More often than you would think, warehouse siting decisions are made without considering the transportation part of the equation. Transportation costs usually are at least 3 times as much as warehousing costs. In some cases, transportation can be one of your largest expenses in your supply chain. Why this is the case, is beyond me, but don’t be one of those companies that finds the perfect spot for your warehouse, only to discover after-the fact, that you can’t get capacity to service it, or that the rates to haul freight into and out of it are higher than you expected, or both.
Typically, warehouse site selections hinge upon three or four basic categories:
- Availability of structures suited to your needs in the locale your entering
- Labor costs and availability in the area you are looking to locate to.
- Inventory costs such as taxes in the locale and state, think California vs Nevada here.
- So, what did you miss? Transportation. Is the location highly accessible by truckload, intermodal, and LTL modes? Can they service it daily? Will there be enough capacity available to your facility to handle your outbound shipping volumes? This is especially critical if you are a high volume FTL shipper. How far away are you from key markets you want to service, one day, two days, longer? How much does this matter, a lot or a little? From a transportation standpoint, is this going to make your life difficult? For example, in the winter, are you in a snowbelt location that could disrupt your ability to ship because carriers cannot get into your location.
Now let’s shift the key question set over to transportation costs. In transportation there are head haul and back haul markets. A good example is the northeast market. You pay a lot to run freight into the northeast because drivers don’t want to go there because its congested and hard to get around, and there are also many toll roads. On top of that, and more importantly, there aren’t as many loads going out from the northeast as there are coming into the northeast. So, if you have a location shipping to the northeast a lot, then your freight rates will be higher than if you have a location in the northeast that you are shipping out from.
Seasonal concerns are an issue. If you site in the deep south, you will have to contend with what is known as “produce season”. This is when every truck wants to go south to pick up produce going north. Rates into the deep south go way down (during this time frame) but capacity is hard (sometimes impossible) to find coming out from this area. Same holds true for “lawnmower” season in TN/Ohio market. There are examples of when seasonality works for or against you. Being cognizant of this is extremely important to your warehouse siting decisions. You could end up putting yourself in a more/less competitive position by making the right or wrong warehouse location decision.
As you can see from the above discussion, transportation cost and service levels should play a big role in your warehouse location decision. The impact of a bad decision could have a large negative impact on your ability to be competitive and to service your customer base the way that they need to be serviced.
Jim Durfee – Vice President Business Transformation
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