John Kresge, vice president of supply chain, was very concerned as he left the meeting at MoonChem, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals. The year-end meeting evaluated financial performance and discussed the fact that the firm was achieving only two inventory turns a year. A more careful look revealed that more than half the inventory MoonChem owned was in consignment with its customers. This was very surprising, given that only 20 percent of its customers carried consignment inventory. John was responsible for inventory as well as transportation costs. He decided to take a careful look at the management of consignment inventory and come up with an appropriate plan.
1. MoonChem Operations
MoonChem, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals, had eight manufacturing plants and 40 distribution centers. The plants manufactured the base chemicals, and the distribution centers mixed them to produce hundreds of end products that fit customer specifications. In the specialty chemicals market, MoonChem decided to differentiate itself in the Midwest region by providing consignment inventory to its customers. The company wanted to take this strategy national if it proved effective. MoonChem kept the chemicals required by each customer in the Midwest region on consignment at the customers’ sites. Customers used the chemicals as needed, and MoonChem managed replenishment to ensure availability. In most instances, consumption of chemicals by customers was stable. MoonChem owned the consignment inventories and was paid for the chemicals as they were used.
2. Distribution at MoonChem
MoonChem used Golden trucking, a full-truckload carrier, for all its shipments. Each truck had a capacity of 40,000 pounds; Golden charged a fixed rate given the origin and destination, regardless of the quantity shipped on the truck. MoonChem sent full truckloads to each customer to replenish its consignment inventory.
3. The Illinois Pilot Study
John decided to take a careful look at his distribution operations. He focused on Illinois, which was supplied from the Chicago distribution center. He broke up Illinois into a collection of zip codes that were contiguous, as shown in Figure 11-9. He restricted attention to the Peoria region, which was classified as zip code 615. A careful study of the Peoria region revealed two large customers, six medium-sized customers, and twelve small customers. The annual consumption at each type of customer was as shown in Table 11-4. Golden charged $400 for each shipment from Chicago to Peoria, and MoonChem’s policy was to send a full truckload to each customer as needed.
John checked with Golden to find out what it would take to include shipments for multiple customers on a single load. Golden informed him that it would charge $350 per truck and add $50 for each drop-off for which Golden was responsible. Thus, if Golden carried a truck that had to make one delivery, the total charge would be $400. However, if a truck had to make four deliveries, the total charge would be $550.
Each pound of chemical in consignment cost MoonChem $1, and MoonChem had a holding cost of 25 percent. John wanted to analyze a few different options for distribution available in the Peoria region to decide on the optimal distribution policy. One was to aggregate all 20 customers into each truck going to Peoria. The other was to separate the 20 customers into two groups with one large, three medium, and six small customers in each group. Each group would then be aggregated into a single truck going to Peoria. The detailed study of the Peoria region would provide the blueprint for the distribution strategy that MoonChem planned to roll out nationally.
Source: Chopra Sunil, Meindl Peter (2014), Supply Chain Management: Strategy, Planning, and Operation, Pearson; 6th edition.