December 12, 2010

From a Supplyline: 3

Filed under: supplyline — Tags: , — admin @ 1:38 pm

My master’s military campaigns are meticulously planned, my role is to plan the routes, time the journeys and keep my customers fully replenished with food and other goods. In this I am ultimately responsible to my Emperor, he pays the soldiers and deducts the cost of supplies from each soldier’s pay. The amount does fluctuate according to the mood of the Emperor and his relationship with the legions, but I have known this levy to be as high as two-thirds of their daily pay.

In large campaigns my supply line relies on 2 main sources. The primary source is the land and surroundings we are moving through and here I obtain food and other supplies from the local people and traders.

For my secondary source I contract with Roman merchants who supply me with goods from many other parts of our empire. These arrive by land, river and sea, some of them before our campaign starts and the remiander through shipping arrangements I make at various points in our campaign.

As I plan the supplies I need at each stage in the campaign I research the potential routes I have been given by my general and find out as much as I can about the geography and conditions of the territories we will travel across. Wherever possible I talk to people who have travelled in these areas to understand the weather patterns, the main crops and the growing and ripening seasons. Our army will go hungry unless we time our marches to coincide as much as possible with crop harvesting seasons.

I have a team of researchers who task it is to find out this information for all parts of our empire and for the lands which surround ours. Enemy spies are everywhere, even in Rome, by having a wide field of interest I hope not to give away any secrets about upcoming events.

Of course, an army on the move doesn’t stay a secret for long. One advantage for me is that word soon spreads among the trading community and enterprising merchants set up supply lines and approach me to buy from them on future contracts.

As we move through different regions our provincial officials and the local people are a vital source. Farmers and traders come to us to sell their crops, they provide fodder for our animals and offer services such the grinding of corn and baking of bread.

You may be surprised to learn that at times during a campaign as much as 70% of the food and supplies our army consumes comes from the large merchants I have already mentioned. These individuals are extremely influential, they are well connected with the Emperor and with the most powerful families in Rome. These large merchants have very well developed supply chains and have established relationships with other merchants and provincial officials throughout our empire.

Extraordinary isn’t it that my supply chain reaches into most parts of the known world.

There are another group of merchants we call “lixae”, these merchants make their living by following the army and selling goods to anyone they can. I find them something of a nuisance and have often suspected that some of them steal my supplies and sell them back to me for a tidy profit! Other than keep my eye out for such practices I find myself unable to do much about them as they have “permission” to travel and trade with us, I can only imagine how much they are indebted to certain individuals in order to receive their permission.

When we are in a hostile area my supply line is always stretched. Supply trains are attacked and the goods they carry can be lost or damaged, our pack animals can be targeted and killed in order to slow us down and with the hope of having our soldiers go hungry. My general may wish to move faster through certain territories and we all go onto short rations to conserve our supplies.

Our progress can be impeded by bad weather, heavy snowfall or rains can maroon us in one area for many days, depleting our food and severely lowering our morale. If the area is sparsely wooded it is particularly bad and the cold gets deep into our bones through the lack of wood for fires to cook food and to keep warm. On such days I find myself longing for the intense summer heat we get at home in the hills close to Rome.

December 4, 2010

Distribution Centre Operations Start-up: 2

Filed under: supplyline — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 3:19 pm

Designing and constructing a Distribution Centre is a process that could take you 3 years or more to bring to conclusion.

As supply chain people, when we talk about design we refer to the internal design of the distribution centre, the design of storage and materials handling media and the sizing of the building.

The design will be based on a multitude of factors, all to do with the operations you want to have in the premises. Typically designs are said to be mechanical or non-mechanical.

Mechanical designs include items such as conveyors, sortation systems and automated materials handling while non-mechanical designs are a more manual process involving the use of powered equipment to move product around the DC.

You can expect a mechanical design to cost significantly more to set-up, a complex mech solution can cost many millions of dollars more than a non-mech solution, the investment being justified by lower operating costs over the life-time of the operation.

In addition to your materials handling solution, the size or “footprint” of your distribution centre will also be driven by: how much product storage you require; how accessible you want the product to be; and by how you choose to store your product.

The amount of product stored can be all over the map, I’ve worked with companies who have no more than 1 day of inventory in their DCs to companies at the other end of the spectrum who average 100 days of inventory on hand. These companies had different businesses of course and can’t be compared to each other and judged as “good” or “bad”.

How accessible do you need some of your inventory to be? If you require items to be constantly accessible they will take up more space then items which don’t need to be regularly accessed. Pick locations fall into this category, they contain items which you want your staff to have consistent access to.

How large a footprint these storage and pick locations use depends on how much product you choose to put into each location and whether you put the locations on the floor or make use of the building cube and some of them in the air, in pallet racking and pick towers for example.

There is a further “design” we talk about, that’s the design of the site your DC will sit on, taken together, ¬†your site and building design will tell you how much land you will need to purchase.

Site design elements include space (land) for: site entries and gatehouses; roadways; truck & trailer parking; vehicle maintenance and washing; external storage areas; employee access and parking; and, perhaps, room for future expansion of the building.

The city or municipality will ask you to provide land for items such as storm water drainage and storage, landscaping and berms to reduce noise pollution.

Once you have your outline designs finalised you will be ready to start the process of acquiring land and building your new distribution centre.