Daily Archives: September 3, 2013

Supply Chain Network Design – It’s Not a Five-Year Plan

Last fall, Supply Chain Digest published a piece on Supply Chain Network Design Where the Real Money Is that noted that many companies limit the scope of a supply chain network study to distribution centres and customer service targets and fix everything for the next five years. As such, they leave a lot of money on the table. Why?

The answer is obvious if you think about what you’re shipping. Generally, CPG. And what’s the lifespan of the average CPG product these days? A heck of a lot less than five years. So even if you optimize your supply chain to the penny, as consumer tastes shift, and manufacturing locations shift as a result of technology (or natural disasters or bankruptcies that shut a plant down), your optimized supply chain begins to fall apart quickly.

Supply Chain Network Design needs to be continuous. And while it doesn’t have to be re-optimized with every new award, it should be re-analyzed and tweaked annually. This is one reason why you should consider leasing versus buying and signing shorter term contracts, even if there is a small price premium to do so. It’s also a reason why you should avoid locking in too many long term Freight or 3PL contracts (especially when you can BuyTruckload when you need to).

As SI said back in 2007, the nature of distribution network optimization is that it cannot be optimized within a single sourcing scenario, and any attempt to do so is likely to do more harm than good. To truly optimize your network, you have to optimize across all of your buys, and even in any given year, you’re likely renegotiating less than a third of your major contracts and a quarter of your buys, and you don’t expand into new countries overnight. That’s why it should be regular and pseudo-continuous.

Furthermore, like SI said back in 2007, the way to start to optimize your distribution network costs is to semi-annually or annually analyze all of your projected transportation needs over the next 6 to 12 months using all of your projected shipments (based upon current contracts, forecasts, and current patterns), aggregate volumes across lane groups (defined as the set of lanes that take a product from region A (such as a set of posts on the southwest coast) to region B (your major re-distribution center outside Chicago), bid out the appropriate lanes or lane groups to one or more carriers, and optimize a transportation award to these carriers who quote rates based upon minimum volume guarantees (such as 75% of expected volume across the lane). Then you should be re-optimizing the flexible aspects of your distribution network. You start by re-evaluating warehousing space that you are leasing or that is highly liquid and could be easily sold, re-evaluating the air and ocean freight options to you, re-evaluating the ports you are using, and re-evaluating your shipment consolidation strategy (should you always wait for shipments from multiple suppliers to fill the container or should you use a third party that can consolidate shipments for multiple buyers to fill the container). Finally, when fixed assets free up and can be renegotiated, you should be re-optimizing the distribution network to the extent possible.

And when you optimize continuously, you identify savings over the long term.