In the run-up to DSEI 2019, Jonathan Shortis, Director of Specialist Solutions, Industrial & Transport at Wincanton, talks about the challenges facing prime contractors in their quest to drive efficiencies for Land, Sea and Air programmes.

In the defence engineering market, prime contractors are coming under increasing pressure to deliver greater value and service into their programmes. This means that every element of a programme is in focus. The goal is to drive efficiencies without compromising on time, quality, security or safety. A seemingly impossible task. 

There are undoubtedly challenges, but by unlocking value in the supply chain, prime contractors can make significant gains which will ultimately keep them on track and within budget.

Seeing more

The first step to unlocking value is to improve visibility and traceability across the supply chain - this applies to inventory, transport, labour and property.  The ability to see more goes beyond a simple ‘track and trace’ mechanism. The aim is to see everything - from the movement of goods in production or transit, to demand signals from the market.  Businesses should also look outwards to consider macro influences on the supply chain – from road congestion and changing weather patterns, to new legislation and other potential disruptions.

Businesses are investing in technology to improve visibility across the supply chain and find out what customers want, when they want it, trace the progress of every order and view inventory levels and production schedules. 

Improved visibility and the creation and use of ‘Big Data’ (whether this is generated by the contractor or a third party such as a 3PL) all managed from a single ‘control tower’ can highlight bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement and efficiency gains. It can assist with modelling and trend analysis so that parties in the supply chain can be more responsive and take action to minimise interruptions.

This isn’t possible with different parties pulling in different directions. But collaborative technology partnerships, where the focus is on enhancing value rather than simply exchanging or extracting it, are a step towards this.

Efficiency through collaboration

Collaboration is at the heart of driving efficiencies.  Across the globe, market leaders are demonstrating how a culture of sharing resources is helping to drive economies of scale. Making assets, both owned and shared, work as hard as possible is crucial to delivering this.

The concept of sharing a warehouse in a multi-user or shared-user environment, for example, is a not a new one, but it is relatively uncommon in markets like defence which has specific demands around security, safety and compliance.   However, when managed by a specialist third party, users can, not only exploit the economies of scale it brings, but also reap the benefits of the provider’s operational experience and their regulatory and health & safety record. 

Manufacturers, both small and large, require increasingly flexible warehousing options. Some find themselves with excess space outside of their peak periods and others want the opportunity to scale up to meet increased demand. Sharing warehouse space provides an efficient and attractive solution.

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