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AES: Calculating Units of Measure

Thu Aug 15 2019
By Noel Horner, International Trade and Development
Component ID: #ti1519458996

When filing Electronic Export Information into the Automated Export System, most Schedule B numbers require quantities in designated units of measurement (UOM). Depending on the commodity classification code, the UOMs use many kinds of units and are important to ensure the accuracy and consistency of trade data. This blog will provide an overview of how to calculate square meters, which measure area, and cubic meters, which measure volume.

Component ID: #ti1123059672

Calculating Square Meters

We know that square meters measure area, and that area is two-dimensional. So all we need is its length and width.  

Let’s try an example. Imagine there’s an export of veneer sheets for plywood classified under Schedule B 4408.10.0100, and the invoice shows that 781 units were purchased. Schedule B 4408.10.0100 requires that the quantity be reported in square meters, but there's a chance that units don't translate into meters.

According to the invoice, each unit measures 243.84cm x 121.92cm x 1.9cm. Dimensions are typically laid out as length x width x height/thickness/depth.

Using these measurements, we can start to calculate the quantity in square meters.

First step. We just need the first two numbers – length and width – to calculate the square meters of this export. Next up: converting the dimensions from centimeters to meters. Because 1 cm = 0.01 meter, the decimal just needs to move two spaces to the left.

243.84cm = 2.44m
121.92cm = 1.22m

Second step. We’re not just looking for meters; we want square meters. To get the square in the square meter, the length and width need to be multiplied. In this step, multiplying the meters in length with the meters in width will result in square meters:

2.44m * 1.22m = 2.982

Third step. According to the invoice, 781 units are being exported, and 2.98 is only the square meter of one unit. Therefore, we still need to calculate the square meters of 781 units instead of one unit:

2.982 * 781 units = 2,3252*

Component ID: #ti918878589

Calculating Cubic Meters

Cubic meters measure volume, and volume is three-dimensional comprised of length, width and height. When calculating, it doesn’t matter which side is considered the length, width or height.

For this example, red oak wood classified under Schedule B 4407.91.0022 is being exported. The invoice shows that 1,500 feet board measure (FBM) were purchased, but the export commodity classification requires that the quantity be reported in cubic meters. Even though the unit FBM also measures volume, it isn’t the equivalent of cubic meters. For the sake of this example, the dimensions of FBM are 12in x 12in x 1in. With these dimensions, we can begin to calculate the cubic meters of this export.

First step. Because cubic meter is a unit of the metric system, the dimensions of FBM should first be converted from inches to meters:

0.3048m x 0.3048m x 0.0254m

Second step.  When we multiply three dimensions in meters, it will create the cube in cubic meter. Therefore, when we multiply the dimensions together, the following occurs:

0.3048 * 0.3048 * 0.0254 = 0.002363* *

Take note of how was created in our first example when two dimensions were multiplied in meters, and how 3 is created when three dimensions are multiplied in meters.

Now, we have just one last step.

Third step. Don’t forget that we still need to account for 1,500 FBM, and, thus far, we’ve only found that 1 FBM equals 0.003in volume:

0.002363 * 1,500 = 43***

We now know that 2,325of veneer sheets and 4of red oak wood are being exported, and they can be entered as such in the Automated Export System. These quantities are very different from the original values of 781 units and 1,500 FBM, so it is very important to ensure that quantities are being reported in the proper units of measure rather than in other arbitrary or industry-related units of measure that might be referenced on an invoice.

For helpful conversion tables and more information on units of measurement, visit the Guide to Foreign Trade Statistics – Conversion Tables and Units of Quantity. To learn more about U.S. exports and imports, check out USA Trade Online  or contact the Macro Analysis Branch at 1-800-549-0595, Option 4.

Component ID: #ti1910398659

* Rounded from 2,324.8808
** Rounded from 0.0023597372
*** Rounded from 3.54

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