Reinforcing internal supply chain logistics

by Tom Moore

The concept of a supply chain seems to suggest strong links between supplier, manufacturer, distributor, and customer. But supply chain logistics professionals know this is often far from the truth. Even inside an individual company, the links between functions are weak. In the same plant, the shipping dock is not coordinated with the production planner, purchasing is not aligned with manufacturing and warehousing feels that everything flows down hill from production. We will look at some of the links in this internal supply chain and how they impact logistics performance and then introduce a new class of system that can plan across silos.

Production and distribution even in the same plant are often not tied to each other. Distribution complains that they are the recipients of push from manufacturing to distribution. In the internal supply chain, the logistics of push is hard to deal with. Each hour the warehouse is faced with decisions of where to put product as it arrives off the line. This is far from a linked activity.

In the sad but true category is the story of the pushy purchasing manager who got a promotion by getting a different bottle supplier for a filling plant. The supplier was miles away and unable to keep up, forcing the production lines to be scheduled based on what bottles could be delivered. This purchasing decision to switch suppliers, which is not uncommon, saved little and created a rift between manufacturing and purchasing while creating a dysfunctional supply chain with more of the wrong inventory filling hastily secured outside warehouse space.

Price does not equate to value. This tenet is true in logistics as it is in other areas. Unfortunately, the transportation procurement groups often don’t heed the transportation operations team. The result of this is losses like smaller payloads for the so-called cheap carriers. This excess cost shows up in total cost but not in the price.

DRP planners often create plans that the loaders in the warehouse cant execute. For example, trying to ship 30 pallets of product having a pallet layer pattern that over-hangs the pallet by 2 inches each direction. There is no way this fits on the truck! Result ” logistics misery ” cutting product and creating potential shortages.

The internal supply chain doesn’t have to be dysfunctional. There are easy ways to improve communications and create a linked internal supply chain. Reward everybody in the supply chain using the same set of metrics. In this way, purchasing prospers when manufacturing succeeds in lowering total product cost. Coordinating planning and execution requires planning systems to link to execution systems ” or better, use the same systems.

The systems that coordinate activities are relatively new on the market. By replacing existing load builders, an optimizing vehicle load builder can provide detailed execution instructions to the loader and ensure damage-free, optimized axle-weight, maximized, or cubed-out loads. Distribution master scheduling systems create a schedule for all activities while not over consuming constrained resources (people, dock, doors, inventory). This type of system integrates all the supply chain information from order management systems to WMS location data.

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