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Coordinating Efficient Equipment Swap-Outs in Today’s Supply Chain Environment

By Phil Burnette, Vice President-National Account Sales

Technical Transportation, Inc

To say that today’s supply chain environment is challenging is an understatement, and it’s centered largely around labor and supply availability, versus lack of demand.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already an ongoing truck driver shortage, but that has now been compounded by a broad-reaching labor crisis across many critical positions, including dock workers and other warehouse personnel.

This is due in large part to the pandemic itself, stiffening public health protocols and economic stimulus money that is keeping people home. It has left many manufacturers and logistics companies scrambling to get their products where they need to go in a timely manner.

Take for example a medical refrigerator replacement project that we’re conducting this fall for a major pharmacy chain. Because of COVID-19, many pharmacies like our client require more cold storage capacity, so they’ve turned to us to help them manage an efficient swap-out at more than 3,000 locations nationwide between now and Thanksgiving as their legacy equipment reaches the end of its lifecycle.

These types of projects, along with others involving complex and heavy-weight equipment, are often intensified by a number of variables requiring multi-step logistics coordination and fulfillment. It also highlights what manufacturers today should consider as they navigate this current supply chain environment. Following are some top issues to keep in mind.

The Need for a Single-Source Partner

Supply chains naturally have a lot of moving parts, and that has only become more complicated in the past year. Now, more than ever, manufacturers should consider partnering with a single-source logistics partner who can manage the entire supply chain on your behalf and leverage their contacts and relationships to help you reduce risk and increase efficiency.

More Advanced Pre-Planning

More pre-project planning is necessary today for manufacturers and their supply chain teams so they can find the most efficient way to do swap outs or upgrades in a single trip—especially given the lack of manpower available right now.

The inability to remove and dispose of old systems at the time of delivery and installation of the new units creates the need for a second trip to the site. This reduces the number of events that can be performed due to the lack of qualified labor resources.

Pre-planning teams also need to evaluate and consider special logistics and delivery requirements at each location.

Attention to Detail

Companies need to make sure their “i’s” are dotted and their “t’s” are crossed before any swap out or rollout begins. You need to have a detailed and customized supply chain plan in place to reduce errors and maximize efficiency.

One specific area to consider, if you’re disposing of old products during a swap out, is that regulatory agencies in some industries require proof of destruction and specific disposal processes due to the nature of the products handled. A valued partner will have the expertise to ensure these products are properly disposed of and will offer thorough documentation of their processes.

In addition, effective top-to-bottom communications is essential for all parties and stakeholders from the beginning. In the example of our pharmacy project above, our client did not efficiently communicate the message about the project to their local pharmacy personnel. This caused massive delays as we began the rollout.

Localized Supply Chain Operations

When rolling out new products, the ability to stage locally in temporary, flexible warehousing locations may help you attain new efficiencies and minimize the effects of the current labor shortage while reducing transportation costs.

For end-of-life products, by working with a logistics partner who has local resources, you can eliminate the expense of returning products to the manufacturing facility. In fact, on average, manufacturers can realize a 33% savings by disposing of products in the field instead of shipping those products back to their headquarters for disposal.

If you need help navigating today’s supply chain challenges, we invite you to contact us today with your questions.

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