses choose their pack sizes?

Here’s the breakdown of how a warehouse makes decisions on the pack sizes for the various cartons and other packing materials. 

Carton sizing

Suppliers have to think of the inner cases in terms of the shipping weight and selling them at wholesale or bulk quantities. Thinking in this way allows them to send a retailer one fully-packed inner case. 

So, if the retailer requests four inner cases, then the supplier should ship one master case with four inner cases inside. If the supplier can get them to go up to six, even better. This way, suppliers can fulfill wholesale or bulk orders that do not require product repacking. 

For a master case, it’s only essential that suppliers select a reasonably sized case that they can safely stack on a pallet. The standard size of a pallet in North America is 40 inches by 48 inches. 

Therefore, to choose the master case sizes, suppliers must plan to make them fit in the pallet. If a supplier has 20-inch by 24-inch master cases, for example, and every row has four cases, this bodes well for the labeling process. The supplier would be able to label each case on the outside and can position them so that they are visible when standing next to the pallet. 

How do you calculate pack sizes?

What does this mean regarding the calculation of pack sizes? In the examples provided above, it means that suppliers design their supply structure in quantities of four, six, or eight per pallet row. 

Review these measurements and the outcome of how they’d fit onto the pallet. 

  • 20 inches by 24 inches = row of 4
  • 20 inches by 16 inches = row of 6
  • 20 inches by 12 inches = row of 8 

If a supplier tried to do a row of 9 or 12, it wouldn’t work out too well because there inevitably would be cases in the middle. Once the supplier has stacked the pallet, the outside of those master cases wouldn’t be visible. 

On the other hand, if the supplier configured its cases in such a way that it was 12 (2 by 6) and used boxes that were 20 inches by 8 inches, it would have no problems. It’s all about configuring the master cases to sit atop the pallet.

Note: Suppliers should also consider the cost of shipping per product or pound for a master case. The general rule of thumb seems to be 50 pounds per box at the most when trying to optimize the freight costs per pound with a carrier like UPS or FedEx. 

Along these lines, a master case that holds only 50 products weighing 50 pounds is much more practical than two master cases that have 25 products and weigh 25 pounds. Cases over 50 pounds are both hard to handle and maneuver, and it increases the price the supplier will pay. 

Final thoughts

Consumer trends may guide suppliers’ plans to package products, or perhaps the performance of their products inform as to whether to increase the pack size or scale it back. At the moment, vendors seem to be favoring smaller pack sizes, as consumers prefer to pay less for a small bundle than to pay more for a big stock of products that they won’t use right away. 

Hopefully, this resource page helped assist with understanding pack sizes, how they’re calculated, and how to make an informed decision to guide your company’s sales strategies. Pack sizes can vary from company to company depending on their area of specialty. Be sure to do your research and track the profit and progress of your business.

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The SupplyPike Team
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The SupplyPike Team

SupplyPike builds software to help retail suppliers fight deductions, meet compliance standards, and dig down to root cause issues in their supply chain.

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