Why size matters with the PS5 and the logistics 'cube'

20 November 2020

Delays to deliveries of the newly-launched PlayStation 5 highlight the importance of the logistics ‘cube’, according to a supply chain expert.

Richard Wilding, professor of supply chain strategy at Cranfield School of Management, said it was important for firms to recognise that “size does matter” when it comes to logistics, after retailer Game said the size of boxes had resulted in delays to deliveries of the PlayStation 5 to customers.

He said: “The bigger the item the more logistics capacity is consumed. A large item such as a games console consumes more space and logistics providers need to understand the size of items to optimise logistics.”

Wilding explained: “In logistics, we talk about ‘cube’. The smaller the cube the more items can be packed on a pallet and loaded onto a vehicle. If the item has a large ‘cube’, less items can be carried. 

“If you can get only one item on a lorry then all the capacity of the vehicle is consumed, all the costs of running that lorry and all the CO2 generated are assigned to that one item. However if one thousand items are loaded on a lorry then it consumes 1:1000th of the capacity and all the costs and CO2 are divided by 1,000.”  

Making products logistics and supply chain friendly is “critical”, Wilding said. He highlighted the recent move by Apple to shrink the box of its new iPhone 12 to “both improve logistics and help the environment”. 

He added that despite the controversy surrounding plastic packaging, it can be better for the environment than using paper and cardboard.

“For the same level of protection the plastic package may have a smaller cube and reduced weight so more items can be placed in containers and on lorries without damage, which therefore reduces the amount of pollution and resources consumed through logistics. These are just many complex trade-offs both consumers and companies need to consider.”

Wilding’s comments came as consumers were left disappointed after retailer Game announced some PlayStation 5s that were due to be delivered on launch day (19 November) would be delayed due to “UK-wide delivery challenges”. 

In an email to customers, Game said: “Due to the volume of PlayStation 5s in the UK market and the size of the product, the launch has led to UK-wide delivery challenges for all retailers and couriers.”

The retailer said it had used multiple couriers, but singled out Yodel, which it claimed “informed us that not all orders due to be delivered by them will be delivered on release day”.

The courier told the BBC: “Yodel does not work directly with Game. Our client is GFS, a fulfilment business who work in partnership with Game.

“We have been consistently clear on the order volumes we are able to carry for them and it is deeply disappointing that Yodel's name has been incorrectly used in an email to customers on the status of orders.”

It said there were “currently no delays” within its network.

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