Life is full of unpredictable things: like tomorrow’s weather, what your fortune cookie will say, or what ridiculous outfit Lady Gaga will wear next. Let’s rewind two years. Would you have ever predicted a global pandemic hitting or the conflict in Ukraine?
The thing about the supply chain is that every blindsiding world event, weather change, and fluctuation in the market directly affects how quickly and seamlessly items get from point A to B. In turn, this affects consumer behavior, demand, and the economy in a big way.
What Can You Control in Logistics?
Especially in these wild times, so many things are completely out of CPG brands’ control when it comes to transportation. So, controlling the controllables – communication, visibility, and flexibility – is key to getting your product where it needs to go, when it needs to be there.
It’s a tale as old as time, but communication goes a long way. The second you have a purchase order in your hands, you should be picking up the phone or typing an e-mail to your transportation department or logistics partners.
Maximize Shipping Lead Time
Time really is money. The more shipping lead time you can grant your partners, the better chance you will have securing capacity, locking down the best rates with preferred carriers, and meeting must arrive by dates (MABD). If you’re operating on a tight production schedule and even one shipment of materials arrives late, everything can be thrown off. Soon you’ll be looking at a domino effect of lost materials, units, and sales.
When you’re booking your freight, it’s crucial to provide as much detail and visibility as humanly possible. All questions and updates about your shipments should have everyone involved copied: your manufacturer, warehousing partners, logistics partners, AND customers.
When everybody is looped in on the same line of communication, the whole process becomes more of a team effort rather than pointing fingers when something goes wrong.
Establish Minimum Order Quantities
All the variables at play in the market will ultimately determine the cost of each shipment, but there are other ways to make the most bang for your buck.
Establishing a minimum order quantity (MOQ) with your customers is a hidden advantage few shippers maximize on. Shippers essentially pay for the space that their pallets take up on a truck. Whether each pallet is full or half full, the carrier will still be traveling the same distance and have the same amount of room left for other shipments. This means they’re usually willing to move a few cases at the same rate they would move an entire pallet of the same product.
Talking through MOQs with your retail partners can get your cost per case down and save you money on each shipment.
Like we talked about earlier, there’s truly no way to predict what obstacles your freight will encounter on its journey. But the more visibility you have over your shipments, the better.
It’s like parenting a teenager. You can’t save them from every bad decision, but you can at least keep an eye on them and help guide their path.
Avoid CPU Arrangements
One very bad decision in logistics is relying on customer pick up (CPU) arrangements.
Would you want your kid to depend on a school bus that only picks them up half the time? That’s essentially the concept of CPU. It’s when the seller of a product calls for the purchaser to come collect their order, usually at a third-party location.
This might sound like a dream at first, especially for brands lacking solid logistics departments. But when you give up total control of your deliveries, you invite a whole new world of pain.
We’ve seen our own customers get burned by CPU badly in the past. We’re talking missed appointments, warehousing costs and late fees, retail relationships in jeopardy, and downstream ripple effects that directly impacted their bottom line.
Take Advantage of Technology
Using technology to track and trace your freight is the best way to maximize visibility and control, too. Zipline’s tracking platform, Kanopi, also provides performance data and other shipment insights so you know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes.
Some CPG brands like to stick with what they know and do things how they’ve always done them because it feels safe. Little do they know that their options, efficiency, and gross profit could increase significantly if they adopted a slightly different approach.
Try New Modes
For example, if you usually ship full truck load (FTL), you probably don’t know what to expect using rail instead.
Here’s where you can rely on your transportation partners to get creative.
Say you’re sitting on warehoused product that needs to move, but you’re having difficulty securing FTL capacity. Good partners could produce a rail quote for this shipment that would deliver on time and even possibly save you money, but only if you’re open to it.
Don’t Chase Rates
The cost of fuel has skyrocketed in the last few weeks, which experts are linking to increased spot rates. It can be tempting for CPG brands to consistently pick the lowest rate to save a few bucks on each load, especially in these times. But when you add up the dropped orders, chargebacks, late delivery fines, and headaches that come with the cheapest trucks, those upfront savings hardly turn out to be savings at all.
Be Open to a Consultative Approach
Your logistics partners should not just be a rate and a truck. They should be strategic experts able to tailor a game plan to best suit your specific schedules and operating region.
At Zipline, we have seen companies thrive first-hand when they trust their logistics partners to find new and better ways to run the show. We have also seen others miss out on golden opportunities because they are unwilling to make changes or be coachable.
Stay in Control With Retail Experts on Your Side
Controlling these controllables will take your brand to the next level, but it’s certainly no easy feat to do alone. The good news? We’re here to take some of that off your plate.
All you have to do is communicate efficiently, make decisions that maintain visibility over your freight, and stay open to expert guidance. We’ll do the rest.
With Zipline Logistics on your side, you’ll be saying goodbye to missed appointments, unnecessary fees and costs, and inefficient practices that do nothing to grow your business. We do this through our uniquely qualified carrier network, world-class team of retail transportation experts, and state-of-the-art shipper intelligence tools.
Who knows when the next curveball will hit the supply chain? While we all brace ourselves for impact, let us help you get the controllables under control.