You’ve established a business, developed a revolutionary idea and manufactured a fantastic product. All that’s left is to have that product shipped to all your eager customers. But, you have to package it in something, right? Sure, your product is already in a company-made container of some kind, but that container wasn’t made to withstand the shipping process — you need something sturdier.
It’s easy to think the solution to this problem is to simply stick your product in a box and send it out, and to some degree, that’s true, but there’s more to it than that. You’re running a business, which means you’re sending out many copies of this product. Unneeded expenses will stack up over time, so you need to find the most cost-effective way of packaging it — and to figure out those costs, you’ll need to know the dimensions you want to use for your boxes.
Again, while this concept might seem simple, there’s a surprising amount that goes into it. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to measure a box, plus some of the main elements associated with it.
Unless your box contains a pocket dimension, it probably sounds strange that you need to measure the box twice — once on the inside and once on the outside. After all, isn’t it the same box both times? So shouldn’t the measurements be the same?
Well, yes and no. On a broad scale, absolutely. If you just wanted to say that your box’s height was roughly half a foot, that would hold true both inside and out. But the purpose of measuring your box is to make your packaging as cost-effective as possible, which means you need to have much more precise measurements.
The panels and flaps that make up a box aren’t two-dimensional — they take up space, even if only in small increments, and that affects measurements. Your product might appear to be the same height as a particular box, but it could still stick out from the top when you put it inside. For this reason, you have to measure both interior and exterior dimensions.
The interior measurements of a box are those used in relation to the product going inside it. If you plan to get custom boxes made, the dimensions you give your packaging provider need to be interior measurements.
To obtain these measurements, you’ll need the box to be unfolded and laid flat. You need to find three box dimensions: the length, width and height. Height is the dimension that will run vertically when your box is assembled. Of the other two, the length is the longer, and the width the shorter. It may seem easy to measure these when a box is folded and glued, but when laid flat, they can be harder to find.
The best thing to do is to begin folding the box, enough to find the creases, and figure out which crease represents which dimension. Mark each crease with a pencil, so you can still see it when the box is unfolded. Then, lay it flat again and measure the lines you drew.
Note that when measuring creases, you should not measure only the length of the crease itself. To leave space for folding, most flaps are slightly shorter than the larger panels they connect to. This arrangement means that measuring only the length of the actual crease will give you inaccurate numbers. The crease shows you the line you’re measuring along, but the measurement itself should extend past the end of the crease, running all the way to the end of the larger panel.
Once a box is made, folded, filled and sealed, it’s ready to be shipped. At that point, it’s no longer about how much space your product takes up within the box — it’s about how much space the box takes up within its shipping container, which is dictated by the box’s exterior dimensions.
To find these dimensions, unlike with the interior measurements, you’ll need to measure the box after it’s folded up. There’s no need to mark any lines in this case — with the box already folded, it should be evident where the creases are that you need to measure.
While the interior dimensions are the ones you’ll send to your packaging provider, the exterior dimensions are the ones you’ll give your shipping service. They’ll use them to determine the way they need to arrange the package in the shipping container and to calculate the shipping cost.
While the above guidelines offer a good overview of how to get box dimensions, the process will vary slightly, depending on the type of box you have. You can use many different box types, each of which assembles differently from the others.
Each box, when laid out flat, tends to have several connected core panels running down the middle, with smaller flaps extending out to the sides — but those core panels don’t compose the same parts of the box every time. Particularly when it comes to interior measurements, it can be tricky to figure out which creases are the right ones to measure.
Here’s an overview of some of the main box styles, and the features associated with each:
Regular slotted containers (RSCs) are the most common box type. When laid out flat, the core panels running down the middle are those that form the four sides — front, back, left and right — when folded — the flaps create the top and bottom. There’s also a thin mini-flap at the end, which serves as a connection point between panels. To find each dimension, measure the following:
Wrap-around blank boxes wrap around a product as tightly as possible, so as to minimize wasted space. The core panels form the front, back, top and bottom of the folded box — flaps form the left and right sides. A thin mini-flap is also at the end for keeping the box closed. To find each dimension, measure the following:
Five-panel folders (FPFs) are distinct in that they have a fifth core panel, which has no flaps. It acts somewhat like a flap itself, covering the front panel when the box is closed. The other core panels compose the front, back, top and bottom of the folded box. To find each dimension, measure the following:
Full telescope design boxes (FTDs) are unlike any other type, as they come in two pieces. One of the two pieces functions as a removable lid. This piece is slightly larger than its counterpart, so it can fit around it when the box is closed.
Because of this structure, a different piece must be measured, depending on which dimensions are desired. For interior dimensions, measure the smaller piece; for exterior dimensions, measure the larger one, or lid. The core panels compose the top, bottom, left side and right side of the folded box.
To find each dimension, measure the following:
Roll end trays usually have locking covers, which are composed of special flaps designed to hold the box closed even without glue or tape. Like FPFs, they have a fifth core panel, which is where the special locking flaps are attached. Additionally, two of the regular flaps typically have extra flaps extending from them, making roll end trays somewhat complex.
When laid out flat, the core panels running down the middle are those that make up the front, back, top and bottom of the folded box. To find each dimension, measure the following:
Pre-glued auto bottom boxes are perhaps the most intricately designed box type. When laid out flat, the core panels are those that make up the four sides — front, back, left and right — of the folded box.
On one side, RSC-style flaps extend from the core panels, which fold together to form the top of the box. But, from the other side, extend more complex flaps, alternating between each panel, which are designed to interlock when folded to form the bottom. There’s also a thin mini-flap at the end used as a connection point between panels.
To find each dimension, measure the following:
Bliss-style boxes, like RSCs, are very efficient in terms of creating minimal manufacturing waste and can be particularly sturdy. Unlike RSCs, however, they come in multiple pieces. The bulk of the box is made up of three core panels — composing the front, back and bottom of the folded box — with flaps extending on all sides. Two separate pieces, each composed of a single panel with a single flap, are attached separately to form the left and right sides.
Unlike the other box styles, bliss style boxes can vary, depending on the placement of the two smaller pieces, or glue flaps. However, the process for taking measurements should remain relatively consistent. You can take all of these measurements using only the main piece. To find each dimension, measure the following:
Now that you understand how to find your box’s measurements, you’ll want to determine what they should be. Particularly if you’re having custom boxes made, you need to know exactly what dimensions you want to use for your product. To that end, it can be helpful to understand some of the additional factors that go into the shipping process.
To start with, you’ll want to assess what kind of product you’re boxing. If your product is delicate or fragile, you’ll want to include some packing materials to keep it safe. These materials will require additional room in the box, and you’ll need to take that into account when deciding what your desired dimensions are.
Secondly, remember that the objective of this process is to design a box with dimensions that save as much space as possible. The reason comes down to the costs associated with shipping. While shipping costs are frequently attributed to weight, the truth is that most shipping services don’t merely charge for how much a product weighs.
That’s because volume — how much space the package takes up — is equally important. If someone wants to ship a ten-cubic-foot box filled with feathers, it would be ridiculous for the shipper to charge them based only on weight. The feathers would hardly weigh anything, but the box would still take up a ton of room.
For this reason, shippers usually charge based on dimensional weight. Dimensional weight is essentially volumetric density, or volume relative to weight. Shippers will calculate it by dividing a package’s volume by a set dimensional weight factor. If a package’s dimensional weight is greater than its actual weight, the charge will be based on dimensional weight — so the feather-filled box wouldn’t be cheap just because it was light!
Because of this system, it’s to your advantage to keep your dimensional weight as close to the package’s actual weight as possible, which means you need to minimize how much space it takes up. You don’t want to have extra space in the box that’s not taken up by your product.
You don’t want to settle for using standard box sizes for your products. It will result in wasted space, which translates to wasted money in shipping. To avoid unnecessary expenses, take advantage of the opportunity to create custom boxes designed specifically to fit your products.
Bolt Boxes has you covered. We provide boxes created with the perfect dimensions for your business’s needs, plus we offer custom printing as well, so you can have your company’s logo — or whatever design you desire — splashed across the exterior of the box. Get in touch with us today to get started on packaging your products!