Andel and Handling: Let Your Prescience be Your Guide

Aug. 14, 2013
Even if discovering opportunities is a solo effort, capitalizing on them must be a collaboration.

Welcome to MH&L's annual Buyers Guide issue. This is the edition that combines the MAKE, STORE, MOVE and COMPETE features you expect every month with the resources to help you take action on the knowledge you've built. The action you take is a good reflection of your corporate culture.

Have you done an organizational assessment lately? Every logistics professional should look in the mirror their supply chain represents to do some critical analysis of their actions. There are partners up and down its length who will give you valuable feedback if you ask for it.

MH&L's staff relies on its Editorial Advisory Board to serve that very purpose. They give us a reality check, not only on our own performance, but on that of our audience. The Board members' roles as educators, consultants, researchers and practitioners enable both wide-angle and a microscopic visibility. I'll give you an example, through the lens of Shekar Natarajan, one of our board members. He has not only spent the last few years as the North American senior director of supply chain planning for Anheuser Busch, but he's worked with his colleague, Ron Hammond, to analyze supply chain best practices beyond the scope of their own enterprises. Hammond is global supply chain vice president at GOJO Industries Inc. (makers of hygiene products like Purell). 

Based on their research, they devised a "supply chain maturity" model that identifies a range of corporate behaviors. They start with "myopic," and run the gamut through sluggish, aware, anticipative and prescient. For the purposes of this welcome to MH&L's Buyers Guide, let's look at how each of these types of supply chain characters might use this kind of research tool, judging by their "material handling sophistication."

Using that metric, the myopic only purchases material handling technology on an as-needed basis, paying no heed to what goes on elsewhere in their company's enterprise. That leads to a lack of standardization and poor integration opportunities later on. The "sluggish" rely on central purchasing to acquire material handling technology that's job-specific, with little regard for strategy. The "aware" evaluate material handling and its environments in tandem, doing necessary customization but with the intent to reduce head count and improve efficiency. The "anticipative" focus even more on customizing material handling to work processes to minimize manual labor and product touches. 

And now, let's jump shift to the "prescient." They apply material handling technology keeping supply chain quality, service and cost in mind. They see this as a competitive advantage.

"Prescient supply chain organizations anticipate and create new realities," Shekar says. "They are global in scope by definition. Internal adaptive agility is coupled with strong trading partner relationships, allowing their organization to seize opportunities faster than their competition."

Someone with this mindset places quality, availability and design over price when evaluating technology. In other words, they do research. Our Buyers Guide is a good first step in that journey. It will give you the map you'll need to follow through. And if you're prescient, you'll involve supply chain partners inside and outside your organization along the way. But you didn't need me to tell you that.

Follow me on Twitter @TomAndel.