3M provides products to customers all over Europe. They completely depend on efficient operations in their European logistics network.
Up until the beginning of 2019, all 3M customers were served using logistics hubs in the United Kingdom. When the tension between the European Union and the United Kingdom mounted at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, 3M realised that they needed to change cargo flows such that Irish customers could be well served also in the case of a hard Brexit.
They eventually decided to route cargo to British customers from a hub close to Dublin, rather than through the UK hubs. The time from this decision was made until it was fully implemented and operational, was only two weeks. The terminal in Dublin had no warning ahead of the decision made by 3M.
3M in Europe used to prepare customer orders on pallets at factories or distribution centers and send them to customers through traditional logistics chains. With many different products, the result of this approach was irregular and non-stackable pallets. Hence, the load factors of trucks and containers were below 50%. This resulted in unacceptable logistics cost and a big environmental footprint.
To deal with this issue, 3M decided to stop picking by order, and start picking by product at factories and warehouses. In addition, to delay the creation of customer orders to the terminal, or hub, closest to each customer.
To make this work in all terminals without having to change the physical infrastructure or the associated information system, 3M devised an autonomous logistics process that prepared the goods for onwards transport. This process can easily be implemented in any logistics terminal.
The effect of the approach is that 3M allowed the splitting of shipments during transport. This required a logistics management system that could support the new logistics process in all terminals. The system also needed to keep track of all shipments such that these can be reconstructed at the terminal closest to the customer. This system had been developed by MIXMOVE. It is a cloud application requiring only minimum local equipment (printers, web browser, and hand-held scanners).
This approach to logistics management has been implemented in 30 hubs in Europe. For 3M Europe, the result was 50% reduction in emissions and 35% reduction in cost.
3M logistics network in Europe
The combination of the autonomous process with its own management system that could be implemented in any terminal without changes to existing operations and information system, gave 3M a unique logistics flexibility. The inclusion of a hub in Dublin and redirection cargo within two weeks demonstrates this.
The Dublin experience is not unique. Similar implementation times have been experienced also in other situations. A potential Brexit was seen by 3M as a potential emergency, with which they needed to deal with quickly. And they did.
Disruption in logistics operations may come as a surprise. A potentially hard Brexit is one example, USA’s trade war with China is another. In such situations it may be of interest to quickly adjust supply chains in order to maintain business and relationships with clients.
Using the concept and solution offered by MIXMOVE makes this both possible and practical.