Get inside the mind of the carriers

"Transportation is not a commodity --it's a service," stresses Steve Huntley, director of logistics operations at Tyco Healthcare/ Mallinckrodt (www.tycohealthcare.com). "Without transportation there is no supply chain." Speaking at a recent supply chain conference, Huntley pointed out that at Tyco, best practices in transportation start at the grassroots level — developing a partnership with the carriers.

"There's a difference between a relationship and a partnership," Huntley points out. "A relationship simply means you know somebody. With a partnership, however, you understand what their needs are, and you know what you can do to help them." That takes not only knowing your operations inside and out, but understanding the carrier's operations as well.

Carriers are always going to ask for rate increases — that's just the way the supply chain cycle works. However, Huntley suggests that you find out why the carriers are asking for more because there's a good chance you might avoid the increase if you can change your operations to make the rate hike unnecessary (for instance, by making your loading dock more efficient, you might be able to avoid unloading charges).

Constantly ask both internally and externally, "What can we do to make this partnership work better?" Huntley urges. Share ideas as well as operational challenges with the carriers. Above all, communicate.

In that spirit, this month LOGISTICS TODAY profiles the motor carrier industry, and offers the exclusive Solution Selector guide to choosing the best carrier for your needs.

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