Intermodal shipping is loading cargo into a container and moving it from point A to point B using multiple modes of transportation (rail, road, sea, air). Once the cargo is in the container, it is not touched until it reaches its final destination. We’ve already discussed why you should be incorporating intermodal into your supply chain. Here are some ways to get the most out this transportation method:

Use flexibility to leverage the advantages of Intermodal

Intermodal is slower than road transport. However, the extra transit time can be well worth it due to lower costs. Flexibility, forecasting, and vigilance during the inventory management process can allow you to spot the best opportunities for intermodal shipping. Small adjustments to the timing and size of orders can make room for that extra day or two of transit,  leading to significant cost savings over time. The guiding principle is picking the right tool for the job. Despite its advantages, intermodal is not the best option in every situation. It is best suited for long, non-time sensitive journeys of 1,200 km or more. The second lead times increase beyond the point of cost-efficiency, switching to another method is recommended. Also, lanes should be re-evaluated every six months to ensure optimal efficiency of the shipping mix.  

Use the right software and embrace collaboration.

Transit management software (TMS), tools designed for managing carriers, modes, rates, and freight payments are invaluable to intermodal shipping. They make information easy to access and thus help shippers make the most efficient decisions and plans. Beyond technology, relationships and consultation are important. Intermediaries need to know budgets, goals, and deadlines to make the best real-time decisions and match your cargo with the best shippers. 

Pay careful attention to packaging & find the best risk management partners.

The current industry focus on small, sustainable, and light-weight packaging creates a challenge for shippers moving cargo containerized cargo over long distances. A balance must be struck between cost and protective ability. Light-weight packaging can make merchandise more prone to damage as it becomes more vulnerable to side-shifting and other in-container hazards. A number of practices can be employed to minimize the risks to intermodal cargo: load diagrams, special packaging, and bracing requirements. Also, third-party testing labs and logistics providers can be used to analyze and evaluate supply chain unloading processes, container void space, and vibration hazards. These firms can be great strategic partners in protecting your intermodal cargo from damage. By conducting full analyses of your shipments, these professionals can create hazard maps and standard operating procedures for your supply chain, helping to minimize the most likely potential in-transit damage to your shipments. 

The key things to remember with intermodal shipping are: major cost savings, longer transit times, and the importance of proper packaging. If you have any questions about intermodal shipping or just want to know, we at Skyfer Logistics are always happy to help.