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Can Technology Improve Logistics?

As the 2013 calendar year comes to a close, the RTR partners want to take this opportunity to express their sincere appreciation to our readers and followers.  We understand how valuable your time is and we are grateful for your continued interest in following RTR’s progress.  We hope you have found our monthly news articles valuable and we will continue to bring you pertinent newsletters in 2014.     

This month’s newsletter focuses on logistics, a timely subject given the holiday shopping frenzy that is underway.  Today’s emphasis on ecommerce or buying it online and having it shipped to our doorstep is a cornerstone of the holiday season.  RTR Technologies, an operations research consulting firm, employs experts in logistics to support our DOD, federal, and commercial clients and so we are constantly studying the science and successes in industry as they innovate to improve logistics performance.   See this month’s Q&A with RTR Sr. Logistician Michael Beanland for insights into how his Navy customer benefits from RTR’s modeling and simulation tools, his experience, and Michael’s genuine interest in the science of logistics

As a company we marvel at Walmart, UPS, and other first adopters of technologies, like RFID and EDI that have been used so successfully for purchase ordering, invoicing, tracking inventory through their logistics pipeline, speeding up the delivery process and eliminating lost items.  At RTR we are applying logistical frameworks to the healthcare setting and for DHS Customs and Border Protection.  

Today RTR supports DHS Customs and Border Protection as they leverage RFID technology to facilitate travel across our borders, NOT at the expense of security.  The implementation of the technology will provide DHS with a more detailed view of port-of-entry activities and throughput metrics. RTR is also studying and working with local hospitals and facilities to examine how the healthcare industry can improve service and reduce cost.  The same technology used by the retail and shipping giants is now being used to track patients and their medications through the healthcare pipeline.  This clinical environment is ever-changing due to insurance, policy, patient outcome standards, readmission metrics, etc.  The fluidity of these items coupled with other hospital goals necessitates the need for tighter logistics and tracking of patients through the healthcare system.   The need to improve healthcare logistics is paramount and RTR is at the forefront of finding solutions to multi-leveled problems, which is why RTR developed MedPROC.  MedPROC is a 3D discrete event simulation model aimed to improve and analyze patient wait time, flow, equipment utilization, staffing, facility allocation, and answers “what if” scenarios that impact clinical operations. 

The science of logistics impacts our everyday lives and Baltimore is going to play a much bigger role in this landscape. A very well-known and established technology innovator, Amazon, recently announced the construction of new warehouse and logistics center to be built here in Baltimore.  An article in the Baltimore Sun by Broadwater and Wells (2013) outline this effort.  This large, local, partially automated and accessible fulfillment center, along with the other thousand or so built or considered for construction by Amazon.  These facilities will provide a logistics network, as Jeff Bezos has envisioned, that will be capable of providing same day service in the near future.  Like an Amazon or Walmart, DOD is constantly innovating to improve its logistics processes.  Our customer NAVAIR is improving logistics performance by strategically implementing the Theory of Constraints (TOC) and tactically focused Lean and Six Sigma events to increase throughput (readiness) and simultaneously decrease inventory and operating expenses.  They’ve designated a program office and named it AIRSpeed to manage the science.  Benefits realized include establishment of their version of fulfillment centers called Fleet Readiness Centers that shorten the supply pipeline speeding needed replacement parts to operators and reducing their reliance on expensive local supply.  We helped in early studies measuring the impact of AirSpeed on aircraft readiness.  We have also evaluated another program, and its application for Marine Heavy Lift Helicopter operations, named MALSP II; a Navy/Marine program designed to provide a flexible, demand-pull system that reduces forward-deployed footprints and decreases resource inventory.  In all cases the greatest improvements in logistics performance come as a result of study, innovation, and the courage and foresight to risk change.  Amazons founder Jeff Bezos epitomizes these traits.  He is a fascinating innovator and visionary who since 1994 has built an empire focused on service and value to the customer, much of it based on constantly improving logistics performance.  Recently he revealed the concept of using small unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver packages from the fulfillment center to the customer’s front steps (Rose 2013).  The concept is futuristic and he is convinced it can be implemented within 4 to 5 years. 

RTR’s motto is: We help predict the future.  We will continue to monitor Jeff’s progress and the science of logistics.  RTR wants to ensure we provide the best logistics decision support services for our customers to use today and for the future.

References

Broadwater, L., & Well, C. (2013). Amazon to build huge distribution center in Southeast Baltimore. Retrieved from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-10-22/news/bs-md-ci-amazon-warehouse-20131022_1_distribution-center-fulfillment-center-new-warehouse

Rose, C. (2013). Amazon’s Jeff Bezos looks to the future.  Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazons-jeff-bezos-looks-to-the-future/

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