Inside Logistics

Payload payoff

The benefits of a phased-in shipment consolidation program

May 17, 2010
by Deborah Aarts

So how does the new load-building process actually work? Linked to Unilever’s demand information and Schenker’s WMS, the LiveLoader system flags enough pallets to fill a full truckload and factors in weight, cube size, stackability and other factors to map out the best configurations. Since all pallets in a trailer are labelled and destined for the same place, there are few restrictions about which pallets go where.

As Kevin Wong, Nulogy’s chief operating officer, explains, LiveLoader creates a plan of what is possible and then hands it off to the loading-dock staff. “We achieve consolidation in the plan, but then we let people use their 10 or 15 years of experience to make it work in the trailer…The LiveLoader says they can do it, so it becomes a challenge to make it fit,” he says.

To accommodate the consolidated loads, Unilever’s carriers had to make some equipment modifications. Since many of the company’s pallets are mixed, they can’t always be stacked atop one another, so many of the carriers installed load bars to handle the second layer. This in turn forced Schenker to switch its dock equipment, as the forklifts in use were too tall to use with the load bars.

The payoff

Despite all the work involved in making it happen, Venslovaitis says all partners—including carriers—have embraced the second phase of the project as a means to boost efficiency.

But it is Unilever that is seeing the biggest improvement. In 2009, with just the Vancouver and Calgary lanes on board, Unilever shaved $120,000 off its transportation spend. The figure will be smaller this year; the company sold its laundry division, so overall shipment volumes will be down. Even still, Venslovaitis pegs the savings at between $80,000 and $100,000.

Aside from cutting costs, the change is also improving Unilever’s environmental footprint. If the savings weren’t there, Venslovaitis says, it’s unlikely the company would have embraced the consolidated approach.

“To be honest, it would have been a struggle if I had to spend $120,000 more to ship 10 fewer trucks,” she says. “But because I’m saving $120,000 while pulling trucks off the road, it’s awesome.”

In Wong’s view, much of the success came from taking a phased approach to implementation. “We learned a lot by rolling out phase one, reflecting a bit and then starting with phase two,” he says. “Phase one was a teaser. Now, we’re getting things out of it. The benefits are happening.”