Sometimes you have your supply chain perfectly mapped out, to the point that things arrive right on time and not a moment sooner or later. But more often, you don’t. Supply chain timing issues aren’t always as dramatic as overnights and rush shipments, but sometimes you just need your product to move a little more quickly. Here are our top easy changes to get your product faster without turning your supply chain on its head.
Make Sure Your Paperwork is in Order
This one seems like a given, but something so simple can have a dramatic impact on how smoothly your product’s transit goes. Making sure you have all your paperwork ready and in order can help you avoid costly holds at customs when importing. Once it’s inland, it’s imperative to have paperwork readily accessible for last-mile planning and tracking to avoid letting shipments sit and incur fees. Whether moving goods internationally or domestically, delays can be costly at nearly any part of the transportation process, so make sure your information is organized and ready ahead of time. The last thing you want is to have your shipment delayed for something that was completely under your control.
Rethink Distribution Centers
Distribution centers are far more than just another stop in your supply chain. They can easily become a great way to lose time and money. However, most supply chains rely heavily on them. Take the time to evaluate how your distribution centers work for your supply chain. Utilizing them for consolidation and better organizing your product can ensure more efficient routing and fewer delays. Of course, for urgent orders or delayed shipments, you may want to consider skipping the distribution center and ship straight your store or the end customer. Are your distribution centers improving efficiency? Are they helping you get products to customers faster or at a lower cost? Are they located in a place that makes sense for your supply chain? Reworking the way you use your distribution centers—or even reconsidering if you need them at all—can help you make the most of what may seem like a fixed cost for your supply chain.
Book Full Containers
If you’ve got enough product to fill a full container, you can save yourself time, money, and stress by avoiding shipping partial containers or truckloads. Transporting less than container load or less than truckload takes time to consolidate at the beginning of the shipping journey and adds time to the end of the journey by adding additional stops before final delivery. It may take a little extra planning to give yourself the ability to fill a container, but the benefits of doing so are endless. By avoiding sharing a container or truck, you eliminate the need for stops at other locations before your delivery point and mitigate risks that come from your product sharing space with others.
Plan for Transit Time
When shipping internationally, having your lead times planned out is imperative. Most sailing schedules only have ships leaving port 1-2 times a week, with specific cutoffs for when your cargo must be loaded before departure. Missing those sailing times because production took a little longer than expected can leave your product stuck in the origin country for days or weeks until the next ship (with capacity) can load your container and depart. Whenever possible, work your way backwards to plan every step of the process. Use your need-by date to plan for when you need to ship, use your shipping schedule to determine when your product needs to be at port, and compare that with production times to figure out when you need to place your product order. Some simple, yet meticulous, planning can eliminate entire weeks of wasted time in your supply chain.
Utilize Available Technology
Everything that’s been covered so far is made far easier with good technology. If you have visibility technology available to you, make sure you use it to its fullest. If you don’t, it may be time to investigate what options might be best for your supply chain and your budget. Sure, someone can monitor shipments by calling their forwarder every 5 minutes, but software helps by tracking and alerting by exception. You can easily see where things are at any given time and set up alerts when something isn’t moving along as planned, allowing you to react to delays and adjust your plans while still in transit. Full visibility can give you the power to decide that it’s worth paying a little extra to expedite your product to get it on time. Visibility all the way down to the purchase order level can enable you to go even further to consolidate shipments based on their need-by dates and better plan for transit time.
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