For chemical manufacturers, knowing what you don’t know about your transportation process can be your greatest asset. With every US state and many countries around the world implementing work and travel restrictions, it’s more vital than ever to minimize unknowns and gain complete control over your shipping process, essential data, and your decision points.
Chemical companies have to partner with third-party logistics providers that can develop customized programs tailored to their industry.
We’ve identified 5 best practices for chemical logistics success with some updates for 2020. Learn about these best practices, and then get expert tips for putting them into action.
1. Supply Chain Visibility
Chemical companies need to know how their products are being handled at every stage of the shipping process. Now more than ever, it’s vital that chemical shipments get to their destinations on time. From medical and laboratory supplies to cleaning detergents and disinfectants, companies around the world need your products to keep up with demand, and the last thing you need is for your shipment to get stranded in the ocean for weeks or sent to the wrong depot.
2. Effective Information Management
A robust reporting system is essential, but too much raw data can be overwhelming. Information should be provided in a clear, meaningful way. With a constant stream of incoming data regarding weather, transportation destinations, origins, timing, invoices, and so on, you need a reporting system that provides useful insights and drives innovation.
3. Active Participation in Supply Chain Issues by Multiple Shipper Departments
To do the best work, everyone from production to customer services to sales needs to be involved in discussions. With intermodal transportation strategies, where road, rail, sea, and air can all play a part in a successful route, everyone needs to be on the same page to properly coordinate operations between yourself, your partners, and your clients and customers. We’re happy to report that there have not been any widespread disruptions in service due to driver illness across any modes of transport.
4. Current Market Intelligence
An effective two-pronged approach means staying abreast of both the overall transportation market (e.g., carrier rates and local players) and the chemical-specific market (e.g., current rules for shipping hazardous materials). An awareness of the current market also allows us to implement strategies such as intermodal transportation methods to continuously reduce costs and environmental impact, and improve overall program efficiency.
5. Strong Carrier Relationships
Transparency and regular, planned communication are key to strengthening relationships among all parties. With strong carrier relationships, you can better optimize spending, make profitable improvements based on accurate benchmarks, balance efficiency within a stable supply chain structure, and save time and money while reducing your carbon footprint through more balanced, flexible, and sustainable operations. With the current increase in health risks, it’s especially important to know that you’re getting honest, accurate, and timely information from carriers to ensure the safety of all those involved in your supply chain.
Implementing & Maintaining These Practices
Identifying best practices is an essential first step, but you won’t benefit from them unless you make a plan, implement them, and stick to them. These four tactics can help:
1. Find the right technology
While technologies such as transportation management systems, benchmarking tools, and reporting tools may be abundant, not all of them are suited to chemical shippers. It’s especially dangerous to rely on a manual system of spreadsheets, sticky notes, and email. If you’re putting your faith in tribal supply chain knowledge, your priority should be capturing that information using the appropriate technology for chemical logistics. To maximize the continual optimization of your spend, you need a single analytics platform that improves transportation visibility by combining data from all your various internal systems and transportation management system.
2. Implement an engagement strategy
Implement a structured and disciplined engagement strategy between your key departments and your 3PL. Groups such as production, customer service, sales, marketing, and executives often work in silos, so it’s essential to get them talking with both your 3PL and one another to help them understand how they’re connected. The 3PL should create a schedule and agenda for key meetings with you and your departments. We recommend three types of meetings between stakeholders:
- Monthly operations conference calls to talk about tactical issues like what’s happening this month, whether any campaigns are coming up, and how to approach an upcoming season of bad weather.
- Quarterly business reviews to discuss collaborative programs to improve processes and reporting on gathered metrics. These strategic meetings should be held in person and rotate between the 3PL headquarters to your headquarters to regional offices. Holding these meetings at various locations gives stakeholders a chance to hear from individuals who might not speak up on conference calls.
- Semi-annual or annual meetings to address the overall program, determine whether it’s meeting expectations, and discuss any additional needs you may have.
3. Create an information management program
Create a robust and active information management program and determine your Key Performance Indicators. There’s lots of stuff you can measure, but not everything that’s measurable is meaningful. More advanced programs will also develop scorecard programs for your own organization as well as your carriers to precisely track KPIs and make smart, data-backed decisions.
4. Utilize a flexible engagement strategy
A canned solution may be adequate when you’re shipping boxes of non-toxic goods, but chemical shipments require more care and have more regulations. A customized strategy is vital to ensuring that your requirements are precisely met. Your engagement strategy is also instrumental in creating supply chain visibility — both outbound and inbound. Gaining control of inbound transportation is a huge opportunity, but also an enormous challenge.
When it comes to shipping hazardous chemicals, off-the-shelf logistics solutions won’t cut it. Chemical manufacturers need a 3PL that offers proprietary, customized solutions for chemical logistics. The best practices listed here are the perfect way to get started.
Take the Next Step in Lowering Transportation Spend With Intermodal Transportation Solutions
Take the next step in lowering transportation spend with Intermodal Transportation. Combining the best practices above with an expertly developed Intermodal Transportation solution offers the most potential for optimization of your transportation spend. CLX Logistics operates a large fleet that’s designed to transport bulk liquid chemicals anywhere in the world. Our full-service intermodal transportation solutions are built to transport chemicals from the plant to the consignee, with clear tracking and monitoring the whole way – all on a single bill of lading.
Explore this real-world example of how intermodal solutions can transform a transport network with our new Case Study: Upgrading Tank Truck Lanes to CLX Intermodal Transportation Solutions.