One of the most important steps you can take as the manager of a reusable container program is defining the “loops” that make up your supply chain. We define a loop as the set of locations, or “stops,” through which a reusable container passes before it reaches the original stop again.
Most loops are “linear,” meaning reusables follow a set progression from one location to the next. Deviating from this pre-determined progression (by showing up at a later stop in the list) is treated as non-conformance. However, for flexibility, limited tracking can be inferred when a reusable might be sent to one of several available locations. These “non-linear loops,” however, should ideally be considered as a segment of a larger loop, to ensure broader tracking data trends are still captured.
In the example above, the beginning of the linear loop is Factory “A,” while the end of the loop is Warehouse “G.” Definitive capture data can be collected at nearly every stop in the loop, reflecting the compliance practices of suppliers, CMCs, third-party logistics companies, and many more.
The section from Shipper “D” through Shipper “F” represents a non-linear loop, meaning that a reusable container might be sent to any one of these locations next, and we can’t always predict which. When this kind of setup is in place, some data granularity is lost, but the best practices are to track the stop immediately before and after the non-linear loop.
When the arrivals and departures of a reusable container at each stop are tracked, managers have collected data that can be used to determine where a container was last seen, how long it has been in transit, how long it has been sitting unused, and much more. Armed with this knowledge, a manager can take the next steps to enforce compliance, optimize their operations, and start saving money.
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