Shaping the Supply Chain Through Smart Resource Planning

In one of our previous articles we highlighted the value of tracking efficiency and utilisation as a means of measuring productivity across the supply chain.

Equipped with this information, operators will be able to plan activities with higher degrees of precision and accordingly become more reliable in terms of achieving both cost and service expectations.

The growing scarcity of people available to fulfil roles across all levels of the supply chain is placing more and more emphasis on resource planning. With this fundamental issue showing no signs of improving in the near future, it is of rising importance that you can get the most out of the resources you have—hence the drive to manage productivity followed by the need to ensure resources are in place when they are needed.

Getting the balance of resources right

Carrying capacity for service safety is becoming a norm. Operators are increasingly accepting of the fact that short-term resource might not be available in the numbers historically needed to deliver peak.

‘The time-related placement of resources’ is an old adage given to describe logistics. It also aptly describes the purpose of resource planning. Operational utopia across the supply chain is matching resource availability with demand, a lifelong pursuit for all operators—and there are some operations out there that get quite close to it. In my experience, it is achieved through a combination of employee and customer engagement.

We will get on to the subject of (S&OP) in another edition but forecast accuracy is a core element enabling operators to set resources to demand.

Adopting a more flexible approach

In terms of employee engagement, at the outset, the best place to start when laying a strategy for resource planning is to review the terms of employment of the people whose workload you are planning. What flexibility is permitted? What flexibility is needed? What are the swings between peak and trough and how far apart in time terms are these variances? In essence, how volatile is activity?

Engaging with staff and selling the principle of flexibility and seeking their support in this regard is a cornerstone of optimal resource planning. Planning a week or month ahead with a mountain range of seemingly erratic hours demand paired with a flat line of static available hours would frustrate many a finance director and customer alike—but it isn’t uncommon.

Banked hours schemes and similar such arrangements are a great way to introduce flexibility whilst also finding innovative shift patterns that attract resources that might otherwise not apply for roles. How many tasks are carried out in warehouses at the same time every day or week that could be moved to another time slot if it meant more resources could be found to ease the challenges around scarcity?

Attracting a greater creative pool

Attracting people to work in the logistics industry increases the available pool of resource calls for creativity. Operators who can move activities around from traditional time slots have the chance to find and attract talent it could not get hold of today.

How long will it be before sites clustered together on industrial parks combine their resource plans in a bid to maximise not just employment agency staff but actual core resources? Doing this seems to make sense particularly in an increasingly collaborative economy—it has the advantage of enabling people to share their trips to and from work who might otherwise be in the ‘one person per car’ category that impacts congestion so much.

Missing productivity targets can ruin budgets and adversely affect service performance, leading to an increase in the significance of resource planning. But resource planning itself amounts to more than simply a calculation of volume throughput by the speed of movement—it really is about the time related placement of resources.