By John Andrew Shawyer, director, Associated Pallets Ltd.
The right supply chain and logistics infrastructure are essential to the successful running of your business. Manufacturing, engineering, distribution, exporting and logistics companies need to invest in the latest technology and systems in order to gain and maintain a competitive edge
Drivers for Supply Chain Improvements
Most organisations will have a series of common drivers that encourage them to invest in a better supply chain and logistics solution. The overriding one will typically be cost. An efficient business is a less expensive business to run, thanks to a minimisation of waste and economies of scale. Environmental considerations will be an increasingly important factor too, with regulatory and consumer pressure encouraging businesses to adopt cleaner and greener business practices through greater efficiencies and less resource-intensive ways of working.
The Right Approach
To review and assess your current supply chain is a significant process that requires specialist expertise. It can be valuable to bring in a consultant to assess the business's current state of play, suggest a structured programme of improvement and define benefits and offer solutions.
Continuous Improvement Systems
The Japanese 'kaizen' philosophy of continuous improvement is a good one to implement in your business, as it encourages continuous incremental changes that constantly improve over time and respond to the ever-changing business environment rather than simply implementing a single large-step change programme. This process involves looking at every stage of the supply chain and logistics programme, from the point of assessing purchase of the right pallets for sale to considering more efficient means of combining lorry deliveries to minimise waste and greenhouse gas emissions. When combined with a robust supply and logistics framework — ideally one that is accredited to industry standards and recognised as a good system — it can be powerful and provide multiple business benefits.
Various factors will be assessed as part of this improvement programme. The following areas will need analysing and, potentially, improving.
A secure logistics system that supports business continuity and regulatory compliance is essential. This ranges from technology and security firewalls through to on-site security guards. Large logistics firms will want to look at warehouse security, mobile control staff, static guards and security systems.
Technology implementation will be a cornerstone of the approach, with a full technology solution designed to manage each aspect of the logistics and supply chain operation. An outsourced and industry-standard solution may be the best approach rather than a custom build. Custom builds are expensive and difficult to maintain. Industry standards have already proven their value and a cloud model may offer additional benefits, such as off-site secure hosting and security, cutting-edge firewalls and security systems, remote deployment of systems upgrades, database and systems integration and a more cost-effective subscription model.
Technology deployment will consider a variety of factors, from CRM systems, warehouse management software and customer order tracking systems to hand-held POS and lorry loading log systems, delivery management, staff timesheets and more. An integrated system is efficient, improves MI, cuts costs and duplication and allows the state of the business to be assessed in a simpler way.
A full solution will also consider other, more holistic factors, such as on-site catering and refreshments to minimise driver and warehouse staff downtime and streamline the operation in a single site. Cleaning services will also be assessed as a key part of running a safe and effective logistics operation. Customer feedback and evaluation processes will also be considered as a means of capturing future improvements.