Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Impact of Mega Trends - Design for Logistics

As transportation rates and capacity go through a major change one trend which is clearly developing is what I have called "Design for Logistics".  This "mega trend" ensures the logisticians are involved in the design of the product at the very early stages of development and the reason for this is mostly cube utilization.

We have known for quite some time a critical way to reduce spend is just to consume less.  Seems very logical to me and really passes for being a truism in our industry.  However, what has not happened until recently (on a large scale) is people thinking about this before the product is actually designed and built.  As we all know, once the tooling is in place to make the product the goal of the manufacturing group is to run the tool to death; at that point a change in design becomes very costly and almost impossible to execute.

The solution therefore is to get the logistician involved on the front end.  Of course, we do not want to build any "Aztecs" here (really ugly products which were made ugly to make manufacturing and logistics more efficient).  First and foremost, the product has to meet customer needs and, in most cases, actually "wow" the customer.  However, once we identify the critical components of the product which create that emotion with the consumer, we then take the rest of it and design the hell out of it for efficiency in logistics. This usually means cube utilization.

I heard a high level executive for a major truck stop firm say his fuelings were down by 15% and he was attributing it to more "stuff in the back of the trucks" and therefore less trucks.  I am not sure he had real data to support it however given my experience I believe he was right.  And this trend will continue.  The logical and ultimate conclusion is to eliminate shipments completely (aka, Nook/Kindle e-books and iTunes stores).  We know not everything can be digitized however things can be made smaller, packed tighter and assembled at the point of use versus at a factory (Think IKEA furniture).

If you have not instituted this process in your company, and transportation costs are meaningful to your business, you should immediately think about this important topic.  It is far more complex than I have written here and there are clearly ways to be successful at this and ways to screw it up however you should start it now.

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