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Part Two: Logistics And A Tight Supply Chain: The Secret To A Smooth-Running Manufacturing Line

How can manufacturing and production leaders avoid these threats to profitability?

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In the manufacturing industry, you cannot be in the black without product rolling off the line and new orders coming in. Interruptions to production for any reason can be an immediate profit-killer unless planned for well in advance.

So, how can manufacturing and production leaders avoid these threats to profitability? Core functions such as facility maintenance, employee safety and training are fundamental. With that foundation well-built, however, it’s time to think more broadly: logistics and supply chain.

Most people associate the manufacturing supply chain with the basic principles of moving goods from seller to buyer, Point A to Point B. But smart logistics technology and strategies can help any manufacturer keep their production line moving or dramatically limit interruptions should they occur. Here is my Top Tips list for how smart logistics and supply chain management can keep manufacturers moving this year.

Keep Tabs on “Just in Time”

The concept of ‘Just in Time’ delivery of goods has been around for a while, and as shipping companies have expanded service to have more time-specific delivery commitments, you might be able to more closely plan for and monitor your incoming shipments today than just a few years ago. Some manufacturers can’t rely on basic tracking information alone, however, to ensure goods arrive in time to keep the production line active.

Owens Corning GlassMetal Services (OCGMS) is a prime example: OCGMS fabricates glass fiber bushings used to form molten glass into fibers. The company then distributes these highly specialized parts to both its worldwide network of manufacturing shops and other glass fiber producers around the globe. In glass fiber production, the late delivery of a specialized bushing can lead to a plant shutdown or periods of reduced production, both of which can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line and customer satisfaction. That’s why it’s imperative that every made-to-order bushing arrives precisely when and where it’s promised.

To ensure its mission-critical ‘Just in Time’ deliveries stay on track, OCGMS uses next-generation sensor tracking on all of its shipments, whether traveling by air or ground on any carrier. They’ll know if there’s a delay, a route deviation, aggressive handling with the sensitive shipment and more. All that information allows them to plan more accurately for their manufacturing processes and keep business moving.

Should critical components not arrive as planned, a breakdown in the supply chain can cripple a manufacturing line.

Turn Red Tape into a Green Light

One of the biggest delays to your supply chain can come from hold-ups in customs review and clearance as goods make their way to your facility from around the world. But paperwork and bureaucratic red tape don’t have to be the enemy. Know the rules, the most common hang-ups and what’s required to move your shipments into the fast lane.

One of the most common reasons for customs delays is inaccurate or vague shipment descriptions. A consistent and detailed description of your shipment contents across all documents will help reduce customs delays. Steer clear of this customs quagmire by staying buttoned up in your own shipping paperwork and working with others who do the same.

Keep Your Supplies Flowing

Another great way to fast-track your supply chain and ensure little to no production line downtime is customer certification via the C-TPAT program — for your own company, your suppliers and shippers.

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a joint initiative between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and participating businesses. This certification program focuses heavily on the security of our nation’s import/export ecosystem, all of which directly impacts your individual supply chain. Getting your own manufacturing supply chain C-TPAT certified, and working with suppliers and logistics providers who are also verified will significantly speed your transit times and eliminate unnecessary delays as goods move into and out of your manufacturing facilities.

Sensors Can Keep You Running And Minimize Downtime

United Airlines operates a fleet of 691 airplanes making nearly 5,000 daily departures worldwide. For this global carrier to make money, however, these planes must be in the skies — not on the ground awaiting routine or unexpected maintenance.

When there is an aircraft on the ground (AOG) and a critical tool is missing or needs to be brought in from another location, the costs can mount rapidly. With added flight crews, delays, rerouting, and rebooking, an AOG occurrence can cost more than $100,000 a day. And that’s compounded by the reputational impact of unhappy passengers.

To minimize delays in the maintenance and repair process, United uses SenseAware powered by FedEx sensor technology to know the location of their most critical parts. United, for example, has a one-of-a-kind laptop specifically for Boeing 787 repairs. It contains proprietary software and must be corruption-free. When this priceless laptop has to travel, it flies with SenseAware to monitor the shipment location closely and downtime is kept to an absolute minimum.

For its part, FedEx used to use bar codes and manual logs to track repair parts — much as many warehouses and manufacturers do today. The resulting static data was cumbersome to analyze and led to large gaps in location information — which often translated into an increase in recovery time for lost or misrouted parts. In short, once a part left a warehouse, the AOG team had limited visibility to the shipment. Sensor technology changes that, empowering manufacturers to monitor and control their mission-critical deliveries in a ways never before possible.

From old fashioned pen-and-paper strategies to advanced sensor systems, supply chain smarts can help keep your manufacturing line rolling, operations moving smoothly and profits coming in without interruption.

For part one of the series, read "The ‘Must-Dos’ For Start-To-Finish Supply Chain Security"

About the Author: Chris Swearingen is Marketing Manager for SenseAware, powered by FedEx. Learn more at

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