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5 Problems with Your Returnable Container Management (and How to Fix It)

Returnable containers have become a lifeline to supply chains across industries and across the globe. Returnable containers save on cost, support the environment through sustainability, increase quality, and speed up processes within the supply chain. However, simply having returnable containers doesn’t guarantee these results. Knowing how to manage and use them to your advantage is crucial. Oftentimes, supply chain professionals don’t even realize the problems within their returnable container fleet. They don’t know the strategic moves they can make to get more benefits from them. Below are 5 common problems with returnable containers and what you can do to fix them:

1. You’re Losing More Containers Than You Need To

As containers move from facility to facility, they get misplaced, misdirected, lost, and damaged. Container loss, whatever the reason may be, is a big expense. Without the proper visibility, containers seem to disappear out of thin air, leaving you to ask, “where did my containers go?” Next thing you know, you are spending additional money year over year on replacing those containers. While a container management system can’t prevent the damage of containers, it allows you to see exactly how many containers are damaged versus lost. With the proper visibility tool, you have the ability to “see” where containers that appear to go missing really are – keeping both you and your suppliers accountable.

We understand how easy it is for containers to get lost and think it should be even easier to find them. Between the movement that happens at cross-docks and mis-shipments out of facilities, containers can end up in the wrong place. Our Returnable Container Management solution can tell you if one of your containers ends up at another facility out of network.

2. You Don’t Know Everything You Should About Your Containers

While some supply chain professionals don’t know how many containers they lose, others don’t know how many containers they have. Large OEMs can have hundreds of millions of dollars in returnable containers that they manage to ensure parts get to their sites free of damage. It is vitally important for them to understand where all that material is so that it doesn’t impact production negatively. Lack of visibility also means lack of data. Without the right amount of accurate data, it makes it difficult to build a business case for future improvements at your organization.

To combat the problems of lost containers and insufficient visibility, Surgere has developed a Returnable Container Management solution that provides 99.9% data accuracy. The solution also ensures your containers are moving as fast as they should or if material is sitting at a location longer than it should. We know it’s crucial to be able to know where your stuff is, and to have data that is always accurate and doesn’t mislead you. You can see exactly how many containers you have, what is in each container, and where it’s located all through one easy to use system.

We’ve worked with top scientist and suppliers to develop hardware and software unmatched by any other IoT solutions provider. RFID tags are placed on returnable containers while Surgere installs our approved sensor-based IoT technology at necessary points (such as dock doors at the plant, supplier locations, cross docks, and outside entry and exit points to track trailers, deliveries, etc.) throughout your supply chain. Together, this hardware collects highly accurate data that when fed into the software suite to produce actionable, real-time data, while still giving the client complete control of their network.

3. You’re Spending Money On Unbudgeted Costs

The cost of cardboard/corrugate increases when you don’t know where your containers are. When containers are not available, material and parts are shipped in cardboard. Cardboard, which cannot be reused, defeats the purpose of having returnable containers in your network. Cardboard can have a major impact on quality as well, increasing the risk of damage during transportation. The lack of container visibility is costing you. The price of cardboard and corrugate adds up to a large unbudgeted expense when it’s constantly replacing missing containers. In addition to unbudgeted costs, cardboard use minimizes sustainability efforts, creating issues for disposal. Safety concerns also increase for manufactures since knives must be used to open the cardboard. When you know exactly where your containers are, costs decrease, and sustainably and safety increase.

Having a system that manages your fleet and provides real-time updates allows you to better plan for production. These updates are transactional and occur with location or status changes. Our data is translated into an easy to read, where-to-work dashboard that provides you with actionable insights. You can see if there will be enough containers for the associated parts on hand for production demand and can plan accordingly. Adding on our Alerts and Notifications module makes this even easier by alerting you when inventory is low.

If you’re a supplier concerned about being able to ship your parts, alerts are useful for understanding if you need to ship in cardboard for planning purposes.

If you’re an OEM who needs to be sure supplier inventory is sufficient, alerts are useful for knowing if you’ll be receiving parts in cardboard, or in the case where a part cannot be shipped in cardboard, no part at all. With our Alerts and Notifications, you can prepare for higher transportation costs associated with cardboard and the potential quality risk due to cardboard’s lack of rigidity.

4. Your Production Line is Down Too Often

The problem with a lack of visibility of your returnable containers isn’t only as the returnable containers are traveling from location to location. Looking for a part once it’s stored in the warehouse can have a dangerous ripple effect. For example, say you only have 15 minutes to find a part or material before the production line is going to have to be shut down. With the right visibility tool, supply chain professionals can also have the ability to associate parts to containers. This way, when it gets to a location and is stored in a warehouse, it can be localized through technology to see exactly where the part is in a fraction of the time.

General asset visibility clarifies the movement in your supply chain. However, getting down to the specifics is even better. Through our efforts to improve localization, clients can find the exact coordinates of assets within a facility. We’re able to provide coordinates that are accurate within less than 3 feet. We know how important it is to minimize search time as much as possible.

5. You’re Dealing With Avoidable Transportation Issues

Your current returnable container management system could be causing shipping issues. Very often, companies find out that they need to send containers and pay expedited fees to avoid critical issues, shortage, or delays in production. Costs are inflated if cardboard needs to be used for shipping as it usually cannot be stacked, creating a space issue within the truck. These additional and expedited shipping costs create inefficiencies from a transportation standpoint. With the proper visibility tool, you’ll have your much needed answer to the question of “did they receive the right parts at the right time?” – having confidence in everything that leaves your dock door.

In the Interius Software Suite, we collect a vast amount of data, but it doesn’t stop there. All the trusted intelligence we gather provides useful action steps based on what that data shows. It’s important to us to recognize patterns, see opportunities, and let you know exactly what your next move should be. Otherwise, you just have a lot of data and still must figure out what to do with it.

Problems, such as last minute and expensive, transportation needs are prevented because of your ability to foresee the issues and act before it negatively effects your supply chain. OEMs who include suppliers in their solutions are a part of one connected community with access to see containers throughout the supply chain. With this level of visibility, your confidence that containers are being shipped and received on time skyrockets. Our where-to-work dashboards are easy-to-read, making it even simpler to achieve optimal efficiency and visibility.

Do you identify with any, or all, of these problems?

Surgere solves these issues and more with our solutions in the Interius software suite. We believe that you should be able to get the right number and type of containers, in the right place, at the right time, to keep your supply chain moving.

With Returnable Container Management, your team has the capability to “see” containers to make sure you have the correct number of containers on hand to support the variation in customer demand.

To discover unique solutions for your business, contact a container management professional or email us at

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