April 2002 | Commentary | Checking In

Logistics IT: Opening the Flood Gates

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Eight years ago, Barbara Barnhill, transportation supervisor for Elizabeth Arden, excitedly shared her story with Inbound Logistics. She had started a revolutionary program that was racking up annual million-dollar savings by taking control of her inbound transportation. She did it using the latest technology—a fax machine. Today, fax machines have given way to web and wireless, but the value of controlling the inbound flow of materials has, if anything, become more important.

Logistics transport professionals have used IT to attack the low hanging fruit of managing their outbound flow. Now, many more tell us they are poised to attack the complex challenge of managing their inbound flow.

Except for IL readers, the initiative to use IT to manage inbound logistics had been slow in coming. Why risk messing up your supply chain? Let's face it, if you experiment with new processes, and a glitch occurs, it's your head on the chopping block. For some, 'leave well enough alone' was the way to go.

IL readers have been working the inbound flow for a long time. But reports from carriers, logistics IT providers and readers alike indicate the flood gates will soon open, and more will follow. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Logistics IT functions are sophisticated, but the Internet makes them easy to use, creating a comfort zone that makes the complexities of controlling inbound seem more doable.
  2. There's a rising reservoir of willingness to collaborate to solve logistics challenges, given a familiarity with sharing business logistics information on the web and collaboration between internal and external partners.
  3. The recent disruption in product flow due to Sept. 11 showed corporate and functional managers alike the importance of managing the inbound flow to minimize disruption in the future.
  4. An established track record and successful experiences with third-party logistics providers give business logistics managers a view into the productivity they can achieve when matching supply more closely to demand.
  5. Inexpensive logistics IT modules and programs reduce the investment in dollars and maintenance, minimize training time, and deliver faster hard ROI. The lower costs encourage more exploration into solving complex challenges such as managing the inbound flow.

More than ever, we now have the desire, the tools, the vision, and the experience to collaborate and manage inbound. We have established relationships with many vendors. We have experience with successfully applying logistics IT for supply chain management. The rewards have been great, but, admittedly, so have the risks.

One way to equalize the risk/benefit ratio of managing your inbound flow is to choose your logistics IT providers wisely. Go ahead and catch the next wave of productivity—speed inbound product flow, turn inventory faster, match demand to supply, serve customers better. Check out our annual Top 100 Logistics IT Providers (April 2002) for a guide to partners who can help you get the job done.

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