PI and Its Role in the Supply Chain

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Change has become a constant for everyone and also for every industry. As new technologies emerge, the way people run their businesses and the way said businesses operate changes rapidly. The materials and packaging industries are not exceptions. (Related topics: protective packaging, moisture barrier bags)

From completely new supply chain models like “The Physical Internet” (PI) to new designs and operational modes for warehouses, the way in which materials are handled, packaged and transported from one place to another, is constantly evolving. Additionally, there are mobile piece-picking robots, and several other technologies backed up by sustainability, changing forever the face of the supply chain.

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Not too long ago, warehouse managers knew what the demand levels for the next day would be and could plan accordingly, but with the booming e-commerce industry, keeping track of the influx of new orders throughout the day and the warehouse flow is a task that requires a lot more than efficient warehouse managers.

Since everything became so dynamic, it is harder and harder to plan and execute effective materials and warehouse management strategies. New technologies and new ways of consuming products have had a massive impact on order cycle times, timely access to SKUs, consolidation of order lines, efficient use of labor and workflow, and many other key metrics. Further, companies see themselves forced to think and make decisions regularly about equipment and labor optimization, which results in a more complex role than just “managing the storage floor” and keeping track of things. Warehouse managers are now required to have entirely new sets of skills, and a warehouse in itself should now have a completely different facility design and mode of operation.

Decision science and optimization are the future, and bringing knowledge, expertise, and innovation to implement technologies and systems that can optimize operations is key to improve and succeed in this business.

And that’s where the Physical Internet (PI) comes in as the supply chain’s metaphor for the Information Internet. PI is a ubiquitous handling and logistics system for moving and deploying goods through the supply chain, and since nothing is standard about moving goods at any stage of the supply chain, except for maritime containers, PI is bringing about the changes necessary to get the much-needed standardization started.

The most popular PI standard today is modular packaging, which helps moving up to small modular handling containers and on to modular transport containers. Further, the Physical Internet is also a meshed multi-party network of hyper-connected facilities that cross-dock and store goods through the supply chain, allowing continuous-flow of multimodal logistics model with a network of open hubs on one side and of open distribution and fulfillment centers on the other side.

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