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Streamlining your supply chain

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The ever-increasing desire for smaller delivery windows, and the growth of next day delivery means there is more pressure than ever to deliver on time.

Delays, which are often caused by an inefficient supply chain, can be extremely damaging to customer relationships. Many small businesses believe that in order to always deliver quickly and efficiently you need to add scale, however, this is not necessarily the case.

Here are four steps that can be taken to improve the supply chain in your business:

(1) Consider a consolidation strategy

A consolidation strategy combines separate or unrelated shipments into one. It means that items that are ready to send can be shipped out together – with consolidation, shipments are either sent as LCL (Less than a Container Load) or FCL (Full Container Load).

LCL means packages are shipped with other exporters’ shipments to make up a full container, whilst FCL consolidates LCL shipments to be delivered to a single foreign customer.

(2) Choose the right delivery method

It is well known that sea freight is considerably cheaper than sending things by air, but it is also significantly slower. If you’re seeking a balance between cost and speed, transporting items by rail is a solution to consider.

Rail is faster than shipping by sea and also caters to those on a limited budget. Seasonal retail orders or a precautionary large-scale delivery of machinery replacement parts would both suit delivery by rail.

Read more on the supply chain:

(3) Use a contract logistics provider 

Using a dedicated contract logistics specialist allows for the speedy distribution and return of goods and products. One industry that can benefit from contract logistics is circular commerce – where goods and services are sold to multiple customers on separate occasions, being returned to the supplier each time.

Innoverne’s tool-for-hire scheme is a perfect example of this. The business uses a facility in Coventry to dispatch specific automotive tools to garages and workshops on very short notice (standard delivery is as quick as next business day on tools ordered before 5pm)

This particular programme also includes a returns consolidation service, which means all return details are included within the original shipment. This quick turnaround allows Innoverne to re-dispatch the tools to another client within hours.

(4) Outsource inventory management

Outsourcing inventory management can create a competitive advantage for a business. A specialist can make sure products are in the right warehouse located as close to customers as possible.

It ensures inventory levels are better regulated to prevent products being over-stocked or out of stock, as well as reducing time-in-transit and overall transportation costs.

Outsourcing inventory management also enables businesses to set up an offshore distribution infrastructure quickly, allowing items to be shipped to customers overseas directly from their country of origin.

Today’s marketplace demands continuous product flow and prompt delivery of critical orders. If retailers and distributors are unable to continuously replenish inventory, customers may take their business elsewhere. Ensuring that your supply chain is as speedy as possible is crucial.

Derek Irving is director of contract logistics UK, UPS

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