For most of us, we never think about logistics management — how goods actually get from the factory to their home. As specialists in logistics management know, the process is actually very involved and can be quite complex, and often requires moving halfway around the world.
Let's take a look at how this happens.
Moving Boxes Into an Intermodal Shipping Container
Suppose Retailer A in Georgia needs four boxes of a product that is made in China by Company B. First, Retailer A will put an order to Company B. Company B receives many orders each day from all over the United States. Company B imports all the parts it need to make the items, and once produced they pack the items, including four corrugated cardboard boxes onto a pallet and into an intermodal shipping container. These are the large rectangular steel boxes you see on ships, trains and trucks from companies like Hanjin and Maersk.
After the container is filled it is sealed, this seal will allow the recipient to know if the container has been tampered with en route to its final destination. Additionally, paperwork will be created that will accompany the container stating what is in it, who sent it, and to who and where it is going. This paperwork will be used for customs purposes during the container's travels.
Traveling with Care on a Shipping Container
After the container is filled and sealed it will be transported to a port. At the port, the container will be taken off of the truck and loaded via a large crane onto a container ship which can carry hundreds or even thousands of containers.
The use of these shipping containers was a huge step forward for the shipping industry. Previously, various types and sizes of cargoes were loaded loose into cargo ships, this was a comparatively inefficient process because it required a much larger number of workers, the size and shapes of cargo were not standard, and it was much more susceptible to pilferage and loss. The introduction of container shipping greatly reduced these problems and allowed ships to carry even larger amounts of cargo, which could now be stored on deck and would not be exposed to weather.
As the container ship approaches the port, the ship's crew will coordinate the berthing and arrival of the ship, begin working with customs, and arrange for the ship to be offloaded. When the ship docks in port, it is offloaded by dockworkers, typically using the same types of giant cranes that also loaded the containers in China. Some containers may be opened by customs for random inspections or because a container may seem suspicious, whether because of its paperwork or otherwise.
The Final Destination
Once the container clears customs, it is released and taken to a warehouse. Here the container is opened and the contents removed and sorted by a logistics company. Depending on the location, the customer (Retailer A) may either pick up the cargo at the warehouse or have it forwarded by truck on to their distribution center or individual store. This final leg can take many forms and the time it takes can vary greatly depending on the size and supply chain dynamics of the retailer or user of a shipped product. In the case of our Retailer A, we follow our four boxes to a distribution center where they are then put on smaller trucks and each taken to a different store in the Atlanta area where they are unpacked and placed on shelves for sale.
This paints an oversimplified picture of what happens in a supply chain from raw material to store shelf, but it’s obvious that logistics companies play an important role in serving shippers by handling all the transportation details for them.
Want to know more? Click over to our Port City Logistics Contact Us page to find out more.