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lubricants transportation

Lubricants Transportation: Navigating Challenges, Leveraging Technology, Gaining Efficiency

Nathan McGuire
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February 5, 2024
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Lubricants Transportation: Navigating Challenges, Leveraging Technology, Gaining Efficiency
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As with other hazardous materials, transporting lubricants like motor oil is a very specialized, complex, and highly regulated service requiring particular expertise and experience. As the world is still highly reliant on fossil fuels to make things go, despite widespread EV and green initiatives, its importance cannot be overstated.

By its very nature, bulk lubricant transportation is fraught with difficulties and challenges related to storage, transfer, transportation, and delivery. Carriers handling bulk lubricants must adhere to strict federal and state licensure and regulatory requirements for their overall operations, as well as individual drivers who haul them. For this reason, the everyday sharing of transit and logistics data among shippers, carriers, and partners is even more critical than usual.

It’s surprising, therefore, that in a highly technological age, many companies still rely on email servers, manual data tabulation, and other outmoded means of communication to track and manage the movement of lubricating oils. But such is, unfortunately, the case. In this article, we’ll explore the broader lubricants market and how lubricants companies can significantly improve their logistical efficiency by leaning on technology and niche expertise.

Industry Forecast: In a Dynamic Market, Lubricant Shippers Play a Vital Role

Given regular fluctuations in petroleum production both domestically and worldwide, based on supply and demand patterns and shifting government regulations, transportation of bulk lubricants is a highly dynamic market. Shippers must, therefore, be armed with deep data analytics to ensure they have access to sufficient carrier capacity on a daily basis in this specialized transportation market

While there was a pronounced market slowdown during the pandemic era, the global lubricants market has been roaring back, even in the face of the massive public/private EV push. It’s projected to achieve a 4.5% CAGR between 2022 and 2032, reaching a valuation of $248 billion, according to new data from Future Market Insight.

Considering the vital nature of their loads, shippers and carriers play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth, efficient transportation of bulk lubricants. Each driver is required to obtain a tanker endorsement by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Overall, the industry relies heavily on accurate, real-time logistics and visibility: the exact location of each shipment, volumes in transit, arrival date and time, and other vital data.

Challenges of Oil Lubricants Shipping

As noted above, there are a number of challenges unique to the bulk shipment of lubricants. Shippers and carriers are responsible for proper storage and handling, the use of specialized equipment, regulatory compliance, and the maintenance of risk mitigation strategies.

Here are a few other factors to consider:

Deterioration and Contamination

By their very nature, lubricants and oils are prone to deterioration during storage and transportation. Deterioration can be caused by several factors, including extreme heat and cold, and contamination. Various contaminants can be introduced during storage, handling, and transportation, including water, dirt, and fabrication debris, especially with newer equipment.

Contamination is a major problem. The introduction of outside materials can change the chemical properties, affecting a product’s ability to lubricate and maintain machinery and equipment, leading to costly breakdowns.

All transfer, dispensing, storage, and tanker equipment needs to be inspected regularly to ensure proper functioning and guard against leaks and other hazards. Well-defined procedures, often using federal guidelines, are followed for the loading, transferring, and dispensing of lubricants. Also, each tanker must be dedicated to a particular product type to prevent degradation.

Lack of Visibility

The need for supply chain and logistics visibility, an issue in any business sector, becomes even more pronounced when transporting bulk lubricants. A 30-something professional in Columbus, Ohio, might be upset if UPS is a day late with her set of wine glasses for a Saturday night dinner party.

But a late delivery of lubricants can cause all kinds of issues. In manufacturing, it can adversely impact a plant’s operations, slowing or halting production, canceling orders, and running up costs. The hazardous nature of the product being transported also introduces elements of difficulty, caution, and concern on the part of the shipper, compared with most other sectors.

Without adequate real-time monitoring and tracking of shipments in transit, responding to deviations promptly and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards becomes more challenging. This increases the risk of operational disruptions, financial losses, compromised product quality, and angry customers.

Poor Transportation Software Infrastructure

Without the proper technology infrastructure, including a modern Transportation Management System (TMS), bulk lubricant shippers are severely limited in their ability to efficiently get a product where it needs to go on time.

Outdated, analog processes require a series of manual check-in calls, making it much harder to react quickly in the event of a supply chain disruption or adverse event in transit. Another issue facing most transportation managers in the sector is providers lack sufficient density within their carrier network to provide on-demand capacity sourcing.

These and other factors highlight how an inadequate digital infrastructure can impede the timely, secure delivery of bulk lubricants.

In a Challenging Environment, Bulk Lubricant Shippers Turn to Technology

Companies are realizing the importance of seeking technology solutions that will enable them to transport bulk lubricant shipments more efficiently. From predictive analytics driving smarter routing decisions to capacity planning, visibility solutions, and integration with warehouse systems, there are many ways shippers can see measurable performance results in their transportation operations.

Here are some of the ways technology is being leveraged to enhance transportation operations:

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics for oil lubrication transportation shipments enhances efficiency by forecasting maintenance needs, optimizing routes, and preventing potential issues. It reduces downtime, enhances safety, and improves overall logistics performance, ensuring timely deliveries, cost savings, and a streamlined supply chain.

Cost Management

Route optimization tools help minimize fuel consumption and reduce delivery time while improving customer satisfaction. Other ways technology helps drive cost reduction for bulk lubricant transportation include digitalization to optimize the use of logistics assets, control scheduling, and drive efficiencies that deliver greater value.

Integrated Visibility

TMS systems offer end-to-end visibility throughout the lifecycle of each bulk lubricant shipment. A TMS can be integrated with a number of other software systems, such as ERP, CRM, and WMS, to facilitate planning, scheduling, and budgeting. Customized TMS portals provide full carrier integration to track shipments, update delivery times, optimize carrying capacity, and improve sustainability

Real-time tracking and monitoring enhance overall supply chain efficiency by optimizing inventory and order management, routing and scheduling, customer communication and status updates, and carrier management.

Wicker Park Logistics: Control Tower Capabilities in Lubrication Transportation

With a wealth of experience within the energy sector, including challenges particular to bulk lubrication shipping, Wicker Park Logistics provides a range of services that help companies connect their supply chain to North American customers. Our dedicated team of logistics experts has decades of experience managing the unique operational requirements of customers dealing with the transportation of hazardous materials.

By leveraging predictive analytics, regulatory compliance, integrated communications, and real-time visibility, Wicker Park Logistics is a recognized expert in lubrication transportation, enabling seamless, efficient end-to-end operations. A leader in innovative technology solutions, we work with a vast network of specialist carriers in North America to provide you with the best trucking options to meet your specific needs and exacting standards.

Cloud-enabled transportation “control towers” transform logistics and supply chain performance, driving seamless, efficient operations. Working with Wicker Park Logistics, lubricant shippers realize the benefits of true end-to-end supply chain integration with an optimized transportation service network built and maintained by a trusted, collaborative 3PL partner.

See How a Tech-Forward Partner Can Transform Your Bulk Lubricant Shipping

From TMS-enabled visibility to enterprise integration, on-demand capacity sourcing, and a wide variety of transportation solutions tailored to the unique transportation needs of the energy sector, Wicker Park Logistics is your go-to partner for driving operational improvement. Speak to an expert today.

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