Specialized Products Require Specialized Logistics Capabilities
Before engaging a logistics partner to help you store or move inventory with unique requirements, verify the provider has the capabilities for handling specialized products.
Not all product shipments fit neatly into standard logistics processes. Supply chain professionals must often overcome various challenges when working with goods that require them to exceed the usual limits of typical supply chain operations. However, not all third-party logistics providers (3PLs) have the facilities, equipment, certifications, or capabilities to work with specialized items. Verifying capabilities up front before engaging a logistics partner to help you store or move inventory with unique requirements is essential.
Products With Unique Logistics Requirements
The logistics pipeline is built for efficiency, which means that most 3PLs build their capabilities around moving commonplace, high-volume items in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. As a result, the standard pipeline can’t deal with certain types of shipments. Here are some examples of goods that might require capabilities outside the norm:
Hazardous materials (HAZMAT). Corrosive chemicals, flammable goods, or other shipments that may threaten the environment or people are considered hazardous materials. As a result, shippers and their providers working in these industries must take additional measures to ensure facilities are capable of HAZMAT storage, handling, and containment. That might mean adding features like specialized fire suppression systems and better security systems.
Furthermore, hazardous materials have stringent storage and transport regulations. Employees will need HAZMAT training to avoid accidents and injuries and to comply with federal and state regulations.
Lithium batteries. They can catch fire or explode when improperly stored or transported. Therefore, businesses handling lithium batteries must ensure facilities maintain proper temperatures and that stored batteries won’t get exposed to heat sources (like sunlight through a window, for example). Employees need training to understand the risks associated with this battery type.
Additionally, the transportation of lithium batteries requires compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Hazardous Materials Regulations, which provides strict guidelines that carriers must follow for packaging and transport.
Oversized equipment. Large machinery or industrial equipment is often too large and heavy to transport via standard equipment. Some 3PLs and carriers specialize in moving oversized items that can’t be shipped using standard means. Storage facilities may also require bigger doors; thicker floors; counterweighted, heavy-duty forklifts; and other specialized equipment to move and store inventory safely.
Moving items of this nature can also be quite complex. Oversized loads on the highway require specialized permits, route planning, and pilot vehicles, which add complexity and costs to shipping.
High-value shipments. High-value shipping may encompass the movement of goods ranging from medical and laboratory machinery to precious minerals to expensive electronics. These shipments often have sensitivities to conditions like temperature, humidity, and shock.
As a result, warehouses dedicated to high-value products typically require specialized HVAC systems or other environmental controls, heightened security to avoid theft, and employee training to mitigate product damage risks. Even a single incident may result in significant financial loss.
Transportation of high-value shipments typically exceeds what standard carriers provide. These shipments need additional security, higher insurance coverage, and real-time tracking systems to prevent loss.
Don’t Let Just Anyone Handle Your Specialized Cargo
Before delegating unique shipment types to a 3PL, review details about successful past projects and check references. Also, ensure the provider has the equipment, certifications, and insurance coverage necessary to move your freight. If they don’t, shippers might find themselves on the hook for damages when something goes wrong.