I crossed a border in Eastern Europe recently and although the private and car traffic sailed through without delay there were a surprising number of trucks parked in a snake on the approach roads. Both countries are in the EU so I guess someone was carrying out a bit of thorough drugs or human trafficking checking or looking for some other equally vile trade.
I know this is not an unusual sight but something struck me as very unusual for transportation logistics in 2013. A majority of the waiting trucks had their curtains and/or doors opened probably awaiting the sniff test of a slobbering customs hound. What jumped out and hit me in the face making my jaw drop was that most of these 40 foot beasts were empty. Well, at least empty of any palletised or loose stowed goods depending on what the dog found under the boards!
I thought we had all been through the pain of back-hauling and similar opportunities to save money on fuel, assets and operational costs. Whether it was brewers bringing back empty bottles or FMCG producers shipping finished goods on trucks that had arrived with raw materials aboard or simply pallet poolers recovering their wooden stock, I thought the days of wasted trucking miles/kilometers were behind us. (I know this activity can never be a perfect fit as 100% back-hauling is just not going to happen due to the timing and geography of supply and demand fluctuations.)
To be fair, some of the trucks in the crossing queue were very well packed, e.g. bottles of fizzy drinks on the bottom with pallets of high volume/low weight snacks on top to maximise the available volume/weight capacity. Another was loaded with FMCG on the bottom and paper tissues above. Simple solutions to maximise available resources and certainly not rocket science. The last example was actually for goods from different producers so there is probably a proactive 4PLP involved who is financially motivated to squeeze every last penny of value out of any logistics expense.
You cannot mix just anything in loads of course. Tea is not going to taste very good after a few hours rocking about above perfume-rich detergent powder and you don’t want liquids above anything electrical but I think we could do a lot more to maximise transport resources. Some companies adopt a “not on your life” attitude at suggested capacity sharing but I think that shows a lack of innovation capability and desire.
On the subject of logistics optimisation and flexibility I stumbled across this excellent use of space and transport expenses. Click on this link and take a look at how soft drinks producers can help to distribute medicines in D&E regions. A simple solution to the distribution of medicines in very difficult environments where cost pressure usually means the people who need don’t get.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net