Having access to reliable data is increasingly important within commerce and industry, as well as in our everyday lives. Amazingly, 2014 marks 40 years since the inception of one of the UK’s earliest national data schemes: the introduction of the postcode across every British town. Whilst the postcode may appear at first glance to be a relatively insignificant string of letters and numbers, in reality it is an innovation that has revolutionised the way we are able to make and manage deliveries: from a personal letter through to commercial loads.
Fast forward 40 years and accurate data is even more vital for many industries. In fact, big data is a critical part of optimising transport management, with postcodes forming just one of the key parts of the data needed to operate an efficient supply chain. However, the importance of accessible and available data such as a postcode is often overlooked
Accurate data in optimised transport systems
It’s important to have all the right data in your system. It’s surprising how often clients don’t have the full address details, including accurate postcode data and country codes in the right field on their system. The technology is certainly there to support this data, but problems can be caused by simple user error or by lack of investment in setup time to capture and enter the data completely and accurately. Although often a manual process, if captured properly this data only needs to be entered once in a thorough and systematic way. Workarounds are a common cause of data mismanagement; many times the problem to getting the right data is that it is not solved at source. Often it can be viewed as too difficult to enforce discipline in getting the right data the first time around, so you spend your life correcting the problem over and over again. There is an old saying that goes “I can’t afford to do it right, but I can afford to do it twice!”
Just having access to large amounts of data isn’t enough to eradicate waste in the supply chain. The accuracy of data and how it is used is also critical to successful transport optimisation. This involves understanding issues such as the weight and volume of the load as well as exactly where it is going. Incorrect data will almost certainly result in inefficient routes and over or under filled vehicles – both major causes of waste in the supply chain.
Data integrity in transport management also applies to the weight and dimensions of SKUs. For example, JCB has over 170,000 different parts in their warehouse, all of which need to be weighed and measured to ensure the optimum sized carton is selected. These details are then stored in a massive parts database.
Selecting the right size of cartons also effects utilisation on a pallet. In our experience, companies can lose up to 40% inefficiency in product utilisation by not optimising their product cartons on the pallet that they are transported on.
Investing time now to significantly reduce costs later
Our systems are capable of managing large amounts of data quickly and efficiently to automate processes, reduce waste and optimise transport management. Our optimisation techniques use heuristic algorithms which enable us to get optimum results quickly. However, one of the biggest challenges when implementing transport management systems for a new client is the quality, accessibility and accuracy of their data. Over twenty years of experience in transport management has proven to us that it is well worth spending time to ensure that companies have detailed and accurate data on their systems. Investing the right amount of time at this stage will almost certainly save time and significantly reduce costs when the 3T systems are fully implemented.
It’s hard to imagine the UK without the postcode system. Its use has evolved over the years – from a tool for addressing and sorting letters, to a massive database with a range of functions that underpin many business processes across the UK. However, the key to using this data effectively has been integrity, accuracy and attention to detail – a message that is equally applicable to companies involved in logistics.