Time and Productivity

April 1, 2003
Material-handling operators for a manufacturer in Germany place components into a crate and then seal it. They then use a lift truck to place the crate

Material-handling operators for a manufacturer in Germany place components into a crate and then seal it. They then use a lift truck to place the crate into a carrier truck. Meanwhile, controls and systems handle the necessary data transfer among vested parties. Under normal circumstances, the truck transports the crate to an airport, where it would be loaded onto the next available plane for shipment into the U.S.

However, that scenario will not happen anymore. Instead, the crate is going to wait in an airport warehouse or storage facility. It will wait until paperwork on its contents has been sent on ahead to U.S. Customs. According to recent reports, this information must reach U.S. Customs between 24 and 96 hours ahead of the plane’s landing time.

Welcome to the new reality of Just-In-Time. Now material handlers need to factor in the time it takes to process paperwork because of new security mandates. And some of these mandates will affect data handling.

Material handlers need to be aware of this development because this new step has the potential for lowering productivity. Just as trucks pile up at border crossings, now cargo shipped by plane will face backups and time delays. Depending on airline scheduling, the delays could be up to several days.

If no manifest were required, the plane could arrive at its destination in about nine hours after loading. The customer could receive his ordered components as quickly and efficiently as a plane and truck can travel.

Given the state of unrest around the world today, though, security is necessary. But there will be costs. Part of that cost could very well be reduced productivity.

There are physical limits to how fast many material handling steps can be accomplished. While data can be shipped at electronic speeds, planes operate on a slightly different schedule.

The U.S. Department of Customs is aware of the issue, as is the Transportation Security Agency. And they are trying to understand foreign manufacturing and material handling practices and procedures so that any policies they develop will have minimal impact on commerce.

However, there will be delays. According to Mike Brigham, vice president of airport cargo and security at Siemens Dematic, any policy will involve some compromise and therefore delay.

What are your options? Are there ways to reduce the potential inefficiencies? Smart supply chain partners are working together to explore possible solutions. If you have not already done so, plan to become involved with any discussions the transportation and port government agencies hold. Customs and TSA are more than willing to work with you on the best ways to accommodate the security mandates and help you keep productivity levels high and keep your customers happy with quick, efficient shipments.

One solution various parties are exploring involves a tiered approach to security. In exchange for preference in passing through Customs, a company would agree to implement certain procedures and documentation processes guaranteeing that they follow accepted security procedures. Other solutions may involve changes to controls and systems to accommodate the new timing requirements for document processing and shipping.

But these are not the only possible solutions. You may have a more creative approach. Don’t wait for others to suggest how. If you receive material from foreign countries, get involved now to keep the flow of goods running smoothly. [email protected]

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