Streamlining the Shipping Process

Streamlining the Shipping Process

By:  Erin Mahan

Everyday we make decisions.  Often these are small decisions, like deciding between the blue dress shirt or the more unconventional pink shirt, or deciding where to go for lunch in the afternoon.  Bigger decisions, like buying a house, or deciding whom you’re going to marry obviously require a lot more thought and information.  You wouldn’t just run out and buy the first house you see, and you certainly wouldn’t marry the first person you see without getting to know them a little.  In general, we don’t make decisions without knowing all of the information.  However, converting companies do this all the time.  They attempt to sell, allocate, and ship inventory without knowing exactly where all of their inventory is located, how much they have of it, or if they even have it at all.  This causes a myriad of problems for the converter, the shipping crew, and the customer.


A Scenario

For example, Nick, the floor manager, handles the Daily Material Staging Report, a report which specifies available inventory and its location on the plant floor.  Last week, Brian, the shipping manager received an order to immediately load 40,000 pounds of product into various trucks.  However, when he went to load the trucks, he could not find the product anywhere.  Since the inventory did not ship out in a timely manner, the customer decided to find a new company to fulfill their order.  Realizing that the Material Staging Report was wrong, Brian desperately searched the plant floor for the missing product.  To his dismay, they had the product all along, but not in the location indicated by the report.


The Problem

Multiple things went wrong in this situation, but the main problem was the incorrect Material Staging Report.  Nick made a mistake somewhere, but did not catch it in time because the system used to track inventory does not perpetually track it from start to finish.  XYZ Converting still uses an “old school” method of tracking inventory that limits visibility to its inventory, and allows for mistakes like this one to happen. Not having real time visibility for each and every piece of inventory affects what you sell, how you fast you are able to load it, and how efficiently you can ship it to your customers.

Another problem that XYZ struggles with during the shipping process is staging its trucks.  Often trucks get loaded in the wrong order for unloading at their destination.  This causes delays in delivery that upset the customer who needs those materials in order to run his business efficiently.  Also truckers complain because they spend extra time loading and unloading trucks.  And finally, inventory issues often lead to light truckloads which increase transportation costs, and with the rising gas prices, quickly becomes an outrageous expense.


The Solution

These problems in shipping stem from not having enough information.  How can you move the right amount of a product, to the right truck, at the right time, if you don’t know for sure what you have and where it’s located?  You can’t.  However, what if Brian has a way to know, with certainty, what inventory is available and its location at any given time?  What if he has a way to stage trucks in an efficient manner?  A tool specifically designed for the converting industry that perpetually tracks inventory and allows everyone to see the location of inventory at any given time.  By assigning specific characteristics to products it can track, daily, all aspects of the inventory’s movement from purchasing to receiving, raw materials to production, and shipping to delivery.  Not only would it eliminate the search for inventory, but it would also allow for efficient loading of trucks, reduction in the transportation costs and hassles of unloading.

Efficiently shipping the right material to a customer requires more than making selections in a guessing game.  Knowing with certainty that 40,000 pounds of inventory is where you expect it to be is a necessity.  The only way to have this kind of confidence is to  perpetually track inventory to provide real time visibility through every step of your business.  Otherwise, you are definitely making big decisions on a daily basis without having all the necessary information.