January 2016 | Commentary | Checking In

The Supply Chain of the Past

Tags: 3PL, Global Logistics, Logistics, Third-Party Logistics, Supply Chain

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

The publisher talks about a coming global supply chain metastructure, citing an Adidas “speedfactory” where robots manufacture running shoes. Is this the supply chain of the future?

Maybe. But let’s take a look at an imaginary supply chain of the past

Meet Gan McManus, the hero of Strikepoint, a logistics novella we originally published in 2001. It’s a fictional tale of one man’s quest, in the face of sudden and explosive product demand for his company’s special golf shoes, to find a logistics solution and save the company from financial ruin. Read his story here.

Readers helped us decide to re-publish Strikepoint in this issue after research showed that it got more clicks and page views on the IL website than any other article in 2015.

Why is Strikepoint still so popular 15 years after its original publication? And why is it important that you read it again, or for the first time, 15 years later?

Because its original purpose has not changed over the years -- Strikepoint is a timeless celebration of your job. It shows how your company’s ability to compete, survive, and grow is driven by logistics excellence.

Sure, today you can apply modern innovations, automation, and technology to drive supply chain success. But the true underpinnings of that success are practical experience and the drive to implement some tried-and-true ideas.

In Strikepoint, Gan perseveres without the kind of technology Adidas and other shoe manufacturers use today. He syncs his Palm Pilot, sets up phone calls with his stores to find out what inventory is selling and how much, and relies on Lexus Nexus when doing research. No Google for Gan. But he has the experience and knowledge to lead his supply chain team to success.

No matter what technology or automation you use in your supply chain, people still drive the process. For one example, check out Tony Bryant’s story in Supply Chains That Rock Around the Clock. The Penske Logistics manager found himself in a seemingly impossible logistics bind, but some out-of-the-box thinking avoided additional costs and a customer service failure. No technology in the world would have thought of pressing a tow truck into service to rescue a stalled shipment.

While modern-day Gans rely on technology, and operate in an always on/never off supply chain, some solutions never go out of style. Logistics professionals—both veterans and newcomers—need a blend of technology expertise, real-world experience, and knack for innovation to manage a successful supply chain.

We can all prepare ourselves for the supply chain of the future by learning and building on the supply chain of the past.