Asset Management is Everyone’s Job

Asset Management is Everyone’s Job

When it comes to keeping the supply chain as efficient as possible, asset management is a vital priority that mustn’t be overlooked. Keeping careful track not only of goods, but of the shipping containers and platforms needed to transport these goods, should be everyone’s responsibility.

You wouldn’t believe some of the phone calls I get, as someone who helps manage the largest pooled fleet of plastic pallets in North America. We once heard from the owner of a paintball operation, who said he had built a battlefield using our pallets as barricades—and wanted to know if he could purchase 50 more.

I had to explain that our pallets are not for sale, and that the ones currently in his possession were also our company’s property.

In most cases, companies and individuals that wind up with someone else’s crates, pallets, and shipping containers are not criminal enterprises or bad actors. The supply chain is a complex and fast-moving operation, and it’s understandable that some assets will go astray.

If manufacturers have a big order to fill and find themselves short of the proper platforms or containers designated for that product, it’s not surprising they might use whatever assets they have on hand. And if retailers have their dock backed up because a certain type of pallet or container is taking up valuable space, it’s possible that these assets might wind up outside the boundaries of their intended network.

Everyone Benefits

While it’s easy to understand how shipping assets may be misdirected, the type of “leakage” I have just described ends up hurting the entire industry.

Efficiency concerns. First and foremost, leakage takes these assets out of operation.

Overall consumer demand continues to skyrocket—according to one statistic, ecommerce spending alone topped $1 trillion in the United States for the first time last year. In an industry where demand for high-quality shipping assets exceeds supply, every asset pulled out of useful service contributes to an overall slowdown of the supply chain.

Sustainability concerns. The misdirection of shipping containers and pallets also harms the environment. When in use, these assets can take many trips before they are retired (and in the case of most plastic pallets and certain other materials, they can then be recycled and reused indefinitely).

But if these assets are misdirected, they can end up in landfills or polluting our waterways, while new platforms and containers must be manufactured to meet demand.

Cost-of-business concerns. Inflation feels like an endless cycle. Products and services cost more, which means people need to earn more, which means employers need to pay more, which means businesses need to charge more.

One of the many ways we can curb rising costs is by minimizing leakage of assets in the supply chain. This enables the producers of these assets to keep their costs manageable, and the entire supply chain benefits from these savings.

We all play a role in making sure that vital shipping assets stay within the boundaries of their intended ecosystems. I encourage manufacturers and retailers to communicate frequently with their logistics partners to ensure they can repurpose excess inventory appropriately.

If you’re in an asset recovery role, be flexible. People may not always realize they’re in possession of someone else’s property.

Working together, we can make sure that an optimized, sustainable, and cost-effective supply chain is constantly moving.