It’s nearly Spring Break season in North America, and while many families and couples look forward to traveling, eating smores, sleeping in tents and hotel rooms, jumping in pools, and building sandcastles on beaches, there is so much behind-the-scenes planning that goes into making these trips happen. Everything from coordinating meals, equipment, transportation, expenses, scheduling, timing and budgets must be planned out. This kind of planning is an excellent example of logistics services, which is defined as “the organization of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies.”
While planning family vacations is only a micro-example, it is a great metaphor for a bigger logistical picture. If you think Mom and Dad were stressed out planning that trip to the happiest place on earth, imagine how stressed they would be trying to facilitate hundreds of thousands of goods across a country—or sometimes multiple countries—in a given day.
Of course, this responsibility is rarely taken on by any single individual in shipping logistics. When it comes to logistics management, there is a whole supply chain at play to make things work that requires coordination and efforts from several parties to get everything where it needs to go. This is no easy feat. A supply chain’s weakness is visible within its name: a chain with individual links that make up a whole interconnected web of operations. The old saying of only being as strong as the weakest link is both cliched and true.
Anywhere from raw suppliers to last-mile delivery, a pain point in any link of the supply chain can lead to bottlenecks, unsatisfied customers and loss of revenue. One important link within this long chain is warehousing, an industry that is experiencing a booming resurgence in North America due to businesses attempting to shorten their chains to be closer to their end customers.
In logistics services, warehouses can be thought of as the hotel the family stays at on a long trip to recharge before hitting the road to arrive at the final destination, or even sometimes another hotel. Nearly all businesses rely on storage facilities and distribution centers, and these facilities are a crucial link in the chain, regardless of industry specifications.
Dedicated and Multi-Client Sites
Imagine that dedicated sites are like Airbnbs and multi-client sites are like a hotel. Dedicated warehousing and fulfillment sites are solely for one company, whereas multi-client warehousing sites are shared storage locations that are also utilized by other businesses. With multi-client warehousing sites located all over the country, the opportunity for vast geographic coverage grants organizations with substantially more connectivity and carrier rate shopping options when it comes time to move inventory.
So, what happens when there is a misbooked hotel room on the family vacation and panic ensues? Mom and Dad are forced to scramble and find a quality hotel with a vacancy and hope for the best. The same thing can happen when finding storage solutions. Finding quality storage facilities that meet every organization’s specific needs can be uniquely challenging.
In the face of ongoing disruptions and faltered communication, it’s important to have a reputable storage solution that can fill in the gaps of what’s missing. Outsourcing storage needs and shipping services to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider can ensure peace of mind with consistent and reliable storage options.
Logistics service providers grant the framework to prioritize savings initiatives and develop process improvements through services that go beyond what a business can achieve as a solo entity. A 3PL partner will be able to provide shippers with a myriad of warehouse logistics services, such as:
• Just-in-time (JIT) order fulfillment,
• Quality screening and sampling,
• Order consolidation,
• Dedication transportation,
• Inbound and outbound logistics,
• Order fulfillment and replenishment,
• Manufacturing support.
Advanced Technology in the Supply Chain
Have you ever used a paper map to navigate when traveling? Maps can be tedious and difficult, especially when attempting to operate a vehicle. The Spring Break road trip would arguably be more stressful without the use of modern GPS technology, and the same is true of warehousing without advanced technologies and digitization methodologies.
Warehouse operations and order fulfillment processes are crucial to get right the first time to keep the link in supply chains strong and avoid potential bottlenecks. Warehousing is a complex industry that requires the implementation of complex advanced technologies that offer insight into current and future company needs. Digitizing the warehouse not only optimizes speed and accuracy, but presents the visibility required to make precise logistics decisions in real-time. Technology, data and digitization alleviates historical blind spots in the supply chain to drive efficiencies and allow businesses to focus on what matters most: meeting and exceeding their goals.
Embracing rapidly evolving technologies like a warehouse management system (WMS) integrated with a transportation management system (TMS) ensures visibility, traceability and adaptability throughout the entire logistical process. With the right technology, data silos can be eliminated and transformed into digestible data lakes, providing actionable information to utilize and gain efficiencies throughout the shipping and handling processes. The utilization of appropriate technology in warehouse and fulfillment operations ensures smooth product flow, so instead of Mom and Dad stressing over the missed exit while reading a paper map, the worry and hassle of navigation is eased with the embracing of technology.
Ultimately, if Mom or Dad had invested in a travel agent, they could relax and enjoy the vacation without the worry of intense logistical planning. Partnering with a 3PL for warehousing and fulfillment needs removes the pressure of logistics services. Utilize the expertise of these partners to enhance workflow processes and figure out what aspects of current operations are missing so they can be addressed and resolved.
Dedicated and multi-client warehousing and fulfillment sites along with advanced technology are key tools for accommodating shippers nationwide, providing optimal performance methods. Eliminate the perpetual concern about getting products to customers, regardless of a B2B or B2C business model, and focus on improving the product themselves as well as the core of the operation.
David Bowers is vice president of warehouse operations for TA Services, a third-party logistics provider.