The study investigates optimization strategies for balancing air and sea transportation in variable-volume supply chains in the global manufacturing industry. To do so, 4flow developed a model that utilizes real-world data to simulate the use of these two transportation modes. “We wanted to test the widespread notion that airfreight should only be used in cases of emergencies and bottlenecks. Our results show that planned airfreight can actually be the cost-optimal solution depending on demand variability,” said Dr. Stefan Wolff, CEO of 4flow.
The results of the study demonstrate that in volatile conditions, a combination of both transportation modes leads to improved savings in total transportation costs over a simple avoidance of air freight use. Of course, there are advantages and drawbacks to both options. Airfreight, while more expensive, helps to counteract the excessive inventories and spikes in demand that can result from the elevated product variation and shortened product lifecycles present in global supply chains. The 4flow research team concludes that especially in cases of high volatility, companies should view airfreight as a standard mode of transportation.
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all transportation concept that combines the two modes of transportation, as there are a wide variety of company-specific factors that need to be considered. 4flow’s research indicates that customized analysis of available demand, inventory, and product data is necessary to establish the right mix of air and sea freight for each company’s needs.