GOOD QUESTION: What’s one supply chain misnomer? What would be a better term?

GOOD QUESTION: What’s one supply chain misnomer? What would be a better term?

“Driver shortage” could be missing the mark. “Supply chain” might be overly simplistic. “E-commerce” a bit dated. Industry insiders and readers point out one supply chain misnomer and come up with a more accurate term.

Don’t Call It “Driver Shortage.”

The problem is not a lack of drivers. The problem is drivers do not want to stay. What would be a better term? Driver retention.

Solution: Redesign the job. Create a job that a driver wants to keep. This means re-thinking the position and creating a job that is substantially different from the other x million open driving jobs. But no, I will be hearing weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth about the “driver shortage” for the next several years, all while offering the same basic job that has not changed in the past 50+ years.

–Terry Clear

While the number of drivers is shrinking, there are ways to attract enough for your fleet. A better phrase would be the quality job deficit. By offering fair pay, work-life balance, and transparent communication, companies can fill their trucks with qualified drivers.

–Adam Putzer
Director of Sales for Permanent
Transportation Logistics Services
CPC Logistics

Let’s Rethink “Supply Chain”

Misconception: A supply chain is just the portion of a company’s logistical network from its immediate suppliers to its factory door. It’s the entire network from a company’s lowest-tier suppliers through its factories, distribution network, all the way to its customers. A better term is supply chain ecosystem.

–Dave DeFreitas

The chain analogy implies logistics is a linear process, but this is not the case as supply chains have various points of interaction. It would be fitting if companies only sourced material from one supplier and sold products to one buyer. A more appropriate term would be supply network.

–Brian Kava

This business is more than drivers and dock workers; each load has countless stakeholders. Shippers, carriers, technology and data teams, third-party service providers—the list goes on and on. Inventory optimization and transportation might more effectively encompass today’s massive supply chain ecosystem.

–Blair Blake
VP Carrier Strategy
Arrive Logistics

I’d rather call it a supply web.

–Dale Young
Vice President
Warehousing & Distribution
World Distribution Services LLC

It’s more so a supply network that is built and sustained by the networking capabilities of logistics experts and driven by supply and demand.

–LeeAnne Howe
HR Manager
TA Services

In many cases, “supply chain” is overly simplistic compared to the reality of the way the products get to the consumer and the way that reverse logistics is played out whether through returns, or other full product lifecycle management requirements. Value chain network is a broader term that can include many of the variations that add value to the consumer and producer’s overall experience.

–Mark Wheeler
Supply Chain Solutions
Zebra Technologies

Supply chain automation

Some people hear “automation” and think people are being made obsolete. But when we add automation, we also create new roles for workers to support and drive implementation. Automation does not replace human talent; it gives organizations an opportunity to develop workers’ skills and accelerate their success. Maybe we should call it supply chain augmentation. The supply chain is becoming more automated, but it’s augmented with talented workers who keep it moving.

–Jonathan Parks
SVP of Supply Chain
iGPS Logistics

Last mile

It can mean so many different things. The last mile can be delivery to a house, a store, a construction site, etc. Using more specific language like residential delivery based on the type of delivery is much more clarifying.

–Daniel Sokolovsky
CEO and Co-Founder

Supply chain optimization

This is a common misnomer as optimization is about doing the best with what you have, but you must also focus on improving what you have so it aligns better with corporate objectives. Instead, the phrase dynamic alignment is an approach that accounts for holistic supply chain management.

–Troy Prothero
Product Management Supply Chain Solutions
SymphonyAI Retail CPG

Digital freight forwarders

They have exploded in popularity for good reason. Digitizing processes to provide better, faster, leaner ways for customers to interact with their freight forwarder is here to stay. However, technology will never entirely replace the human element, and for that reason, I prefer the term digitized freight forwarder.

–Martyn Verhaegen
CTO Digital Forwarding

API replacing EDI

APIs are a type of EDI, not a replacement for EDI. APIs are electronic data interchange between browser interfaces and/or separate servers. APIs are wonderful and versatile and can complement or replace older, more traditional system-to-system data exchange such as FTP.

–Bryn Heimbeck
Trade Tech Inc.

Return to Normal

The concept of waiting for supply chain conditions to return to normal. By nature, supply chains are complex and depend on so many different variables that disruption and ultimately chaos are the normal conditions. A simple, stable, and predictable network are the actual outliers.

–Mike Williams
Exec VP
Commercial & Logistics
ContainerPort Group

Digital transformation

“Transformation” implies one and done. Becoming a digital-centric business is an ongoing process and is less about technology and more about how people leverage technology and data to optimize employee and customer experiences. A better term is digital journey.

–Kristi Montgomery
VP of Innovation
Research & Development
Kenco Group

Free shipping

This term is used to overcome purchasing barriers. It creates the illusion of savings or cost aversion while promoting additional spending if there is a minimum spend threshold. It’s more persuasive than saying “Shipping is included somewhere in this purchase.”

–Micheal McDonagh
President, Parcel
AFS Logistics

Just-in-time = no inventory

JIT is often misunderstood to mean having no inventory on hand. In reality, JIT refers to having the right amount of inventory at the right time. In recent years, however, the concept has shifted toward just-in-case inventory due to supply chain disruptions.

–Perry Falk
EVP, Carrier Operations
Nolan Transportation Group


The term supplier because it suggests a purely transactional relationship with the buyer. To become more resilient, organizations need to see their suppliers as partners, as the boundary between companies and their supply chains has become increasingly porous.

–Tony Pelli
Practice Director
Security and Resilience


This is dated—coined when buying something on the internet was a novel idea, but today, we just call that commerce. When we think about customers in a connected commerce system, meeting them where they want to be met, we can implement a digitally connected supply chain to support the way customers shop.

–Steve Denton

Supply chain transformation

It tempts supply chain leaders into thinking transformation can be achieved with specific and finite investments. Leaders must regard transformation as a series of strategic improvements. A better term is supply chain business evolution.

–Geoff Coltman
Vice President
Catena Solutions

Between LTL OR TL

There’s a gap between less-than-truckload and truckload. I call it small truckload or STL. STL uses sprinter and cargo vans to deliver shipments faster than LTL at a cost less than using TL. As a bonus, since it utilizes more fuel-efficient vehicles, STL is also a more sustainable option.

–Alex Winston
Expedite All

Supply chain disruption

Supply chain complications flow throughout the network and process. Every step from sourcing, production, distribution, and consumption involves multiple entities using multiple diverse systems and processes needing to integrate seamless and timely activities in order to execute a smooth supply chain process. Add the human elements involved at every level, complexity grows exponentially. We refer to this as consistent corrective process management (CCPM).

–Stephen D. McAreavy
Vice President of Risk
Strategy & Solution
GTI USA Holdings, Inc.