When it comes to spotting and correcting inefficiencies in your business’ logistics operations, sometimes all it takes is an idea.
If you take a close look at what the largest logistics operations are doing well and what challenges they’re grappling with, it can give you a new perspective on your own small operation.
Why does this matter? A new perspective can help you solve existing problems, some of which you may not even be aware of.
A more efficient logistics operation can slash costs as a percentage of sales by 4 to 7% (that means a company with sales of $10 million would see a profitability increase of $400,000 to $700,000).
The solution to logistics operation inefficiencies could be anything: a different process, a change in strategy, or even new logistics software. The tough part is figuring out what it is.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at documentaries showcasing how the best logistics operations on earth run things. Each one has something to teach your small business, but we know you don’t have the time to watch all three.
We categorized each documentary under a quick lesson, and we’ll take a look at a key moment and takeaway to tell you what you need to know to make operational adjustments and boost your bottom line.
Let’s get started.
3 key lessons from logistics documentaries
1. Hunt down inefficiencies
Documentary: “The GRID Logistics Story” is produced by Redb.net, which has created a number of short documentaries on a variety of subjects. It describes the future plans of GRID Logistics Inc. and the GRID Project, which focuses on building a modern sustainable freight transportation infrastructure.
Blurb: “The Grid Logistics Story chronicles a revolutionary clean-tech project that will transform the 50-year-old freight shipping industry system using ground-breaking technology.”
Key moment: 2:56 — The Superdock: “The advantage to this is that you no longer need the vast truck turnaround areas and the container storage areas that comprise half of a port’s acreage.”
Takeaway: There is inefficiency lurking somewhere in your operation. It’s just a question of how long until you find it. The GRID Project noticed that trucks needed a huge amount of space to perform basic tasks and found a way to shrink everything down to size.
If you can, take a day—or maybe even a week—away from your normal routine and watch your operations. Study things, take notes, and interview your staff.
You need to determine exactly when and where staff are standing around waiting for the next phase to begin, what two processes can be consolidated into one, or why only one widget is being produced at a time when a small tweak could enable you to produce two or three at once.
You can’t come up with a solution until you’ve identified the problem.
2. Find lucrative partnerships
Documentary: “UPS/Fedex: Inside the Package Wars” is a documentary produced by CNBC that dives into the competition between the package delivery behemoths and how they’ve come to dominate the industry.
Blurb: “CNBC takes you inside the mad dash to move more than 25 million packages a day. It’s a revealing look at a complex system of jaw-dropping automation that feeds an army of trucks on the ground and a fleet of planes in the sky. Our cameras explore the inner-workings of UPS Worldport and the FedEx Super Hub, showing how extreme automation and hi-tech logistics help two companies succeed.”
Key moment: 12:13 — UPS’ many, many special partnerships.
Takeaway: Being more efficient is not just about streamlining your own operations. It has to include finding a more efficient way to make money.
When it comes to logistics, special partnership deals can be a huge boon to your business’ profits. UPS has partnerships with a multitude of companies that have helped its business grow.
For example, the shipping behemoth has a deal with retailer Zappos that allows them to get products out the door in the 11th hour, a deal with Bentley that helps them ship the expensive cars, and a healthcare industry deal that involves creating special packaging to transport human skin for surgeries.
As a small business, it’s even more important to take a hard look at your own client base for opportunities to enter similar partnerships in which both players benefit.
3. Implement automation
Documentary: “Future Logistics” by Finnish telecom company DNA Business, describes how logistics is likely to change in the coming years thanks to technology.
Blurb: “We explore the impact of IoT in logistics.”
Key moment: 2:32 — How distribution in Finland is being automated and robotized by drones.
Takeaway: It’s time to implement automation at your company. The technology is ready, and—as this documentary shows—a lot of companies are already using it.
The big question is where automation makes sense in your operation. Of course, you need to first identify repetitive tasks that your company is doing right now, and start there. If you run a warehouse, for example, you could use robots to pull goods and place them on the shelves. Find out what repetitive task is draining your employees’ time, and automate it.
If you’re already aware of those areas and are ready for a straightforward way to begin implementation, check out automated data entry software.
There are plenty of systems out there that will automatically pull data and organize it for you and Capterra’s data entry software directory can help you narrow things down with a powerful filtering tool.
Additional resources to help you take your logistics operation to the next level
There are always ways to improve how you do things. But it’s not always easy to figure out where to start.
As a small business owner, you should be constantly learning and exploring new resources to broaden your understanding of logistics.
Looking for Logistics software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Logistics software solutions.