Construction materials that are hard to move and require special handling pose unique supply chain challenges.
First, you have training to contend with. Moving heavy and specialized equipment almost always requires specialized handling, not just at the warehouse level but also in transit. This probably goes without saying, but you can’t just assume a carrier will have those skill sets on hand.
Then you have the complexity of onsite delivery. Every delivery is different. The manufacturer may need to secure a way to get their product directly to the job site — possibly even dropped into its final install location. That takes scrupulous planning. And the consequences of getting it wrong are enough to keep even a zen logistics person wide awake at night.
The unsettling truth is, most carriers just aren’t equipped to easily handle difficult materials – especially if the material requires specialized vehicles or lifting machinery.
And through all of this — of course — you have the deeper challenge of pricing. The enduring puzzle of specialized freight is finding a way to move it as cost-efficiently as possible while keeping your options open. And that’ll almost always require a complex mix of carrier options, shipping lanes, and cunning contingency planning.
The balancing act
Where does a 3PL fit into this diabolical tapestry of high-stakes logistics and multi-faceted uncertainty? At IL2000, we’re recognized as an expertise-rich 3PL. That’s to say, we sell more than black-box prepackaged solutions hard-baked into a one-size-fits-all TMS platform.
As such, we’re frequently approached by clients who need exactly the elaborate supply chain balancing act we’ve described above. These clients aren’t looking for a software package. They’re looking for the whole package. They’re looking for workable, agile solutions to difficult supply chain problems.
Manufacturer saves millions a year and cut freight costs in half
So let’s dig into an example. Operable partitions are a hard thing to ship and install. These enormous glass walls (typically installed into retrofitted office buildings) represent a perfect storm of logistical complexity. These things are heavy, easy to break, and can cause a lot of injury or damage if incorrectly installed or handled. A leader in the manufacture and distribution of glass wall products approached us with a problem. Here’s a quick summary, but check out our case study for the full breakdown. (Let’s call our client Company X.)
Business was good for Company X. To accommodate surging demand, they knew they’d have to relocate manufacturing. But their inbound supply chain was already complex; they needed to simplify it. Even more critical: To keep growing, Company X had to optimize its outbound freight. Its existing fleet of specialized vehicles was eroding the company’s profit margin and locking its freight operation into expensive, inflexible shipping routes and schedules.
How IL2000 fixed it
- We overhauled their outbound freight. The first step was taking over the lease on trailers and tractors. Within a couple of months, we trained a workforce of drivers in crane-assisted delivery. Despite Company X’s rapid expansion, supply chain quality stayed right on target. Partitions arrived on site — on time and damage-free.
- We simplified their inbound shipments. We implemented a customized TMS solution. Before, the vendors were on their own. After our solution, they were able to ship their materials through a streamlined and purpose-built system. The switch to a customized TMS reduced supply chain troubleshooting while making deliveries faster and more predictable.
- And we amped up their supply chain visibility. Knowing where your freight is at all times is important for any company. But the bigger, more fragile, and more specialized your product, the more critical complete visibility becomes. We implemented a tracking system so that anyone in Company X’s customer service group could pinpoint where an item was and know exactly when it’d arrive.
Great people = great results
Before getting into the figures, here’s what the CEO of this industry-leading movable partitions and glass wall company had to say about working with IL2000:
“When vetting a 3PL, it’s the people and competency of the team you’re hiring — (it’s) not just the tangible skills in transportation and logistics that are important, but the level of motivation, proactiveness, and communication. I always go back to people. You can have a great model, but if you don’t have the people to optimize the model, you’re not really bringing any value to us.”
Nothing happens easily or automatically when you ship a difficult product. Pre-baked recipes create half-baked results. The model that works for this kind of client is a blending of experience, ingenuity, and continuous experimentation. And that requires people.
Working closely with Company X, our supply chain consultants:
- Cut Company X’s freight costs in half.
- Reduced their fixed infrastructure costs by $3 million.
- Elevated their reputation as a reliable deliverer of a tough, specialized product.
What about your business?
If you’re looking for smart answers to difficult supply chain problems, we have people who can help. Drawing from decades of hard-won experience, IL2000 specializes in making your logistics happen.
Request a no-obligation analysis today.