January 2012 | Commentary | Checking In

The Art of Integration

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

When supply chain disruptions occur, as they did last year during the Thailand floods, Japan earthquake and tsunami, and more, integration grows more important and grabs more attention. But the readers of this magazine have been practicing a higher form of integration for quite some time—demand-driven logistics.

You try new modal mixes, new technologies, blending different solutions, drawing on cross-discipline expertise, constantly tuning and tinkering with the processes and pieces you have to work with. Whether across the state or around the globe, you integrate demand signals all the way back to supply.

And that's why we put Tinkertoys on the cover of this issue. They offer a perfect metaphor for demonstrating how you constantly pull apart principles, processes, and partnerships, plugging in different pieces, and putting it all back together. It's more difficult than run-of-the-mill integration because it's done on the fly to match the transportation and logistics challenges resulting from ever-changing demand signals.

Our cover article, Supply Chain Integration: Building Innovative Solutions, presents five case studies of how shippers are advancing integration within their respective organizations and across the value chain. Each story offers practical advice from practitioners who tinker with their supply chains to help their businesses grow.

In Sold! Ports Help Close the Deal on Economic Development, Merrill Douglas examines how ports are focusing on economic development and forging closer alliances with private and public entities to expand their value proposition. The hope is to attract more logistics business. Welcome to the integrated port complex.

The fundamental value of logistics technology is to integrate functions and business processes inside the enterprise and across trading partner networks. In Behind the Buzz About Flexible Automation, Amy Roach Partridge illustrates how the explosion of e-commerce is changing the way materials handling systems integrate the demand for smaller, more frequent shipments into traditional fulfillment systems.

Deconstruct the title "supply chain manager" and you will find the essence of integration, pulling expertise from different functional areas—purchasing, transportation, logistics—to address problems and find solutions. Tamara Chapman explores the role purchasing managers play in an integrated supply chain in Minding Everyone's Business.

The anchor of this issue is the Logistics Planner, an in-depth digest of leading carriers, technology, and logistics solutions providers and other experts who help you blend the disparate parts of your supply chain into a seamless, integrated network to meet your demands.

The magazine you are holding is the product of IL staff integration: editorial (Catherine Harden, Joseph O'Reilly, Perry Trunick, and a dedicated, talented team of contributing editors—Merrill Douglas, Amy Roach Partridge, Debbie Ruriani), design and production (Michael Murphy, Mary Brennan, Shawn Kelloway), management and administration (Sonia Casiano). They draw on diverse capabilities and talents, providing you with the integrated content—print, web, digital, smartphone, tablet—you need to drive your enterprise to the next level of success.