Think Change is Hard? Try Unlearning Supply Chain Management

There were many sessions at the TMSA conference in June that made an impression on me, but the one on Unlearning Supply Chain Management by Adrian Gonzalez of, did that and more.

It was a bit of a mind bender. Did you ever see the episode of West Wing entitled “Cartographers for Social Equality” where the group of cartographers (i.e. map-makers) remove the “European bias” of the world map and propose a more “correct” depiction of earth?  

Well, it looked like this:

You can view the clip here: 

In a similar fashion, Gonzalez’s earth-shattering presentation asked viewers to turn their perceptions on their head and unlearn supply chain management as they know it and reframe in three main ways: 

The first thing to unlearn: Gonzalez proposes it’s time to stop thinking in terms of rigid supply chains and start thinking in terms of “network effects” where network providers leverage a network environment to aggregate data and collaborate more effectively. It’s all about making connections easier. 

He provided this example of the benefits of network effects in a great post on the topic, “For UPS, ‘networked for growth’ involves migrating its existing networks (Small Package, Freight, Logistics, Forwarding, and Technology) toward a single interoperable network, which would enable the company to provide more integrated and enhanced customer solutions and drive greater process efficiencies and innovation powered by analytics.

The second thing to unlearn: Stop thinking of logistics as a cost center. Today’s leaders are focusing on the customer experience (CX), and logistics and transportation provide a way for companies to excel in the last mile and time definite categories. Customers value fast and reliable delivery. They judge brands by it and base their purchase decision on it—so it directly impacts your profitability. 

Another biggie to unlearn: They’re not vendors, they’re partners. As 3rdparties wear the face of the brands they’re delivering in the last mile and in warranty service, they must align objectives and cultures with the brands they represent. Customers see the entire experience from purchase to delivery and beyond as one thing—and every aspect of that experience, good or bad, reflects on your brand. Gonzales said that companies that appreciate this interconnectedness are training their partners on their policies and brand values. Some go so far as creating shared vision statements reflecting a fusion of both companies’ objectives and operations.

Gonzales gave all in attendance a lot to think about. And unlearning supply chain certainly won’t happen overnight. Changing perspectives is hard. Hey, even Adrian Gonzales admitted he’s having trouble eradicating “supply chain” from his vocabulary in favor of “network effects.” Nevertheless, change is coming (or here depending on your perspective). Better to get your mind bended sooner rather than later, right?

Conrad Winter is a freelance copywriter specializing in content and copywriting for transportation and logistics. Based in Metuchen, NJ, he creates website copy, campaigns, blog posts, whitepapers and case studies for carriers, 3PLs and industry associations. 

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