Inbound Logistics | January 2022

When pilot tests of autonomous mobile robots at Saddle Creek Logistics Services yielded productivity improvements, the third-party logistics provider expanded the goods-to-person technology to several facilities.

of where it was supposed to be (before the pandemic), they have not had time to scale their infrastructure,” Weinstein says. He adds that while regional carriers generally usually have a large footprint, they serve their specic regions well. Saddle Creek leverages technology to help address parcel shipping challenges. “We use parcel analytics to give clients and parcel providers better visibility into order volume and help drive efciencies,” says Martin. “That’s especially helpful when volume surges.” When carriers face challenges in specic regions, his company can divert inventory to locations where transportation providers have more capacity. That kind of collaboration is key. “We have to work together as one, understanding our clients’ forecasting while knowing that three months from now it probably won’t be accurate,” says Weinstein. “We have to stay out in front of rolling forecasts and be prepared to scale and shift at any time.” While innovating is a new constant for many, Martin advises caution when considering new options. “Technology is great, but you need to consider it from a strategic, thoughtful perspective,” he says. “It’s about nding the right solution and making sure it’s a good strategic t for your operation and client.” n

3PL RJW Logistics Group, which uses optimization tools to build truckload quantities of food and beverage, over- the-counter, and health and beauty products for middle-mile delivery to supermarkets and retailers. Data analysis helps its clients—product manufacturers or suppliers—make real- time inventory decisions. “We collect every ounce of data that we can in our network, whether it’s inbound or outbound, and give it to manufacturers for forecasting because it helps show how much inventory they need in our buildings,” says Kevin Williamson, CEO. The company’s proprietary RJW Edge supply chain analytics platform also gives manufacturers visibility into inventory status, product tracking, ordering and billing, and other specics that improve decision-making. RJW Logistics Group lls orders from an eight-warehouse network located in greater Chicagoland. “Instead of housing multiple client inventories in multiple regions and nodes, we’ve found that the most successful approach is for manufacturers to hold inventory in one building, replenish that, and allow us to ll all orders throughout the country from centrally located Chicago,” says Williamson. This centralized network also helps

the network maintain a turnover rate of less than 5% for its full-time staff by offering employees more growth opportunities. Noting that focusing on company culture also contributes to retention, Williamson adds, “We can open a new warehouse here and give our current employees new opportunities.” E-commerce 3PLs are also increasingly using a different type of warehouse network—micro-fulllment centers. Moving more inventory to these smaller fulllment warehouses helps companies reduce transportation costs and decrease delivery time by placing inventory closer to customers. “3PLs are saying, ‘We don’t need to build 1.5-million-square-foot facilities,” says Patel. “We can build a nal-mile delivery center instead.” Busy 3PLs also work to avoid shipping bottlenecks by innovating around transportation. Whiplash, for example, is exploring partnering with regional parcel carriers to offset volume issues with UPS and FedEx. “The major providers are overwhelmed,” says Weinstein. “Their infrastructure is behind where it needs to be. “But in fairness to them, if e-commerce is four to ve years ahead

172 Inbound Logistics • January 2022

Powered by