Smooth operator – New tools mesh seamlessly with existing software to optimize fulfillment

by Keith Moore

Every shipper running a supply chain is concerned with order fulfillment – are they going to be able to get the right product to the right location, at the right time, in order to execute a pre-existing purchase, or ensure that a future one occurs?

Keith Moore is CEO of AutoScheduler.AI

This concern is not unfounded. Even with the best planning team in the world, the execution phase is where the rubber meets the road.

The challenges are many: ensuring there are enough trucks available for transportation, managing warehouse space for inbound shipments, and ensuring there’s adequate labour to process orders. These are just a few of the constraints that can hinder the smooth operation of a complex supply chain.

Luckily, a new breed of optimization technologies has started to emerge to ensure that inventory flows seamlessly from a manufacturing location to a customer, irrespective of the sales channel. These new technologies bridge the gap between planning and transportation execution.

By employing advanced optimization techniques, these solutions are designed to streamline transportation plans, maximize truck capacities, and guarantee timely deliveries. The magic lies in the deployment planning space, where constraint-based mathematics is employed to strike a balance between minimizing transportation and distribution costs and maintaining inventory levels that meet customer demands.

By integrating data from transportation management systems (TMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), and other planning systems, this software can proactively position inventory, navigate constraints, and dynamically adjust transportation volumes based on demand. Additionally, they excel at load optimization, ensuring that each truck is loaded to its maximum capacity, resulting in fewer trucks transporting more products.

Delving deeper into the realm of load optimization, the benefits are multifaceted and directly impact both the bottom line and customer satisfaction. First, by maximizing the capacity of each truck, companies can achieve significant cost savings in fuel, labour, and maintenance. Fewer trucks on the road means reduced fuel consumption and fewer emissions, aligning with sustainability goals.

Labour costs are also optimized, as fewer drivers are required for the same volume of deliveries. Maintenance costs for the fleet decrease as the wear and tear – on fewer vehicles – is minimized.

On the service front, optimized loads lead to more accurate delivery windows. With trucks filled to capacity, there’s a reduction in the number of trips, which in turn reduces the chances of delivery delays. This ensures customers receive their orders promptly, enhancing their overall experience and fostering loyalty. In essence, load optimization not only streamlines the transportation process but also translates to tangible financial savings and elevated service standards.

Once the transportation is planned to ensure that all bottlenecks in the supply chain are reduced and costs are minimized (without compromising service), the focus shifts to the heartbeat of the supply chain: distribution sites. This is where scheduling solutions come into play.

These tools offer intelligent warehouse orchestration, providing a holistic view of inventory, receipts, labour, equipment and customer shipments. The objective is clear: streamline the flow of inventory through the facility and ensure timely dispatch of products.

What sets these tools apart is their ability to employ mathematical optimization. They can process a multitude of constraints, from equipment capacities and shift schedules to space availability, all with the overarching goal of reducing costs and boosting throughput.

Warehouse environments are inherently dynamic, with a myriad of moving parts that constantly interact and evolve. From fluctuating inventory levels and changing customer demands, to unexpected equipment breakdowns and workforce availability, warehouses are hubs of activity that require meticulous orchestration.

Technologies that offer advanced optimization capabilities are not just about driving cost savings; they’re about bringing predictability to this chaotic environment. By analyzing and processing vast amounts of data in real-time, these tools can forecast potential bottlenecks, allowing supply chain managers to proactively address them before they escalate.

Furthermore, they provide a transparent view of the entire supply chain, ensuring that every stakeholder, from the warehouse floor worker to the top-tier executive, has a clear understanding of how execution will unfold. This level of visibility is invaluable. It not only ensures smoother operations but also instills confidence across the supply chain, as everyone is equipped with the knowledge of what to expect and where challenges might arise.

Together, these tools that bolt on to traditional software solutions (ERP, TMS, WMS) are game-changers in the realm of order fulfillment. They offer a fresh perspective and innovative solutions without necessitating a complete overhaul of existing systems. Instead of “rip and replace” strategies that can be costly and time-consuming, these bolt-on tools enhance and optimize existing infrastructures, ensuring that supply chains operate at peak efficiency and customers receive their orders as promised.

Many of the world’s leading businesses have invested heavily in these indispensable assets. By eliminating the need for disruptive changes, these tools allow companies to leverage their current investments while reaping the benefits of modern optimization. They represent the future of supply chain management, where innovation meets practicality to deliver unparalleled results.