April 2008 | Commentary | Checking In

Hanging in the Balance

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If one theme threads its way throughout this issue - from cover illustration to featured articles to the logistics solution providers we have selected for our annual Top 100 Logistics IT Providers list—it's balance.

Businesses today routinely balance on the brink between too much and too little - whether it's forecasting demand, carrying safety inventory, filling truckloads, diversifying suppliers, or countless other tightrope-quivering decisions that otherwise discriminate between foresight and hindsight.

In many ways, logistics information technologies help slacken this precarious line, giving businesses greater visibility into supply chain exceptions before they occur; and when problems do arise, greater bounce in overcoming hurdles without compromising customer service and loyalty.

Take today's economic predicament as an example. As transportation and fuel prices continue to rise, and raw material costs spike as the result of a dropping U.S. dollar, the challenge of reducing and optimizing logistics spend without impacting service and timeliness has become a supply chain circus act if ever there was one.

Fortunately, TMS providers are casting an IT support net as deep as it is wide. From building loads to auditing and reconciling freight payments, Lisa Harrington's article, TMS Under the Microscope, demonstrates how shippers are exploiting transportation management solutions to aggressively micro-manage freight expenditures and still meet their customers' ever-growing demands.

While some businesses use tactical means to tame emerging and recurring bullwhips, others invest in IT solutions that more strategically and accurately capture customer demand.

In Balancing Act: Matching Supply to Demand Merrill Douglas tracks the progress of three companies at different stages in their demand-driven transformations. From implementing a vertical-specific global distribution solution to rolling out a legacy ERP system, these enterprises are learning how to nimbly tow the line by better scaling inventory across their respective supply chains.

As logistics technology offerings continue to expand, shippers have greater flexibility and responsibility for finding IT partners and solutions that match their specific requirements.

Our 2008 IT Perspectives and Top 100 Logistics IT Providers list present a comprehensive overview of IT market and technology trends, with equal measures of exclusive market research and detailed listings of IT leaders capable of delivering value to meet end-user needs.

Finding that perfect equilibrium is by no means an easy task, especially with numerous obstacles threatening to topple even the best-prepared, well-informed, risk-averse supply chains. Still, businesses that successfully tread the fine line between too much and too little invariably leave competitors hanging by their own precarious balance sheets.

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