This column is authored by Lucy Kaith, IT Consultant, Gateway TechnoLabs
The supply chain is a critical aspect of business on whose efficiency your revenue margins depend significantly. Managing the fleet of container is vital for strategically harnessing the potential of your supply plans. Streamlining them by adopting transportation management solutions can play a decisive role in maintaining your business’s competitive edge. This post sheds light on acclaimed industry practices designed to enhance container management efficacy.
Understanding the process
You need to start with mapping of interdependent supply chain processes and identifying the applicability of containers in various stages. Supplier location, transit support mechanism, storage facilities, production plan, and dispatch schedules have to be factored in. Once the locations are sorted out, you need to analyze the container usage and frequency patterns. This would improve visibility across a complex chain and help in rendering the process flawless.
Identification of bottlenecks
You need to identify the potential and existing bottlenecks and how they are adversely impacting the supply chain. Severity index and frequency of anomalies have to be established. Container utilization has to be evaluated from various perspectives. Prominent among the considerations are proper reporting of the usage and availability of containers at various strategic locations, accurate monitoring of stock figures, keeping the data updated and relevant, time duration after which the emptied containers are picked up, number of people associated with handling containers, system of locating containers, time spent on an average in the exercise, etc. The quality and authenticity of data being received should be verified and benchmarks need to be established.
Management from the perspective of vendors
You need to collect and utilize insights from the viewpoint of vendors also. These include the frequency at which suppliers use containers for shipping raw materials to your business location, the quantum of damage and demurrage incurred by you when suppliers use their containers and were implemented by you to reduce reliance on suppliers. Through critical brainstorming over these issues, you can better put your containers in use for streamlining the supply chain profitably.
Monitoring container related losses
You need to have in place a robust container management system to quantify some losses attributable to inefficiency. Next, you need to narrow down on the vendors or locations where the quantum of losses is high compared to other points. This has to be correlated with the frequency at which you invest in the purchase of new containers. Such an exercise would help in justification of your purchase decision when losses are reasonably high.
Managing transit smoothly
You need to take into account the frequency of which you have to make last minute decisions to flag off containers for ensuring smooth merchandise delivery. If last minute shipment plans are frequently executed, you need to have a robust plan in place to offset the incremental cost overhead borne by you. Further, you need to investigate the role of the manager with whom the responsibility of such decision making is vested. A prudent plan has to be developed wherein the additional cost needs to be equally shared between you and the vendor. If excess containers turn up for a particular shipment, you need to enhance the storage capacity of your warehouses for exigencies. If any particular location is running short of warehouse storage, the chances are that containers would be left in the open. Under such conditions, there are opportunities that containers would be left unattended in the open and would be vulnerable to misuse or theft. Based on the feedbacks, you would be able to develop a fail-safe plan which would cater to your needs for efficiency in container management.
Information gap identification and rectification
You need to develop reliable software that would collect and collate information regarding container use from different locations. A centralized database needs to be built along with a dashboard where information would be displayed for critical decision making by you. Login credentials should be provided to a limited number of managerial staff, and proper authentication mechanism should be present so that no compromise with the security of the system occurs. Based on data receivable, you need to build actionable plans. This would help you better visualize the benefits from an end to end container management. Labour optimization would also occur through this. All pertinent data concerning container usage would be captured and available for analysis. The data should also be shared with all partners along the supply chain so that the entire system can be strengthened. Better visibility would lead to better management and would potentially impact the company’s bottom line significantly. This would also bring down the need to purchase containers frequently.
These best practices in using transportation management solutions would lead to the realization of more advantages from your investment as well as strengthen the supply chain for long term recurring benefits.