Costs and competitive pressures in the logistics sector are driving intensified searches for efficiency improvements across every facet of operations, says Loutjie de Jongh, managing director of Mpact Plastic Containers.
“The quest for continuous improvement among logistics and transport businesses feels a lot like in Formula 1 racing where it is a combination of many apparently small improvements that sets apart winners and losers,” says De Jongh.
Mpact Plastic Containers is a division of JSE-listed Mpact, the leading paper and plastics packaging business in South Africa.
De Jongh says that logistics firms in particular have made major strides in efficiency and productivity in the past decade. “This progress has been driven by advances in technology and business systems that improve all aspects of operations from the factory to the warehouse to the store.
“But we seem to be at a point now where most of the big gains have been made and where fine attention to detail and never-ending improvement will determine success,” says De Jongh.
He points to the World Bank’s 2012 Logistics Performance Index (LPI) which indicates that logistics is becoming increasingly critical from both competitiveness and sustainability perspectives.
The dependence of the South African logistics industry on road transportation means that logistics has a serious impact on the environment. South Africa is ranked 23rd for impact on the environment in the latest LPI and plans to invest in its rail infrastructure over the medium and long-term. However, the industry’s carbon footprint can be reduced in the short-term through higher load factors or fewer trips.
De Jongh believes the drive to find new efficiencies should also lead to a re-evaluation of traditional packing and pallet systems in the logistics sector. Whether moving pharmaceuticals, fresh produce or heavier material, the plastics sector has developed a number of innovations well worth considering, he says.
“One of the main benefits of these innovations is light-weighting where even a small percentage of weight improvement will have a notable impact on vehicle operating costs over time.
“Light-weighting allows more product to be transported at a time, thereby reducing the number of trips and the resultant emissions. In addition, plastic solutions have higher durability, are reusable and easier to move around than traditional wooden bins and crates,” says De Jongh.
Mpact Plastic Containers, which has operations in Atlantis and Brits, is a key supplier of Returnable Transit Packaging (RTP) to the logistics sector. This includes large injection moulded plastic jumbo bins for the agricultural market as well as other large plastic pallets, bins and containers.
Says De Jongh: “Combining these benefits with the additional advantages of improved safety in transport storage, less maintenance and traceability through RFID tags, companies can look forward to getting long-term benefits by using RTP containers over disposable packaging.”
He says the materials used and the quality in manufacturing enable plastic containers to be used in better ways. Containers are moulded from polypropylene and high density polyethylene. Mpact Plastic Containers’ award-winning nestable pallet has an additional perimeter base that can be clipped in, to provide additional strength. Its FDA-approved polyethylene outer skin is impervious to liquids and is easy to clean, making the pallet a hygienic, bacteria-free way to transport products.
De Jongh says the company’s plants produce a variety of containers to suit logistics, transport and storage needs in the agriculture, automotive, baking, food processing, manufacturing, logistics, pharmaceutical, poultry, retail and wine industries.
“Our ongoing interactions with the logistics sector have been encouraging and players have shown a desire to look beyond traditional methods in order to achieve tangible and measurable benefits for their businesses. There is a growing appreciation that many times using plastic can be the greenest solution,” he says.
Deborah Chapman | Communications Manager, Mpact
+27 (0) 11 994 5500 / +27 (0)76 650 4155 / DChapman@mpact.co.za