Around the World with OTD
Around the World with On Time Delivery & Warehouse (a peek behind the supply chain curtain)
If you squint your eyes, and stretch your imagination, you’ll see that the world of Supply Chain Management is dynamic indeed. All the tropes are there: Ticking clocks. Exotic locations. High stakes deadlines. International intrigue. All the elements of a great story.
If this sounds farfetched, that’s okay. We here at On Time Delivery & Warehouse are firm believers in the business, and we don’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t daydream a little. In fact that’s what this blog is for. Other than covering the serious business of shipping, trucking, and warehousing, we’ll also take the time to let our minds wander a little and dig into some musings on the business of supply chain management and third party logistics.
To prove our point, we’re going to shed a little light on some of the more exciting aspects of import/export cargo freight.
So join us for a peak behind the supply chain curtain in this, the latest installment of the OTD Blog. Sit back, let your mind wander, and tag along as we follow a piece of cargo freight around the world in 12 fascinating stages. Move over Nemo. Heck. Watch out Captain Nimoy! This is Jules Verne stuff, by golly. Hang on!
Stage 1: Let’s start with a simple product – a box of gleaming golden buttons, sitting on a shelf in China on the other side of the world. Doesn’t sound like much. But, fact is, someone out there really wants those luminous objects, and someone needs to figure out a way to get them from one end of the globe to another. Delivering them to market is quite the process, and behind this process, an epic journey. Behind the journey – an intricate system – a dynamic network of players who have what it takes to deliver on time. It’s a mighty tale for such a tiny, seemingly inconsequential carton of stuff – an epic tale that unfolds everyday. The tale of cargo making a fantastic globetrotting trek from one end of the earth to another. Wow!
And so, dear OTD Blog readers, we’d like to introduce you to the man in search of this little box of golden buttons, John Smith, owner of John Smith’s Sharp Shirts in Champaign, IL.
John Smith is dedicated to his business and his customers. Lately his customers have been requesting that his company produce a shirt fitted with a little more flash. John’s a picky guy, and he’s very good with budgets. So he’s not about to settle on just any gold button. It’s gotta be the right one. Of course, John wants to save money and increase his bottom line, but he also wants to find the appropriate accessory for his new product.
So John Smith does some research. He goes online & Googles “gold shirt button manufacturers” near and far – some in his own backyard, many across the US, and others around the word. Eventually he comes across a button company in China that manufactures and sells quality gold buttons with the right look, luster, and at the just the right price. The Company is called Buddha’s Button Hut, located in Hangzhou, China. Not only does John like the price, he also digs their catchy name.
So John Smith, owner of John Smith’s Sharp Shirts in Champaign, IL calls the Buddha Button Hut factory in Hangzhou, China and purchases 20 cartons of Buddha Button Hut gold buttons from the company.
Stage 2: Buddha’s Button Hut are happy to oblige. The order is placed, and the manager of Buddha’s Button Hut dispatches one of his employees to pull 20 cartons worth from their inventory and prepare them for shipment across the globe to Champaign, IL.
The order is received by the Warehouse Manager at the Buddha Hut Button factory, who proceeds to call up his favorite Freight Forwarder in the USA.
The US based Freight Forwarder answers the phone, and asks “Hi Ya, Buddha Hut! Whad’ya got?”
Buddha’s Button Hut, at first taken aback by the friendly US Freight Forwarder’s audacious American personality, eventually gathers himself together, and tells the Freight Forwarder he has 20 cartons of golden buttons that need to get from Hangzhou, China to John Smith’s Sharp Shirt Factory in Champaign, IL in the good old US of A.
The friendly American freight forwarder laughs at first and says, “My, isn’t that cute? Cute as a button you might say. I’m a BIG fan of John Smith’s Sharp Shirts. No…shh…kidding. So what the heck. Let’s do this. I’ll arrange for a truck to arrive at the Buddha Button Hut factory to pick up your 20 cartons of golden buttons, & he’ll bring them back to my Chinese Freight Consolidator in nearby Shanghai.”
The Buddha Button Hut Warehouse Manager is intrigued by the friendly freight forwarder’s uniquely American sense of humor. He knows that his cargo is in good hands. Cross cultural contact has been established, and the heroic journey of cargo begins.
Stage 3: This is good news for the Chinese Freight Consolidator in Shanghai, who, it turns out, has been itching to send some stuff to the USA, but he’s had to wait for one more shipment to come along to help fill up his steel cargo container.
The US Freight Forwarder coordinates with his Chinese Freight Consolidator on a ton of small shipments every day, just like the one placed by Buddha’s Button Hut. But they won’t sign off on anything – and they can’t send anything out to sea – until their cargo container is completely stacked full of stuff. Anything less would be a waste of money.
Now, just to give you a bit of context, dear OTD Blog readers, these cargo containers are those 20 X 40 foot colorful containers you often see stacked along waterways around the country. If you’ve ever crossed into Manhattan along the Jersey turnpike over the Port of New York-New Jersey, or even driven over the west Shoreway in Cleveland, Ohio, you’ll know what we’re talking about. These sizable metal boxes have revolutionized how we share goods & services with one another across the globe. It also costs a lot of money to ship freight from China to the USA, so better to pack it with as much stuff as you possibly can. This is extremely important.
So inside the cargo container go the 20 cartons of golden Buddha Button Hut buttons, along with many other objects bound for various locations in the US and North America.
Stage 4: Once enough products have been accumulated to pack the container, a truck will arrive to take the container to the closest waterfront (in this case, the Shanghai Pier) to prepare it for the upcoming overseas voyage. It is here at the seaport where the cargo container will be loaded onto an epic ocean vessel, and soon set sail for the USA. But this is no pleasure cruise. This is high stakes international commerce. All precautions have been made to ensure the safety of the 20 cartons of golden Buddha Hut buttons, and everything else crammed into that colorful metal box.
Stage 5: Enter the ocean Vessel/Steam Ship that will carry the cargo overseas. It’s enormous, and soon it will leave the far eastern shores for a 3 week adventure to the USA – the land of cheeseburgers and blue jeans, rock & roll and SUV’s, all night radio, speakeasies, and late night juke joints.
The cargo ship is massive, the size of a small city in fact. Big enough to hold an average of 3500 more of these colorful 40 foot freight containers crammed full of stuff.
Finally, the overseas journey begins, and continues for an average of three weeks. It’s a wild ocean voyage, fraught with enormous ocean waves, storms, whale chases, epic sunrises and sunsets, shooting stars, maybe even a castaway on a life raft, or an intergalactic wandering spaceman, or two. Who knows? It’s a mysterious trek, really. [Insert epic footage of the high seas here.]
Stage 6: Now let’s jump ahead three weeks. The grand Ocean Vessel has finally arrived safely in one of the USA’s beautiful, worldclass seaports, the Port of Long Beach, CA, in fact.
Stage 7: The cargo vessel is unloaded of all its contents once it arrives at the Port of Long Beach. The containers are taken off the ship and put on trucks where they will then be delivered to nearby warehouses in & around the Port of Long Beach. Once inside the dock, all of the contents inside the cargo container will be separated according to their next destination.
Everything is accounted for. Every item is earmarked, charted, and mapped in relation to one another for the best possible delivery route on the clock – the most cost effective next step – the most logical course of action, adherent to the latest tools and technology.
Remember, John Smith’s Sharp Shirts is located in Champaign, IL, and the 20 cartons of golden Buddha Button Hut buttons are currently two thousand miles away in the Port of Long Beach, CA. The fastest, most cost effective way to get the buttons to John Smith’s Sharp Shirt factory is by train.
Stage 8: And so, once again, the 20 cartons of golden buttons will be consolidated with other cargo from parts unknown into a full Railroad Container where they will then hit the rails headed for Champaign, IL.
It is here on the heavy shoulders of the iron web in the great railyard, close to the warehouse, where the 20 cartons of shiny golden buttons will come to understand their true calling as they are loaded on a train and shipped out for delivery to the John Smith Sharp Shirt factory in the heart of the country. The genuine luster of these buttons will finally be revealed, and they will truly begin to shine in anticipation of the end of their journey.
Stage 9: Jump ahead a couple of days and here comes the train, pulling into Champaign. “Wuuaaaa! Wuuuaaaaa!,” the conductor leans on the horn and steps on the brakes. Once the train is docked, the 20 cartons of gold Buddha Button Hut buttons will be unloaded yet again, only this time they will be put on a freight truck. The freight truck will then deliver the buttons to a nearby warehouse.
Stage 10: Once the freight truck arrives at the warehouse, it will get offloaded yet again, and separated among roughly 10 to 20 other orders that are also included in the container.
Stage 11: Enter again the friendly American Freight Forwarder from Stage 2 of the Buddha Button Hut’s gold Button globetrot – the one with the classic American sense of humor. His phone is about to ring again. Only, this time, the call he’s getting is to inform him that his freight (the 20 cartons of golden Buddha Button Hut buttons) has finally arrived for delivery to the John Smith Sharp Shirt factory.
Stage 12: The freight forwarder is smiling. He might even be jumping up and down at this point, overjoyed and tickled pink – not only with the wonders of this fascinating system of international cargo that he participates in daily – but also because he himself is actually among the long list of consumers who recently placed an order for a nice new John Smith Sharp Shirt with the Custom Golden buttons – to be worn on Christmast Day! He can barely contain his excitement. But once he cools down, he’ll arrange delivery of the 20 cartons of shiny golden buttons to the John Smith Sharp Shirt Factory in Champaign, IL. Mission Accomplished. Home at last!
And from there, folks, the rest is history. Happy consumers across the land will show up at Holiday parties sporting new John Smith Sharp Shirts with the sparkling golden buttons. None of them really (except perhaps the friendly US Freight Forwarder, and you, of course, now that we’ve schooled you) will know the epic journey those buttons have made before adorning his person.
So there you have it. Everything we wear, eat, drive, use, buy, fall asleep on – you name it – comes from someplace else. And behind every product is a great story, full of colorful characters who bring these goods to market everyday.