Packing Your Suitcase: The Case for Container Load Management

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packing_your_suitcase.jpgThink about the last time you packed a suitcase for a trip. You wanted to make the most use of the space. You carefully selected which items would be of most use and then placed them strategically in the suitcase to maximize the space restrictions and include as many items as possible. You had to consider the weight of the suitcase, whether that weight would result in additional surcharges at the airport, and the way in which the items were packed in order of priority to make the most commonly used items easy to fetch.

This same concept applies to container load management in the automotive supply chain. For OEMs to optimize transportation logistics and leverage lean supply principles for greater efficiency and visibility, container load management solutions are a good way to help manufacturers cut through the complexity and uncertainty that comes with global supply and transportation management by providing a more dynamic approach to managing container loads. Much like how you carefully select how to fold your shirts or where to stow a toiletry kit to maximize your packing ability, manufacturers who implement a container load solution will be better equipped to move products in a more cost-effective, productive manner.

Because container load management solutions account for a variety of conditions, planners and managers can feel secure in that they’re leveraging best practices for ensuring the right products arrive at the right destination at the right time, and in the right condition for customers.

Why Container Load Management?

Let’s keep this simple: transportation costs - and the ability to effectively manage and contain those costs - is perhaps one of the most costly elements in the logistics of global supply management. With increasingly disparate production and supply networks, OEMs are now more than ever moving large volumes of products across a number of networks to customers in new and emerging markets - and even customers in existing markets who have partnered with up-and-comers are in need of more stable inventory stocks, which puts additional pressure on suppliers to ensure on-time delivery.

Container load management strategies account for a number of factors that often hamper more traditional methods of managing shipping. Weight distribution. Whether parts can be stacked and how. Methods of combining different part loads into one container for economy of space. Restrictions in packaging from upstream areas and monitoring if all parts combined in one container are at appropriate stock or inventory levels. These and other critical conditions are taken into consideration when leveraging a container load solution to provide planners and managers with ultimate transparency and visibility into how products are sorted in containers and at what volumes.

Thinking back to our suitcase analogy, deploying an optimized container load management strategy is essentially like creating a detailed, digital blueprint of how to best pack for your trip based on a number of variables - the items you need, when and what priority-level you’ll require them in your travels, and how best to arrange these items based on that need.  

Benefits of Container Load Management

So, what do OEMs and manufacturers stand to gain from implementing an optimized container load management system? How exactly does such a solution help cut through the complexity of managing a global supply stream? And in what way does managing this complexity help drive down transportation costs? These are the questions OEMs find themselves asking when weighing the benefits and liabilities of a container load management solution. However, here are just a few benefits they should consider in in their deliberations.

Consideration of Restrictions: As we briefly touched on earlier, perhaps the most critical driver in effective container load management strategy is consideration of restrictions based on capacity, how items are sorted into containers, and the cost-efficiency per container. These conditions are not only accounted for within the system, but this data is made actionable by providing planners and managers with detailed what-if scenarios in terms of loading strategy to total cost optimization. Essentially, reviewing these restrictions in real-time provides OEMs with enhanced visibility to make decisions based on viability of cost and supply. This also provides transparency of overall load planning as a basis for monitoring which further ensures optimal container efficiency.

Optimization of Packing Sequences: When items are loaded into containers is just as critical as how in terms of optimizing load efficiency and reducing costs associated with the transportation of parts. A number of factors play into packing sequences: order volume; delivery schedules; destination locations; and others. The optimization of packing sequences allows planners and managers to view these variables in real-time in order to effectively schedule packing programs most in-line with reducing costs and increasing the overall efficiency of the container loading process.

Improved Overall Planning: If OEMs have a firm grasp on where products are going, how they’re going to get there, in what condition based on location and arrangement in the container, and at what total cost, planners and managers can leverage enhanced planning strategies that can impact all touch points of the value chain. The enhanced visibility optimized container load management solutions provides helps manufacturers avoid bottlenecks by scheduling planned production programs and filling customer orders based on the availability of containers, required space within those containers, and the costs associated with transporting those containers to predetermined destinations.

So the next time you’re packing a bag for a trip or vacation and considering where to place that second pair of shoes or how to arrange the items in your shaving kit, remember that OEMs are making the same decisions on a daily basis, just with parts or component parts for automotive production. While the two scenarios may seem totally dissimilar, the lessons learned in optimizing your suitcase space are certainly applicable when it comes to considering the value-proposition of a container load management solution.

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