Innovation in Logistics, Part 3: Getting Creative

In this post, we’ll introduce you to an approach intended to improve the creativity of your team.

LWL024 Innovation in Logistics Process CREATIVITY

Before we explore the various “creativity” methodologies, it is important to know what you want to get creative about!

You need to have goals and objectives, otherwise you are like the proverbial ship without a sail… covering a lot of ground, but really floating aimlessly and never accomplishing anything.

In my experience, those goals and objectives come down to a few key deliverables by management (yours may be different, so feel free to adjust for your own situation):

  1. Reduce freight spend
  2. Reduce packaging spend
  3. Improve logistics-related processes

Sounds simple enough, but after we have exhausted the low-hanging fruit, we need to start getting very creative in order to find more sources of sustainable savings and improvement ideas.

There are a myriad of tools and methodologies to support creativity in various fields and setting. Here is a short list of some of the more popular:

  • Brainstorming (by Alex F. Osborn) and Brainwriting
  • Think Outside the Box
  • Inside the Box
  • TRIZ (theory which are derived from tools such as ARIZ or TRIZ Contradiction matrix)
  • The Osborn-Parnes model of Creative Problem Solving
  • Lateral Thinking Process by Edward de Bono
  • Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
  • Method Herrmann – Right Brain / Left Brain
  • Tools for Ideas by Professor Christian Gänshirt
  • Business War Games (for the resolution of competitive problems)
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking
  • Thought Experiment
  • Five Ws
  • Coaching

After years of facilitating cost-savings and process improvement workshops, we developed a methodology, specific to the field of logistics that has helped boost creativity and the number of suggestions we’ve received from our team.

We call it an idea ignitor.

This specific one was created with the logistics professional in mind and it provides a framework for anyone involved in the movement of goods from point A to B to focus on one topic of transportation and identify a specific area that can be improved.

LWL024 Innovation in Logistics IDEA IGNITOR

One needs to start from the left of the chart at the basic unit to be transported, the box, which we call the Primary Pack.

The employee needs to ask themselves some questions about the primary pack and with each question, they need to think whether the current state can be changed or optimized to improve it.

  • Are the parts in the box loaded to maximum density (nested, bulk pack)?
  • Would an alternate dunnage design or material improve the density?
  • Check actual weight vs. dimensional weight for parcel and air shipments; unless these are overly bulky items, the actual weight should be more than dimensional. If not, work to redesign.
  • Can the primary pack (box) be re-used for finished goods or other purpose?

Then move on to the pallet upon which you have many primary packs.

  • Do the primary packs fit perfectly to the pallet footprint?
  • Are the pallets stackable?

Now, think about the Truck or Ocean Container that those pallets travel in and ask more questions:

  • Is the pallet footprint optimized to the truck or ocean container?
  • Is pallet height optimized to truck or container (at least 45 inches to allow double stacking)?
  • Are we using the most cost-efficient mode (TL, FTL, air, ocean, UPS Ground, buyer’s consol, etc.)?

Keep moving upwards to a higher level…now at the 30,000 foot level, the Optimized Network. Here are some questions the team needs to look at with data:

  • Have we established the proper frequency for our deliveries (1xweek, 2xmonth)?
  • Is the network optimized (use of consol, milkrun, direct)?
  • Does our rate structure favor certain types of freight (light, heavy, etc.)?

Finally, the 5th step is Collaboration. This is perhaps left for mid-to upper management, but the questions we should be asking include:

  • Do we have a mutually beneficial relationship with our logistics service providers?
  • Are we able to collaborate with other relevant shippers?
  • Are we working together with our supply base & customers for opportunities?

We instruct the team to keep in mind those suppliers with the highest transportation spend. This will ensure that the ideas and improvements they create have an optimal impact on savings.

In addition to the idea ignitor, in the weeks prior to the workshop, we would send single e-mails to the participants with messages intended to make them think about a focused topic for the day. The hope is that the attendees would review our message and work on a small task for that day.

For instance, we would show them what to look in current packaging and how it could be improved. Here’s an example of one of those messages:

Here is another example of an improvement we’ve made at past workshops…we need to find more examples like this!
OLD:  117 pieces per box
NEW: increase to 162 pieces per box
IMPROVEMENT: 38% more pieces in the box!
That’s 2,255 less boxes per year (therefore, 71 less pallets per year).
LWL024 Innovation in Logistics BEFORE AFTER
Write down your ideas to share with us next week.

You can start by making a note of the following:
1). Supplier Name:
2). Part Number:
3). Current Pieces per Box:
4). NEW Pieces per Box:
5). Yearly Volume of this Part Number

We complete the process with a hands-on workshop at our facilities.

We use this multi-phased approach to help our team connect the dots; to be able to “see” and “discover” something they hadn’t seen before, hadn’t thought about before.

Combining the complete “Self” (knowledgeable, full of experiences and overly curious) with the proper framework for “Creativity” (like the idea ignitor) can led to a valuable insight…an “ah-ha” moment…something new, creative and innovative.

In the “Idea Driven Blog” ( article titled “How to Get Your Managers and Leadership Team on Board,” Alan G. Robinson warns:

Ideas are voluntary.

He continues to say that “a poor manager, who is not inspiring and is not driving improvement, won’t get a lot of ideas from his or her people. But if a manager is motivating his/her people well and inspiring them to new heights, they will get a lot of ideas from their

We need to use the tools available to us, as managers, to inspire our team to be more creative.

In our next article, we’ll look at what an innovation really is and the phase after your great idea!

Let’s keep moving forward!

Click the following link for a PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION of this article: LWL024 Innovation in Logistics Part 3 Getting Creative

Inspirational Sources and Quotes for this article:
“The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas” by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder
“Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results” by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg
*The Idea Driven Blog (, article “How to Get Your Managers and Leadership Team on Board” by Alan G. Robinson from 31 Jul 2014.

About Lenny

Many years of experience in a Fortune 1000 companies, especially in the logistics and I.T. areas of manufacturing companies. Through process improvements and the use of many of the tools mentioned here, I have been able to identify and implement savings opportunities worth up to $10 million. I hope that some of these real-life stories, suggestions and tools can help you!
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