If your business is impacted by logistics — hint: it is — recent news about shipping and supply chain disruptions likely has you a bit on edge. The concern is warranted, but panic is not. With a bit of foresight, careful planning, and the help of an experienced fulfillment company, you can chart a course through uncertainty. An understanding of logistics fulfillment and the supply chain can help you address your own concerns, and 3PL services provided by Able Transport Solutions can ease your clients’ biggest worries as well.
Forging New Links in Supply Chain Management.
What Are The Stages of the Supply Chain?
Reduced to its bare essentials, the supply chain has five stages:
This stage requires businesses to consider product specs, manufacturing capacity, the sourcing of parts and materials, market forecasts (including demand for a product, and the kinds of customization and configuration options to be offered), and — last, but by no means least — the fulfillment services by which product will be delivered to retailers or end-users.
This stage is no less complex since businesses need to trace their supply chain back to its very beginnings. The types and availability of certain raw materials must be considered, as must their refinement and manufacture into usable components, the demand for those components by competitors and companies in other verticals (microchips are a prime example of this), and those components’ delivery, so you can move to the next step in the chain.
Here, your pile of components is turned into a finished product. As you know, this isn’t as simple as that description suggests; some manufacture takes place in stages, perhaps even at different locations, and if sales are subject to fluctuations — especially true in industries like construction, where there’s a natural seasonal ebb and flow in demand — storage may also be necessary from time to time.
The logistics concerns for delivery will vary from one manufacturer to the next. Your concerns — and, certainly, the shipping methods you choose — will vary based on whether you deliver directly to customers versus getting the product to a dealer network. Both, in turn, will be influenced by the size and nature of your products and the speed with which it must be sent, since something that needs expedited shipping while assembled will have different needs than something that can be sent broken down by flatbed or heavy haul, or via LTL shipping for later assembly on site.
The last stage in the chain is no less complex than what preceded it. If returns are necessary — hardly something limited to small items or to ecommerce businesses — these must also be accounted for. Not all repairs can be done on-site, so if something must be serviced at the manufacturing facility, or at a service center that may be far from the customer, you may choose to offer or facilitate return shipping as a value-added service.
Anticipating and Addressing Supply Chain Disruptions
As you ran down the list above, you were probably reminded of some pain points in your own business.
The Sources of Supply Chain Problems
The fact is, very little in the supply chain has not been disrupted since March 2020; it’s equally apparent, furthermore, that we’re a long way from a “return to normal.” Planning is disrupted by uneven demand and the difficulty in lining up everything from suppliers to distribution. Sourcing has been hobbled by shortages, closures, and your suppliers’ own logistics challenges. This, in turn, throws a wrench into your manufacturing, creating shortages at precisely the time when demand is beginning to ratchet up, and creating shipping bottlenecks, especially for larger industrial and construction equipment that requires container shipping, or specialized handling and transportation.
Solving Supply Chain and Logistics Problems
The first step in addressing these issues is reframing our thinking. The supply chain, while it may look like a linear process at first glance, is more like a web than a straight line.
Managing that web, in all its complexity, means having visibility into its various components. It means being able to track the locations of everything from raw materials and parts to the finished goods ready for shipment, managing supply and demand alike, and ensuring customer satisfaction through it all. That’s downright intimidating without experience, but the help you need is closer than you think. Contact Able Transport Solutions for end-to-end supply chain support, expedited shipping solutions, value-added shipping services, and much more.