Build Supply Chain Efficiency with These Three Critical (and Often Overlooked) Traits
A full truckload of materials was scheduled to arrive at 6 a.m. at a Midwest manufacturer. The shipment was essential to the continuous operation of the production line. At 4 a.m., just two hours before the estimated time of arrival, the plan came to a screeching halt.
Forty miles away from the plant, the truck carrying an essential load destined for the plant broke down. The truck and its cargo were close — but not close enough.
Without this specific shipment, the production line would shut down. And a shutdown would wreak financial havoc, resulting in a whopping $1 million per hour of lost productivity. The shipper, whose longstanding reputation depended on this on-time delivery, didn’t even know about it yet.
The shipper’s third-party logistics (3PL) provider, which had booked the load, got the call and sprang into action. Upon hearing of the breakdown, the 3PL provider sought a solution to get the goods delivered.
But where would they even start? It didn’t help that supply chain woes were haunting manufacturers, materials and goods were in overall short supply, and truck capacity to transport such goods was often nonexistent. In this time of need, there was not a single available truck within 100 miles of the plant to transfer the load to and complete the delivery.
Somebody had to come up with something — and fast.
What they came up with was unique (we will tell you about it later), but problems like these come up every day. Solving them relies on solid relationships between shippers, carriers (i.e., the trucking firm in this case), the end user (the manufacturer expecting the delivery), and the broker of the load (the 3PL provider).
In an era of fragile supply chain logistics, the difference between success and failure hinges on strong relationships between these major players. But what goes into building solid relationships?
The chemistry of such relationships consists of three key elements: reliability, expertise and humanity.
When it comes to supply chain logistics, reliability isn't a best practice — it's an essential business strategy.
Customer shipments comprise many moving parts within the end-to-end supply chain. But well-laid plans often go astray. And when they do, the supply chain stakeholders must depend on reliable support.
In order to be reliable, one must know every heartbeat of the supply chain. A 3PL partner must understand the critical nature of customer shipments and be sensitive to the importance of timely delivery, all while facing delays, pauses in the supply chain and unexpected, adverse events that stand in the way (such as a trucking breaking down just 40 miles away from the plant — and at 4 a.m. no less).
In today’s global supply chain environment, adverse events occur often and take many forms. It’s not just a truck breaking down. It’s wildfires burning through the West, ice storms taking down electrical grids in Texas, hurricanes leaving impassable roads in the Gulf Coast, and, of course, an ongoing, worldwide pandemic that continues to impact operations in unpredictable ways.
Such occurrences magnify the importance of a solid and reliable network of suppliers, namely a 3PL provider that comes up with workarounds, whips up on-the-fly alternate solutions, and knows who to call when things hit the fan. Partners must be reliable in order to compete against the chaos of a transportation environment that never stops presenting challenges.
Reliability goes a long way toward building solid partnerships and relationships, but it must be supported with genuine expertise in logistics and an understanding of the transportation needs of the customer. In our increasingly tech-connected world, logistics and transportation expertise is enhanced by GPS, mapping and digital applications. The right tools bolster expertise and bring it to life.
Supply chain expertise centers on many things, but it begins with an insightful understanding of transport basics and the intermodal landscape, along with a keen awareness of who does what, how and when. This requires specific expertise.
Take truck transport as an example: It is complex. Truck capacity is strained — everywhere. Booking it when you need it, at a price you can afford, is even more of a strain.
Today’s supply chain dynamics require specific logistics expertise coupled with experience and know-how of available digital tools. Absent a mastery of logistics, it’s impossible to know how and where to find attractive rates, efficiently plan routes or help shippers build a supply chain strategy. Driver shortages, trailer shortages and booked lanes pose challenges that require out-of-the-box thinking. Solving logistics problems requires comprehensive knowledge of all the moving pieces, including intermodal transportation drayage, ocean containers, dwell times, warehousing, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and more.
A partner can be reliable and full of expertise, but they need one more thing to foster the ideal relationship: humanity. Humanity is a trait not found in supply chain textbooks or logistics courses. It is, however, arguably the most important part of a relationship between supply chain stakeholders.
Humanity can bring peace of mind and transparency to each customer, in their specific situation, wherever they may be.
A partner who is tuned in to the importance of humanity and sharply focused on treating customers with empathy, understanding and respect can elevate a supply chain strategy to new heights.
In fact, they are one of the most valuable pieces of a successful supply chain strategy.
Inserting humanity into any supply chain relationship brings transparency to shipments. It promotes innovative thinking and solutions (like handling a truck breaking down 40 miles away from the plant's loading docks), while keeping total costs down and service levels up.
Solve Problems and Achieve Goals
Reliability, expertise and humanity help solve problems and achieve goals.
Remember the shipment that went dead after the truck broke down at 4 a.m. just 40 miles from the plant?
The 3PL partner immediately notified the shipper of what was happening. The shipper then notified the manufacturer client. With no other discernible option available, the 3PL partner found a tow truck capable of towing the truck and its cargo. The tow truck was dispatched to the dead truck carrying the cargo. The goods arrived on time, as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
The manufacturer’s production line went on uninterrupted, with no loss of production. The shipper was thrilled. Problem solved. End of story.
The problem was resolved with quick thinking, solid communication and an out-of-the box solution. And that very solution required a partner the manufacturer could rely on, a healthy dose of logistical expertise and a human-centered approach.
The 3PL partner highlighted above? VP Logistics.
Looking for a 3PL partner that can assist you with navigating today’s complex supply chain environment? Give us a call at (866) 791-0372.