Smarter packaging and logistics

Co founder & CEO

PSA editor Naresh Khanna asks Nishith Rastogi of Locus about a range of packaging and logistics issues, including the implications of GST. Brand owners and packaging designers need to think of the entire supply chain from idea to shelf and then to segregation of packaging waste, collection and recycling. Of course automation, software and information technologies are key to solving many of these issues.

 PSA – How can improved and intelligent logistical systems overcome the miserable roads and practices of transporters and government agencies?

Nishith Rastogi — The logistics industry in India is highly fragmented and poorly organized. Most goods and services companies rely on third party vendors to handle orders. With these third parties, visibility is limited and tracking mechanisms outdated. Oversight and lag in innovation stems from perceiving technology as an added expense, not as an enabler. Intelligent logistical systems can bring it all together in a single platform, while lending good tracking options and efficient resource utilization.

When it comes to poor road conditions, there is so much a logistics platform can do. What it can do is ensure minimal exposure to them. A system like that can account for anything obstructive, be it a pothole causing a traffic jam or poor visibility in the area, and provide better routes for the driver to cover. This is cost effective and leads to very low chances of accidents and related expenses. Apart from that, it can calculate precise ETAs, all constraints considered. What better way to keep your customer apprised and guarantee positive experience.

PSA – How will GST help the situation or how will it not help or complicate the situation.

GST can make India a single market where goods and services could flow freely. Since cost has traditionally been detrimental to the Indian logistics sector, the removal of cascaded taxes and reduction in toll charges is a move in the right direction. Usually, toll gates scrutinize material, and then levy location-based taxes on these trucks, resulting in delays in delivery, besides causing environmental pollution as trucks queue up for clearance.

It is also an incentive for companies to either set up their own logistics wing or tie up with domain experts. The anti-profiteering clause, which regulates GST adherence, is sure to keep the unorganized companies in check. Also, warehousing will now be driven by demand as opposed to tax considerations. The extent of the impact remains to be seen, but the trend points towards improved customer experience and logistical efficiency.

PSA – What are the range of track and trace solutions that are already being used in India and what do you suggest should be the next steps?

Track and trace solutions range from asset tracking to vehicle tracking. Fleet tracking solutions include GPS devices which are either permanently mounted on a vehicle or could be clipped on. Many vehicle manufacturers also provide their own telematics solutions on top of it. There are a few Android and iOS apps that double up as tracking solutions. What can be built on top of this is the intelligence, for example, capturing geo-locations, time-stamps, why a particular route was chosen, associated delivery detail, proof of delivery, insights on delivery patterns, serviceability, ensuring a better communication channel between fleet and management in real-time. This intelligence can be a game changer.

 PSA – I can understand that product design and packaging design should first of all take into account the eventual logistics required to get the product to the market. How can your software or expertise help in doing this?

Locus can help fit more products into each shipment, container, and truck and thereby save money on transportation. The more space you save, the more money you save later on, the easier your employees can maintain inventory and gain access to those packaged products. It can also ensure that your packaging can withstand the stress of transportation without breakage or leakage, which can cost you time and money as well as redundant processes to replace the lost or damaged goods. A 3D packing engine like Locus’ Packman takes into consideration stacking and orientation constraints; fragility of the products; degree [orientation and rotation]; packing arrangements like Last-in First-Out (LIFO); and overall, this saves time as well as cost during packaging.

PSA – How can your software help in recovery of packaging and recycling?

Consumers are the foremost and decisive link in a reverse logistics chain that aims to recycle household packaging residues. The toughest part is the basic service, which, in this case, means easy access to specific disposal recipients for recyclable materials. An important priority is defining locations of the drop-off points, in terms of easier and more convenient population access. Reverse logistics systems with centralized disposal facilities are inconvenient because consumers must transport and deposit recyclable materials at drop-off points. Door-to-door collection may increase convenience but it also increases collection costs and ultimately the overall cost of the system. This is where Locus can bring in its expertise, to reduce fuel costs while covering all drop-off points in one go. Customer-centric options almost always tend to result in compromising costs, but we can bring them down with optimized routing, smarter allocation, and maximum coverage.