Supply chain efficiency plays a crucial role in determining a company’s total cost of business (TCOB) as well as customer satisfaction. For industries handling perishable products such as the grocery and pharmaceutical industries, order-to-delivery turnaround times are especially important to ensure that the products are safe for consumption by the end customer. An efficient supply chain also reduces product damage, which results in fewer product recalls and fewer rejected shipments, thereby lowering TCOB and improving customer satisfaction.
However, improving efficiency in supply chains is no easy task, as it involves multiple components, some of which are beyond the control of logistics managers. For example, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted food supply chains across the U.S., resulting in either food waste or shortage of food items in grocery stores. Such external factors challenge existing practices in the supply chain and further prove the need for innovative ways to improve supply chain efficiency.
3 Best Practices to Create an Efficient Supply Chain
Nowadays, businesses are focusing on gathering and sharing real-time data to keep a closer watch on the condition of products as they travel through the supply chain. With better visibility into their supply chain structures, companies can assess and effectively handle any potential disruption in the supply chain. Below are the three best ways to improve supply chain efficiency through data-driven optimization:
- Tracking shipments: Tracking shipments and maintaining real-time logs on warehouse inventory can help warehouses and transporters monitor the condition of products, especially temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products and perishable food items. With the help of barcodes and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, shipment locations can be easily tracked. Real-time data about the products can then be stored and accessed using centralized supply chain management software.
- Improving distribution strategy: Companies are increasingly seeking to map and optimize their distribution networks as a way to improve fuel efficiency in the supply chain. Adopting a decentralized distribution approach can enable distributors to make order processing and fulfillment decisions best suited for the local environment. Using route planning software to minimize empty transportation legs can help reduce transportation costs, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the supply chain.
- Automating warehouse components: A single error in regulating warehouse conditions or monitoring temperature can lead to expensive product losses. A warehouse with an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) helps ensure that the storage and handling of products across the supply chain happen faster and more efficiently with less human error while also saving on labor costs. With an ASRS, pallet loads can be scanned and, in conjunction with supply chain management (SCM) software, can aid warehouse personnel in tracking the expiration dates of products.
Often, companies delay in implementing new supply chain tools due to the perceived amount of time needed to train employees. Adopting new technologies to create an efficient supply chain does typically require a significant investment in training resources. Yet, there are cost-effective tools such as plastic pallets that can help address some of the concerns related to supply chain efficiency.
Plastic Pallets Are One of the Easiest Ways to Improve Supply Chain Efficiency
The wood pallets commonly used to ship products are often the reason behind product damage. Wood deck boards held together by nails can collapse under a shipment load and the raised nailheads and splinters on the surface of wood pallets can snag, tear, or puncture product packaging. The uneven dimensions and unstable weight of wood pallets—which change according to moisture content, age, and wear and tear—sometimes cause machine damage and downtime in the automated supply chain.
Pallets made of high-quality molded HDPE plastic are a lightweight, durable alternative to wood pallets and can help create a more efficient supply chain through their seamless integration with automated systems. Following are a few advantages of plastic pallets over wood pallets:
- Unibody construction and stable dimensions: The unibody construction of plastic pallets and the absence of any nails or splinters on the surface prevent product damage during transportation and handling. The consistent dimensions make handling by employees or forklifts easier, and also make it easier to balance and stack stable loads in the warehouse.
- Lighter weight and durability: The weight of wood pallets increases with reuse as they absorb moisture and with the addition of extra fasteners. Plastic pallets are 35 percent lighter than reused wood pallets, and their non-porous surface means this weight will never change. The weight savings per pallet helps significantly in reducing transportation costs. Plastic pallets are also sturdier than wood pallets, have a higher dynamic and static load capacity, and can be reused up to 100 times before recycling.
- Integration into automated systems: Unlike wood pallets, plastic pallets do not lose pieces or whole boards, making it cost-effective to embed RFID chips to track shipments. These tagged pallets can be easily used in conjunction with warehouse or supply chain management software, are less prone to cause equipment jams in an automated environment, and are able to address the most common automation issues in warehouses.
While there are many ways to improve supply chain efficiency, plastic pallets offer one of the easiest and most effective ways to optimize your supply chain. And, by opting for plastic pallet rental through a pooling program, logistics managers can further reduce their cost of business and the hassle of pallet fleet management.
Switching to iGPS plastic pallets is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve supply chain efficiency. To learn more about how our pallets can seamlessly integrate into your warehouse, give our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.