By: Clint McCrystal – Team Leader of Operations
Does it seem like there are less big rigs on the roads than there used to be? If so, it is for good reason. Just like the popularity of “Smokey and the Bandit”, the desire for today’s workforce to drive a truck has all but faded from our country’s periphery. As a result, it is increasingly difficult to secure capacity in today’s carrier market. Ask anyone in transportation management/logistics/supply chain and they will affirm this statement. Accordingly, we have team members devoting themselves to various initiatives to ensure that we properly service our operational customers during this crunch.
In order to help our customers own their supply chains, there are other projects and processes that can be employed. One such avenue that provides value and helps combat the tough current market conditions comes in the form of a. One specific type of lean warehousing that one of our customers has available to them comes in the form of a cross-dock. This cross-dock allows our logistical engineering team to help their supply chain control flow, improve delivery timing, reduce transportation and increase stability. These different benefits all come from the below features that cross-docking allows.
- Just-in-time delivery – Cross-docking allows for just-in-time delivery of inventory to a customer’s manufacturing facilities without driving up transportation cost by way of postponement. Multiple days of requirements can be delivered to a cross-dock in one load, and it can be subsequently shipped in individual shipments based on due dates to the plants. For our customer, we use sequenced pallet-labeling that features need-to-ship dates from the cross-dock to meet the plants’ needs. Being able to reduce the inventory levels at the plant is a huge benefit from lean warehousing.
- Consolidated shipments – With a cross-dock at our disposal, we can ship freight going to multiple plants to one centralized location in order to have it dispersed to the plants on full loads for that facility. The gains here in transportation savings come from being able to improve trailer cube on long-distance loads by using freight for different plants to improve the density. This helps avoid the pitfalls of hard-to-cover multi-pick milk-run loads.
- Stable receiving for production facilities – Timing is everything. As cliché as that is, it holds true for the receiving dock at any production facility. In addition, many plants have preferred receiving shifts that minimize the traffic for the rest of the facility. Cross-docking allows for dedicated, stable loads from the cross-dock to the plant that can deliver precisely at those preferred times. As the cube is higher, it decreases the additional transactional wastes of unloading additional trucks. And, due to the stability of the cross-dock to plant routes, the manufacturing facilities are more shielded from the transportation/carrier delays that a milk-run/direct truckload can incur.
Approaching your supply chain without a strong strategy on how to cope with rising costs associated with today’s transportation is like riding a bicycle with no hands. It is pretty impressive if you pull it off, but you are most likely going over the handlebars with the first pothole in the road. Embarking on lean warehousing, such as employing a cross-dock, is one such method to have more control of your network. It allows an organization to improve the flow or materials, decrease inventory at the plant and stabilize the system through just-in-time deliveries, freight consolidation and overall risk reduction in timing.
More and more modern supply chains need to embrace lean warehousing or one of the other lean logistics techniques in order to overcome the difficult current transportation market conditions. The landscape is changing and supply chains must react. As the great Jerry Reed put it in the aforementioned classic scenes of Burt Reynolds speeding across the country, “we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”Share