Consolidated Shipping 101: Optimizing Costs for Small Businesses

Consolidated shipping is a freight service that allows individual LCL shipments from various shippers to be grouped together.

Imagine you run a small furniture retail business in the United States, and you’ve decided to import exquisite furniture from China to diversify your product offerings.

However, your individual orders from different manufacturers in China are too small to fill a shipping container, making traditional shipping costly and inefficient.

That’s where consolidated shipping comes to your rescue.

By combining your smaller orders with shipments from other businesses importing from China, you can optimize costs and streamline the import process.

In this article, we will explore the concept of consolidated shipping, its types, advantages, and how DIDADI can assist businesses like yours in achieving seamless import operations from China.

Table of Contents

What is Consolidated Shipping?

Consolidated shipping, often referred to as groupage shipping or LCL (Less than Container Load) shipping, is a logistics method that combines multiple small shipments from different shippers into a single container.

Instead of filling an entire container with goods from a single shipper, the container is filled with goods from several shippers who are shipping smaller loads. This method is particularly useful when individual shipments are not large enough to occupy a whole container.

Consolidated shipping serves as an intermediary between full container loads (FCL) and individual parcel shipments. In FCL shipping, a shipper utilizes the entire container for their goods, which is cost-effective for large shipments but may not be practical for small to medium-sized businesses with limited cargo volumes.

On the other hand, individual parcel shipments can be costly and inefficient due to higher transportation expenses.

How Does It Work?

The process of consolidation involves several steps to ensure efficient transportation of goods:

Collection of Goods

Freight forwarders or consolidators gather shipments from various shippers at their warehouses or distribution centers. These shipments are then sorted and organized for consolidation.

Grouping Shipments

The consolidator groups shipments destined for the same or nearby locations into a single container. This ensures that shipments are delivered to the same region, reducing transit times and costs.

Loading and Securing

Once the container is filled with multiple shipments, it is loaded and secured to prevent damage during transit. Careful packing and securing of goods are vital to minimize the risk of damage and ensure safe transportation.

Transport and Delivery

The container is then transported to the destination port or an intermediate hub, where it may undergo customs clearance. Finally, the goods are delivered to their respective recipients.

Types of Consolidated Shipping

Ocean Consolidation

This type involves grouping smaller shipments into a single container and shipping them via sea freight. Ocean consolidated shipping is cost-effective, especially for international trade.

Ocean consolidated shipping offers several benefits, including access to a vast network of shipping routes, flexibility in container sizes, and competitive freight rates. It is particularly advantageous for businesses that do not have a continuous stream of large shipments or cannot afford the expenses associated with FCL shipping.

Air Consolidation

Air consolidation works similarly to ocean consolidation but uses air freight as the mode of transportation. It is ideal for time-sensitive shipments that need to reach their destinations quickly.

Air consolidated shipping offers speed and reliability, making it suitable for perishable goods, urgent orders, or high-value items. Although airfreight costs are generally higher than sea freight, air consolidation helps minimize expenses by sharing space with other shipments.

What Kind Of Business Is Suitable For Consolidated Shipping?

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

SMEs often lack the volume of goods to fill a full container. LCL allows them to access international markets without the need for large shipment volumes, making it a cost-effective choice.

E-commerce Businesses

With the rise of cross-border e-commerce, many businesses need to ship small quantities of products to international customers. Consolidated shipping is a viable option for cost-efficient and reliable shipping solutions.

Startups and New Exporters

Startups and new exporters may not have the resources or experience to manage full container loads. Consolidated shipping enables them to participate in global trade without the risk of large upfront investments.

Seasonal or Occasional Shippers

Companies that experience fluctuating shipment volumes due to seasonal demands can benefit from consolidated shipping, as it provides flexibility in managing shipments.

Advantages of Consolidated Shipping

Consolidated shipping offers several advantages for businesses:

Cost Savings

By sharing container space with other shippers, businesses can significantly reduce shipping costs compared to booking an entire container.

The cost-effectiveness of consolidated shipping lies in its ability to distribute shipping expenses among multiple shippers. This cooperative approach to container utilization results in lower freight rates, making it an attractive option for businesses seeking to minimize logistics costs.


With frequent departures and various destination options, consolidated shipping offers flexibility in managing shipments.

Its schedules are typically more frequent than FCL shipments, allowing businesses to ship goods according to their preferred timelines. This flexibility accommodates various shipping needs and ensures timely delivery to customers.

Reduced Risk

Smaller shipments face a lower risk of damage or loss during transit due to better packing and handling.

By consolidating multiple shipments into a single container, the risk of damage is reduced since goods are packed and secured more efficiently. Freight forwarders and consolidators take extra precautions to safeguard cargo, ensuring a higher level of protection during transportation.

Faster Transit Times

Ocean or air consolidations often involve direct routes, leading to faster delivery times compared to full container loads that may involve multiple transshipments.

Faster transit times contribute to increased customer satisfaction, especially for time-sensitive shipments. With more direct routes and fewer stops, businesses can better manage their supply chains and respond to market demands more efficiently.

Environmental Benefits

By maximizing container space and reducing the number of partially-filled containers, consolidated shipping contributes to reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact.

As global concern over environmental sustainability grows, businesses are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Consolidated shipping aligns with these goals, as it reduces the overall energy consumption and emissions associated with shipping.

How DIDADI Can Help with Consolidated Shipping

Experience the power of consolidated shipping with DIDADI!

By utilizing freight shipping platforms like DIDADI, businesses can discover the most cost-effective and efficient method for sending your consolidated shipments. With custom solutions tailored to your specific business needs, DIDADI makes it effortless to get started.

Joining DIDADI is a breeze! Just request a quote through the self-service platform, and we’ll connect you with a partner that perfectly matches your consolidated freight requirements.