January 2014 | Commentary | Checking In

Year of Uncertainty?

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

2014 is shaping up as a year of uncertainty. Retail sales are off, the stock market is skittish. Healthcare, energy, and regulatory policies are in flux, and unemployment levels and consumer confidence are scary. Uncertainty reigns for many.

In the face of all this, growth is assured for some of us. The others are tasked with making our own economy in the vortex of uncertainty. The obstacles to doing that may be many, and largely out of our control. But offsetting solutions are plentiful. Here are some ways to energize your enterprise:

  • Talking is working. People buy from people, and work with people. One low-cost way to energize your operation is to get in more face time with peers, vendors, and customers. We all share some measure of uncertainty, and we are all in it together, so get closer.
  • Tear down this (digital) wall. We are all busier than we've ever been, and there are many more transactions to manage, so greater reliance on technology is one obvious solution. But, try to make time for non-digital communication with people in your value chain. Exception: the regular use of video conferencing via Skype or GoToMeeting.
  • Think. Too busy to get the five-mile-high view of your operation? Are you running in place without an updated and clear view of how and what you and your team are doing reflects your enterprise's competitive ability? Take time to think.
  • Empower your team. One surefire way to boost productivity is to empower your team to a greater extent than ever. Errors will occur, sure. But the increased energy, passion, and ideas they contribute will more than offset those rookie mistakes.
  • Hire (Vets). A deep, rich, and experienced pool of veterans is out there with the drive, experience, and leadership skills that can contribute greatly. And they need the opportunity. Make room on your team for these veterans. You won't be sorry.
  • Plan a supply chain intervention. Is a corner of your warehouse underutilized? Do you have a WMS or IT project you've been meaning to get to, but just haven't? A project or planned initiative that gets punted year after year? Plan some weekend work days with your team to specifically tackle those projects. Yes, I know, it's the weekend. But in a year of uncertainty, get 'er done.
  • Rely on vendors, carriers, and providers. Many readers already do this with great result. Your carriers and logistics solutions providers have likely already invented—or at least are aware of—the wheel spinning out of sync in your operation. Transportation and logistics services and solutions providers are practical problem-solvers. Sure, they want to sell you something. But their experience comes along free. Establish that kind of dialogue, and together you'll limit some uncertainty.

Some of these ideas may not be a fit for you, but most will agree that one way to mitigate uncertainty is to use demand-driven logistics practices in the coming year. This issue's cover story can help you do that.

Partnering with the right carrier, technology vendor, or logistics provider also acts as a force for supply chain stability, and tackles immediate transportation and logistics challenges head-on. More importantly, the right partners give you the ability and enhanced expertise to drive true enterprise change. Inbound Logistics' mission is to help you find the right fit to get that done. The Logistics Planner will work for you when and where you need it, any way you want it: in print, Web, digital, tablet, or iPad editions.

Whether or not you foresee a year of uncertainty in 2014, applying inbound logistics best practices and Inbound Logistics will help. That's a certainty.