Flexible supply chains help businesses succeed

August 29 2013

Every company has to deal with some form of the supply chain to be effective. Whether it is making sure paper for the printer arrives on time, shipping products like medication to a pharmacy to stock its shelves with or having an entire business based around sending packages, having a proper supply chain is a crucial aspect of business.

A recent Manufacturing.net column features an interview with Diane Palmquist, the vice president of manufacturing industry solutions at GT Nexus and she spoke about how the auto industry is affecting the supply chain. She said that as technology has advanced , the world has become much smaller and the overall supply chain is becoming longer throughout every aspect of it.

"Customers are less and less willing to wait for things," Palmquist told the news source. "As customer lead times become shorter, and as manufacturing lead time and sourcing becomes long, it creates an environment that needs some kind of real-time platform to keep things running."

She added that one of the main keys to success is to be flexible and know when it is time to change up the supply chain or logistics systems that are currently in place to a system that is more practical. With a more rigid solution, it can take time to implement any kind of changes while a more fluid option is flexible enough to meet the changing industry.

By partnering with a local supply chain and logistics company, any business can take a different look at their process and be more effective.

Demand for quality logistic services on the rise

August 27 2013

It is no shock that the business world relies on logistics and the supply chain as a crucial part of daily operations. However, looking at the actual numbers puts things into perspective.

According to a recent article from Material Handling and Logistics, in 2012, businesses in the U.S. spent $1.3 trillion on logistics. That is a growth of $43 billion from the year before and is the highest it has been since 2008. While that seems like positive growth, there is an underlying theme of shipping problems caused by the recession.

"We are experiencing a new order that is translating into the new way of life for the economy and the logistics and supply chain sectors for the foreseeable future," said Rosalyn Wilson, the author of the annual State of Logistics Report.

What Wilson is referring to is a new trend characterized by slowing growth and job creation, lower reliability and the capacity is not increasing quickly enough to meet demand. This is happening because many trucking companies were not able to survive the economic downturn. On top of that, government regulations that require environmentally-friendly engines and reduce the time that drivers can be on the road make it more costly to do business. Now that things are recovering, the demand for quality logistics services is highly outpacing the supply.

This means companies need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to shipping practices. A local delivery service can help solve some of these problems and keep packages moving.

While the shipping process can be complicated, it is not impossible to fix

August 27 2013

In every company there are a number of processes that need to be re-evaluated frequently to make sure they are still the most cost effective and efficient way to complete the required tasks. This includes everything from making sure the IT infrastructure can handle the devices that are connecting to it to keeping every employee on the same page when it comes to information sharing.

One of the hardest systems to handle is shipping, at least that is the feeling of Alan Nicol - an executive member of Manufacturing Business Technology Magazine. In a recent column, Nicol wrote about the "one business process" that is too wasteful and difficult to fix.

"I'm sure each of us has ordered something from a manufacturer, supplier, or on-line retailer and been surprised either by the seemingly exorbitant shipping fee, or by the oddly oversized, over-packaged box in which our items arrived," Nicol wrote. "Have you ever gone a step further than shaking your head and shrugging your shoulders? Have you ever investigated the shipping fee?"

He went on to talk about some examples of times when he has looked into these questions and the reasons behind the expensive and inefficient shipping. The dock is not an easy problem to solve as there are several different factors that need to be considered when it comes to optimizing the packing and delivering of an order.

First off, there is a difference between bulk shipping and sending out individual orders. Companies are able to save on packing materials when it comes to sending out multiple pieces on one pallet, but without the right sized boxes, more materials are needed to fill the empty space that exists when a product in an individual order is shipped.

The next issue involves budgeting. In many instances, organizations have trouble managing all of the materials that are needed to handle the logistical challenges that come along with shipping multiple different products from a single warehouse.

Next up is getting things from point A to point B. There are many different ways for this to be done but not every package needs to be sent the same way. For example, if your company is located in Ohio, it may be easier to partner with a local delivery service that can pick up and deliver same day instead of relying on a larger company that may take longer to deliver the package.

The final problem is understanding that no problem is unsolvable. While it may seem impossible to re-evaluate a massive process like shipping, it is doable with the right attitude and some hard work.

"Don't accept that a process problem cannot be solved," Nicol wrote. "If it causes pain, it is a problem. Any problem can be mitigated or improved upon if we take the time and effort to really understand it and address what we can control. Sometimes, we just need to change the rules so that something we don't control becomes something we can."

Trying to manage the shipping process can clearly be complicated. However, by partnering with a local logistics and supply chain company, any organization can start answering the problems that are created by shipping.

As the NFL season kicks off, Ohio businesses must be prepared

August 24 2013

Football and Ohio just seem to go together. Even if the local professional teams haven't experienced any significant success in recent years, this state still loves its pigskin, which means this time of year represents a massive spike in local business activity.

Earlier this month, fans flocked to Canton to witness this year's class get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Many even stuck around to watch the Cowboys and Dolphins play the Hall of Fame Game on August 5. Now that August is almost over, we can move past the ceremonies and put the preseason in our rear view mirror. It's almost time for the regular season to begin.

The Cleveland Browns open the season at home on September 8 against the Dolphins. Whether or not fans are optimistic about Cleveland's chances this fall, we all know the Dawg Pound will be rocking when we kickoff and the games are for real. Last year, the Browns only went 5-11, but they drew just under 67,000 fans per game, posting better attendance than playoff teams Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Minnesota. The team also had a higher capacity percentage than Washington, which also made the playoffs. Downtown Cleveland will likely see a spike again this fall, which means local vendors must be prepared.

The retail and food and beverage industries are major beneficiaries of increased foot traffic around the stadium. However, companies must take proper steps if they are to capitalize on this opportunity. In the NFL, no one knows how a team will do before the season starts. If the Browns start winning, expect an even greater turnout on Sunday afternoons, either at the stadium itself or in local bars.

Businesses cannot afford to be unprepared for this event. If they run out of stock because of logistical issues, that reputational hit could impact them the rest of the season. Working with a Cleveland-based product distribution services provider will help local businesses stay competitive throughout the fall.

Your package delivered by drone? It's possible

August 23 2013

The way packages are delivered could be on the cusp of a major overhaul. The United States Postal Service is in financial trouble and many companies are looking for alternative methods to complete critical business tasks. However, some of these ideas are a bit far out there.

A recent article from Business Insider looked at the possibility of companies using unmanned drones to make deliveries right to a customer's doorstep. Currently. these devices are available for purchase from $300 to over $20,000 depending on the travel range, payload weight and controls.

"When most people think of drones, they picture small pilotless, plane-like devices used by the military for hunting terrorists," the article reads. "Drone manufacturers want to change this image and widen the target audience for their products. Physical delivery of products is one of the potential uses of drones that could excite marketers."

The main reason this has yet to happen is because the law does not allow it. Commercial use of drones is currently illegal and the devices that are legal are restricted to operating below 400 feet, making longer travel impossible. However, Congress has asked the FAA to develop rules for adding drones for commercial use by 2015.

While it would be very interesting to have a drone take off 10 minutes after placing an order. fling directly to your front door, it will be a while before this is possible. Instead, businesses should consider more practical approaches like a local delivery service that can guarantee same day and secure delivery.