It’s Time to Embrace Supply Chain Chaos

It’s Time to Embrace Supply Chain Chaos

As someone who has worked in supply chain and logistics management for more than one decade, I find a duality in watching all the attention cast on our corner of the economy over the past year.

On one hand, it’s nice to see society at large recognize the giant global operation behind making and delivering goods and acknowledge the millions of people and businesses who keep the supply chain moving every day.

This realization has only occurred, however, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions. A slew of unforeseen challenges has required time to address and fix, but the solutions being built will help establish a new, more effective, more resilient supply chain equipped to handle these types of hurdles in the future.

We must work toward building a more resilient supply chain, but in the meantime, we can only embrace the chaos.

Looking to Leaders

For better or worse, the spotlight shines on us. Everyone from consumers to retailers to manufacturers and beyond will look to those of us in leadership positions within supply chain and logistics to navigate our way out of this maze.

Ocean, trucking, rail, and parcel delivery is maxed out. There’s more demand for goods to be moved than there is capacity to move it. Warehousing and distribution space operates at two ends of the spectrum. They’re either full and can’t accept any more freight for staging, or there is space available and an open call for new inventory. But inventory is often stuck in transit. On top of that, consumer demand hasn’t slowed down.

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers have dealt with high rates and constrained transportation service, and little to no available capacity to keep up with demand. Trucking and ocean carriers are making up operating inefficiencies, and it’s creating surges in costs for transportation services. Providers’ costs for insurance coverage, wages, and equipment are also climbing and that’s not likely to change either.

With all the nuances and obstacles staring down the logistics sector, our ability to adapt to change has certainly been tested. Variables lurk everywhere: the state of the economy, transportation capacity, labor and employment shifts, COVID variants, extreme weather, a ship stuck for weeks in a canal on the other side of the world. There’s so much outside of our control.

So how do you gain control in an uncontrollable world? How can 3PLs and shippers steer through these variables?

If we’re in a constant state of change, that we can’t control or anticipate, we must embrace the disruptions, the delays, the challenges. By doing so, creative problem solving and collaboration come to the forefront. In turn, we develop stronger partnerships and better solutions for everyone.

Building Long-Term Partnerships

None of us are immune to today’s growing list of challenges, so the goal should be to forge relationships that help us weather this storm and ultimately become long-term partnerships into (knock on wood) less chaotic years ahead.

To build those types of relationships— with customers, carriers, employees, or industry peers—we have to commit to the vision of collaboration, transparency, and open communication. If we go back to basics and embrace those three tenets, the tumult becomes more manageable.

We don’t know what hurdles might be around the corner tomorrow, let alone in the coming months. So the more we can demonstrate a willingness to collaborate, to be transparent and to communicate effectively and often, the more successful we can be in leading our teams, our companies, and the industry as a whole.

It might not be an enjoyable ride the entire way through, but if we take it day by day and work together, we’ll be in a much better place than where we started.