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The Art and Science of Logistics for Space Optimization

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By Dr. Jennifer S. Batchelor
Program Director, Transportation & Logistics Management, American Public University

Many do not realize the art and science of logistics.  The science behind logistics has always been there, but not generally known by anyone outside the industry. Science is inherently involved in every process within a supply chain because it requires companies to plan, implement, and execute strategies based on supply and demand patterns, transportation costs, and inventory levels to name a few.  This means companies must understand economic drivers, lean systems, forecasting models, and resource utilization as part of their planning processes. Optimizing space within a truck requires a lot of planning to decrease overall costs. The art behind optimization comes from experience and the innate ability to get the most product within a limited amount of space. Space optimization and effective operations relies on both experience and accurate calculations.

We all think about warehousing when “space” is mentioned, but what about space within a truck, rail car, ship, or airplane? Why is this important to mention? The importance lies in efficiency; hence, the word optimization. Optimization implies perfection.

Efficiency is also tied to costs. All companies are looking at new and innovative ways to reduce their operational costs and increase their revenue. One way they can do this is by being smart about how they utilize space within a transport mode as well as the strategies behind these decisions. SC Johnson was able to reduce their operational costs, increase revenue, and reduce greenhouse gases by loading their trucks with multiple types of product to maximize space, rather than just a single product type.

To illustrate this concept in action, let’s focus on truckloads. There are different sizes of trucks; and today, we now transport containers on truck beds as well. This means that a truck or container can be anywhere from 20 feet to 52 feet in length.  Likewise, trucks are loaded with various types of products of all shapes, sizes, and weight. Then, you have the manner in which the product is packaged for transport (pallets, totes, SKU). As you can see, this entails multiple variables for an accurate calculation to maximize space utilization.

These decisions are based on historical data, product information (special carrying requirements), space limitations, weight, dimensions, and, of course, the limitations of the truck itself, including the type of truck, axles, proper weight distribution within the space, height, etc. All of this is defined as load planning, the optimum way to effectively load, transport, and unload the product at the right time and place, without damage and under cost.

These decisions are made from accurate calculations, based on the aforementioned variables, of the product being shipped via truckload. Many companies have utilized technology in this area because of the time and effort it takes to determine these load requirements. If you search the Internet, you will find a wide array of load planning solutions. These are useful because any last minute changes to a load can require additional time, money, and resources to shift or change the load requirements. In short, while today’s technology has minimized the time and effort behind the science of logistics, the art still remains.

 

About the Author:

Dr. Jennifer S. Batchelor is Program Director of the Transportation & Logistics Management programs at American Public University.  She has over 19 years of experience in the logistics and transportation field and enjoys sharing her expertise and knowledge through online delivery methods as well as face-to-face seminars and workshops.  Her passion lies in third party logistics but more specifically in over the road transportation. 

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