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Given that logistics leaders face pressure from their stakeholders to optimise logistics costs while maintaining service and performance levels, Gartner, Inc. has identified five actions to achieve cost optimisation from within the organisation.

“Logistics costs are on the rise in many regions — the result of tariffs, rapid e-commerce growth and a tight labor market,” said Farrah Salim, senior principal analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “When logistics leaders are asked to reduce costs, they usually aim to negotiate better prices with their carriers and logistics providers. Those negotiations can be difficult, and success is not guaranteed. What is often overlooked is that there are plenty of actions logistics leaders can take to optimise costs from within their organization.”

Action No. 1: Eliminate Costly Errors

In logistics, errors occur regularly and often come at a cost. For example, shipments may be nondeliverable due to flawed data, and containers may collect demurrage at ports because import/export documentation isn’t complete. To avoid future errors and their associated costs, logistics leaders must identify the source of errors and continuously improve their shipping processes. “If you have to deal with errors regularly, there is probably a systemic process issue,” Ms. Salim added. “Lean principles and Six Sigma are great tools for detecting and eliminating such issues — and for optimising costs.”

Action No. 2: Evaluate Value-Added Services

Most logistics providers perform some form of value-added service per instruction. These services can be as simple as product labeling or as complex as full product customisation. Outsourcing certain tasks to the logistics provider is convenient for logistics leaders, but they should always evaluate whether the convenience is worth it. There might be a more cost-effective approach, such as completing the service in-house or through a supplier at an earlier point in the supply chain.

Action No. 3: Consolidate Shipments

Shipment consolidation can be a tremendous cost saver. Logistics leaders can align inbound and outbound transportation movements, so all trucks and containers hold as much capacity as possible. “If it’s not possible to achieve a full load, consider collaborative distribution. When a noncompetitor organisation already uses the same distribution center and the same carriers as your organisation, and delivers to the same retailers, why not work together to coordinate shipments and share the cost?”, Ms. Salim said.

Action No. 4: Enhance Internal Collaboration

In addition to external collaboration, internal cross-functional teams with other groups in the supply chain are a key factor for cost optimisation. For example, logistics leaders should know about changes in demand planning, so they can adjust transportation, warehousing and labour capacities in advance — and thus gain time to negotiate the best price.

Action No. 5: Educate Decision Makers

The fifth action to reduce logistics costs internally is probably the most important. Leaders must educate decision makers about what their decisions mean for logistics and inform them about expenditures and trade-offs. “If decision makers want to lower transportation costs, this might mean that delivery speed must be sacrificed. If they prefer a lean inventory, transportation costs will rise. Decision makers have to understand how their actions relate to logistics spend and how the available options affect the organisation’s bottom line,” Ms. Salim concluded.