Brain Waves: Lost Containers
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Companies begin reusable container use in their supply chains to reduce the amount of material entering the waste stream, and to lower packaging costs. Switching from single-use cardboard boxes to durable reusable containers – typically usable for more than 250 cycles – can cut the quantity of container material needed for one million shipments by up to 98.5 percent.

If these containers become lost, however, your investment in the reusable container is negated!

Reusable containers are strong, durable, and valuable assets to your company – likely the reason you’re making the effort to track them in the first place. Unfortunately, these attributes make them targets for theft. Unless you’ve invested in technology intended to be seen anywhere in the world (like GPS tags), chances are barcodes and RFID tags aren’t going to be enough to keep track of lost containers that have departed the confines of your intended supply chain stops. Even the most secure yards can’t always prevent someone from just loading up their pickup truck with your expensive reusable containers and driving away.

Sometimes containers become “lost” when you’ve shipped your reusable containers to a supplier, but haven’t needed them returned in a great while, and the supplier cannot afford the extra space to continue storing them. If they don’t have enough of your containers to justify building a truckload to send back, simply selling the containers – while against their supplier agreement – might be a preferable choice to renting external storage space.

Worse than sending reusable containers to a location that doesn’t send them back is sending them to a location that cannot send them back; if a delivery of reusable containers arrives at the wrong location, not only do they have no use for the containers, they don’t do business with you, and have no way of getting the containers back to you. These lost containers are often sold, recycled, or simply thrown away – all of which represent a loss of investment for you.

With just a few simple preventative measures, such as serializing your containers and recording their last known locations, lost container issues can be swiftly resolved. To properly manage your reusable containers, you need to know who is responsible for them, and where they are at any given time.

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