Rediscovering The Classics, Volume I: Prologue

Logistics fundamentals are oft cited but more often overlooked or misread. Mastering these basics builds a foundation for supply chain sophistication. So grab your slippers, pull up a chair, and stoke the fire—get comfortable. Join us as we retire to Inbound Logistics’ library of logistics best practices and dust off some classics.

Sometimes the obvious is obscured by the ordinary. The ritual of performing daily tasks leaves little time to see routines for what they really are—a series of interactions that, in sum, produce little variation, but apart, yield worlds of difference.

Today’s businesses are no less disposed to these arcane “forest for the trees” realities. Supply chains are inherently in flux, but logistics functions are equally fixed. While consumer and order fulfillment variability waxes and wanes, trucks need to be filled. Warehouse staffing is temporary, but forklifts are forever. Supply chain partners come and go, but core carrier partnerships are always in vogue.

Companies are challenged to see the extended enterprise for all its individual parts. Circumscription helps realize functional synergies and drive visibility, but often at the expense of reducing focus on core logistics operations.

With so much consideration and capital paid to end-all technologies and end-to-end strategies that carry great expectations—and far greater frustrations—basic tenets of transportation and logistics are lost in the shuffle and scrape of supply chain routines.

As a modest proposal, this year’s Logistics Planner issue revisits classic principles of transportation and logistics. Taking lessons from the past and engaging allegories of the present, Inbound Logistics serves up a sentimental education in logistics best practices that embraces functionalist and revisionist approaches alike.

Given current difficulties, supply chains are ripe for introspection. Executing on strategy alone to reduce costs can be an exercise in futility. Alternatively, businesses can learn anew by seeing the supply chain through its many functional looking glasses, not in spite of them.

From transportation fundamentals to warehousing standards, and all touches between, businesses are discovering, and re-discovering, classic approaches for managing their supply chains.

Supply chain management is a modern odyssey, replete with visionary strategies, wanton technologies, and Homeric aspirations. But logistics is Aristotelian to the core, rational and calculating in rooting out problems, prescribing solutions, and efficiently matching demand to supply.

What makes these fundamentals unique is their capacity to affect immediate change at a very micro level, and catalyze sweeping and sustaining transformations elsewhere in the supply chain.

Timeless practices never lose their luster, but an occasional polish can greatly enhance their value.

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