How 3PL manages the pain points in the warehousing of high-risk components
In many ways, Dangerous Goods are like all other items that pass through our warehouses. Everything we handle belongs to a class of goods, each of which has its own requirements for storage, packaging, packing and despatch.
Dangerous Goods pose a risk to people, environments and stock belonging to other businesses. So, there’s a lot at stake and, if mis-managed, could have serious implications. Here’s how we manage this risk at Granby.
What are the pain points
Each of the 9 classes of Dangerous Goods has its own requirements – from flammable to non-flammable items, toxic to non-toxic, and solids to gases.
- Factors like temperature, proximity to other sensitive products, leaks, handling, packaging are critical.
- Getting the documentation, information and labelling correct is essential for the next stage of the item’s journey via carrier.
3 examples of common Dangerous Goods
Butane is highly flammable, colourless gas that can easily liquefy and vaporise. It’s toxic and can have a range of negative effects on human and animal health, from euphoria to death. It’s common – found in lighter fluid, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and also as a coolant in fridges.
Found in perfumes, beverages, antiseptics and paints. It also poses a risk to health (from nausea to eye irritation) and safety (it’s flammable). When combined with scent to make cosmetic perfume or a heavily perfumed product, there’s a further risk of contaminating other products.
Lithium and Lithium-ion batteries also require storage between certain temperatures. They must be stored and handled with care so the cells are not damaged. Certain types of battery must be kept apart, and away from flammable materials.
How can we reduce risk?
This is the first question we ask. Everything flows from this.
Holistically-speaking, as a logistics partner drawing all the threads of handling and fulfilment together, we have an obligation to our clients to consider the entire supply chain too. So, this isn’t just warehousing, However, it does begin here.
When we’re asked to take on any new SKU code, we do our due diligence and get to know it. Some items we handle are obviously Dangerous Goods – think batteries, perfumes, lighter fluid, butane, medications.
However, not everything is so clear. If your business deals in inflatable rafts, you’ll be fully aware that your products contain hazardous components. Toys that are packaged with batteries are another hidden hazard. Mobile phones. Power tools. Aerosols.
“…we have an obligation to our clients to consider the entire supply chain too.”
Once we understand an item has a risky component, we’ll consult its MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). This review informs us about the conditions for handling, storage and distribution. With aerosols, for example, we have a formula we use to work out how much we can safely store. We’ll design a workflow that takes all this into consideration, and work with our insurers to get cover signed off.
Once we take receipt of any item, the SKU gets entered into our warehouse management system along with:
- A full description
- The commodity code
- The UN number classification
- Conditions for storage
This capacity means having a great number of processes and failsafes in place, which includes training our staff.
Unlike many fulfilment companies, we don’t use recruitment agency staff. Granby is a safe and efficient environment where we pay attention to detail and quality. So, we vet, recruit and train staff ourselves, including full and part time workers to help us flex to meet rapidly shifting needs. This way, risks are reduced across the board, not just for Dangerous Goods.
Our warehouse space is large and expanding all the time and we handle thousands of items at any given time, including potentially hazardous components and Dangerous Goods including:
- Field kits
The diversity of the goods we handle demands an equally diverse range of storage types, including palletised, mixed use racked warehousing & floor standing, and an isolated, secure caged area.
This allows us to store all items, including Dangerous Goods, in the most appropriate type of storage area. They can be segregated, and we can control the volumes that are stored in close proximity. This isn’t simply an eyes-on process – we have the technology to help us manage it.
3PL handling and fulfilment simply couldn’t work efficiently without great technology at its back. With Dangerous Goods, our warehouse management system comes into its own. It’s a module that sits within SCOPe, our fulfilment system.
The warehousing module got a cracking update in 2021, adding functionality that assists carrier partners and also makes processes like reverse logistics a cinch. If you’re using spreadsheets for critical processes, please ask us for a demo. It’s a real game-changer.
When we add the SKU, we add the commodity code, UN number, storage instructions and all that other information. The codes in particular flag the item as having special requirements under Dangerous Goods legislation.
“3PL handling and fulfilment simply couldn’t work efficiently without great technology at its back.”
This information is available to everyone at Granby who’ll be working with the items, across teams, including our production teams (packaging and packing) and warehouse staff, but also finance.
Now, because we use an API to hook up all systems in the supply chain, this means everyone else who will be handling it has access to this information. Clients have full visibility of data, in real time. And carriers too.
This means carriers can check with their insurer and also brief staff on how to handle and transport the goods. When we despatch the goods into the carrier’s care, they know what paperwork and labelling they need. They also know that we know their own regulations on shipping, and that we’ve met them.
No mistakes. No delays. Efficient risk management.
Reducing human error
Technology has minimised the risk of human error when dealing with Dangerous Goods. Yet, humans input the SKU code, the other relevant codes and the information. What failsafes do we have for this?
Due diligence and collaboration across teams goes a long way to creating an environment where errors aren’t made. Doing a first class job is in our culture. We query, have two-factor checking processes, double-check again and go the extra mile. Perhaps one day this aspect of logistics will be handled by robots or even AI.
“Technology has efficiently minimised the risk of human error when dealing with Dangerous Goods.”
However, we don’t believe that the human aspects of logistics will ever be eliminated – one reason why it’s critical to have a reliable 3PL team on the job. Not every step can be replaced by automation. Take creative problem solving – an essential characteristic for the packing and packaging stages of logistics.
If you need a Dangerous Goods solution, please get in touch – we’ll be happy to give you a demo of our warehouse management system and talk over your requirements.
Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash