Improving your intermodal efficiency in 3 smart steps

iStock_000016329048Large_low_resImagine this. One of your biggest customers, an electronics manufacturer, has just called asking you to deliver four containers to a new destination in Europe. He wants the containers to be delivered in five days and you will get the job only if the price is right. How do you determine whether you can deliver the containers on time and profitably?

Operating a large fleet across a wide geographical region offers an overwhelming number of possibilities – multiple routes, modes of transportation, and costs. It is beyond the capacity of legacy systems and manual planning techniques to generate the optimal solution to this planning puzzle. A flexible and integrated planning system, combined with the three steps below, will improve your intermodal efficiency.

1. Ensure a single view of operations for your planners

The first step is to make sure that core planning variables are visible and manageable at any time. To plan effectively, your planners need end-to-end visibility of:

  • Where there is capacity
  • When that capacity is available
  • How much capacity is left
  • Current orders
  • All relevant intermodal connections
  • Arrival and departure times
  • Transit times

With thousands of orders waiting to be delivered, the perfect plan for accommodating the four additional containers is far from obvious.

Read also: How to slash intermodal costs with 3 brilliant moves

2. Focus on the top five options for delivering the order

Based on the factors listed above, delivery options should be narrowed down to a maximum of five. This way planners can focus on creating the best plan instead of struggling to arrive at a feasible one. The alternatives should factor in all of your unique rules and constraints to deliver the order:

  • On time
  • At the lowest total cost by taking advantage of:
    • consolidation
    • triangulation
    • return trips
    • opportunities for cost-effective empty repositioning

3. Empower your planners to optimize the right KPIs

The perfect plan always combines the capabilities of an intelligent planning solution and the planner’s “gut feeling” of what needs to be planned with priority. Decision support capabilities enable your planners to explore the top recommended options and evaluate their impact on relevant KPIs quickly and easily.

With intermodal planning there is rarely a solution that optimizes all of your KPIs. In situations where there is no clear ‘winner’, your planner – not the system – would know which KPIs to favor. In the example above, you would likely focus on cost savings in order to offer the most competitive price if your customer is more interested in an affordable delivery than a fast one. A planner can take this into account when selecting the optimal plan.

The bottom line is: you need a sophisticated planning and scheduling system to take your intermodal operations into the 21st century. Most importantly, your planners must get the transparency they need to create profitable plans.

Are your planners equipped to deliver the best customer service at the lowest total cost? Watch how Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics improved their intermodal efficiency.

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