The Hand That Rocks Your World

The Hand That Rocks Your World

The human touch must be technology's power source if that power is to permeat your supply chain.

If you like to judge books by their covers, you may think this issue of MH&L is for gearheads. The trucks and circuitry illustrating our cover story, Managing Your Information Supply Chains, may command your attention, but don’t ignore the hand underneath them. It represents the human touch, and when you dig into that article you’ll understand why it’s there. It represents people like Dan Lyddy, vice president of information systems for Dart Transit Co.
Lyddy is hoping that by getting a better handle on freight moving through his network he can help drivers make better use of their time. It’s not just a short-term tactical issue for Lyddy. Managing that information will also help him attract better talent to operate his fleet. That’s a critical capability when driver shortages and hours of service limitations threaten a company’s ability to compete.

Investing in supply chain technology should never be considered a strategy. It can be an enabler of strategy, though. While putting the cover story together we spoke with many people who use technology as a means to improving their supply chain partnerships. I thought I’d introduce you to one of them here in my column, to set the tone. Meet Tim Lansing, vice president of operations for Hubert Products (www.hubert.com). If you’re in the foodservice or retail industries you’ve probably ordered from this supplier’s 1,000-page Source Book containing more than 30,000 products including everything from displays and food prep equipment to employee uniforms and tableware. Many of these products are breakable, so Lansing is dedicated to using technology to mine information his supply chain partners can use to make sure Hubert’s customers experience as little breakage as possible.

Lansing and his fulfillment team designed their own warehouse management system so they could mine just the right data to help carriers and suppliers serve them better—and improve their own operations at the same time. The system codes sources of damage based on customer feedback. With this information Hubert does a carrier review that itemizes damage, identifies how much of the damage was associated with a particular carrier, and breaks it down by ZIP code. This helps the carrier pinpoint potential problems in their own operations. It also helps Hubert identify problems with their own packaging and get advice from carriers to fix the packaging spec.

“This started with us asking how we could get better internally but once we had all this information we decided to share it with suppliers and carriers and hoped they’d make changes to improve their processes and eliminate errors,” Lansing told me.

According to Brett Febus, president and founder of Insource Spend Management (www.insourcesmg.com), a company that identifies savings opportunities in transportation, technology and telecom pricing agreements, finding the right contact at the carrier with whom to share such give and take is key.

“Both UPS and FedEx can be extraordinary business partners if you yourself do a better job managing the relationship,” he said. “If you are proactive in the way you handle visibility and the unexpected, it helps you take the alpha role away from them.”

That means getting beyond your carrier’s sales rep and offering their engineering staff the information they’ll need to give you the help you need. That’s the power supply chain technology can give you—not necessarily to answer questions, but to ask the right questions of the right movers and shakers.

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