Wouldn’t it be nice if Star Trek-style teleportation was available for shipping? There wouldn’t be any costly delays due to port congestion, a shortage of truck drivers, fluctuating shipping rates, and capacity limitations. Unfortunately, teleportation is only a science fiction fantasy, while all of those challenges continue to be a global supply chain reality.
As it turns out, however, screenwriters aren’t the only ones with imagination. At DCS, we’ve flexed our creative muscle to develop innovative freight and logistics strategies. While they’re not nearly as cool as teleportation, these measures have ensured that the current transportation and supply chain issues don’t negatively impact our customers’ projects.
Recently, two of my colleagues shared how DCS has reduced equipment lead times by building strong partnerships with our vendors and suppliers, as well as by streamlining our design and engineering processes. While designing a system and ordering its components are important parts of the process, getting those components shipped to the project site on-time and on-schedule are just as essential to ensuring that our customers’ operations are up and running as originally planned.
Here are a few ways that DCS is successfully tackling freight and challenges.
Warehousing of components & equipment as it becomes available
In order to guarantee that all the critical parts, components, and material handling equipment will be delivered to a project in the correct sequence and at the right time — with all associated conveyor, motors, housings, belting, controls, and other key items — DCS has added three separate warehouse automation facilities within Tennessee.
This square footage is dedicated solely to receiving and storing all the elements associated with each active project we currently have in production. Because we’re ordering components as early as we possibly can, and because lead times can be wildly different depending on the source, operating our own warehouses allows us to consolidate all the necessary parts in a central location. That, in turn, enables DCS to better control the flow of each project. Our team can build full truckloads that contain the items that are to be installed together. They can also schedule each shipment in the proper order, so they arrive precisely when needed on the job site.
Partnering with third-party logistics (3PL) service providers
While we have a large purchasing team at DCS, we have opted to outsource our logistics needs. We work with a select group of highly qualified and experienced national 3PLs who provide transportation brokerage services. They manage the scheduling and freight for both our inbound receiving of equipment and components from vendors and our consolidated outbound shipments to project locations nationwide. We work very closely with our counterparts at these 3PLs to maximize our transparency into where all equipment and components are in transit.
Their broad networks of transportation connections also give us greater flexibility and more logistics and freight options. For example, when shipping full trailer loads of components from our Tennessee warehouses to a job site on the west coast, our 3PL partners help us evaluate whether over-the-road trucking or rail is a better option in consideration of a range of factors. Those options and insight allow us to select the most expedient and cost-effective mode of transportation, saving our customers time and money.
Transitioning to full truckload shipments
Historically, shipping items via less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers often offered the best transportation rates because cost is determined based on mileage and the amount of trailer space required by the load. In the past 24 months, however, the staffing issues faced by trucking companies have made delivery timeframes for LTL shipments less reliable. By shifting to full truckloads, DCS has much more control of the shipping process — from loading to delivery — to minimize the risk of a project schedule disruption.
Since a single project can require as many as 200 truckload shipments (or more!), our full truckload volumes allow our 3PL partners the flexibility to negotiate more favorable carrier scheduling and rates. Further, because we are consolidating shipments in our own warehouses, we can advise our 3PLs about the type of tractor-trailers that will be needed well ahead of time. This enables them to reserve the types of trucks that can be harder to find — such as Conestoga trailers with sliding tarp sides and roof that can be loaded from the sides and overhead — well in advance of the shipping date to ensure their availability.
Shifting sources to suppliers with larger geographic footprints
As carriers continue to face driver shortages, we’ve adjusted our sourcing strategy for suppliers of key accessory items such as anchors, bolts, specialty hardware, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Whereas previously we could source from an organization with one primary distribution location that shipped nationwide, the volatility of the shipping sector has made on-time delivery far less assured.
For that reason, we’ve switched to a supplier who stocks these fittings throughout a large network of regional distribution hubs. That decreases the distance between a project location and the source for these necessary parts, reducing shipping distances and increasing the likelihood that these key components will be available on-site when needed.
Concerned that freight and logistics challenges might impact your project timelines? Consider working with DCS. Connect with us to learn more about how our supplier relationships can help keep your next system implementation on schedule.
Matt Ramsey, Purchasing Resource Manager, email@example.com