Moving Logistics Forward from the Great Bottleneck of 2021: Part 1
When is the last time you can remember logistics dominating the headlines? Rarely has this industry gotten this much press. That’s because the public is feeling what we who work with logistics have known for awhile — bottlenecks and supply chain disruptions have led to an unprecedented level of delay transporting goods from point A to point B.
Foreign suppliers have been stymied because of travel restrictions as a result of complex and confusing vaccination and testing processes. But even when the cargo arrives, ports on both coasts of the U.S. are filled to the brim with container ships, backed up like a logjam because there are no trucks available to transport those containers to where they need to go.
As anyone involved with the industry knows, logistics is the unsung hero of the American economy. The public rarely thinks about how the product they’re putting into their grocery cart made its way to the store, but they sure notice when it’s not on the shelf.
The problem has gotten so bad that it has captured the attention of the media and even the White House.
All eyes are on logistics right now
This past month, logistics and supply chain disruptions have been the lead story on the evening news night after night, with reporters stationed at ports shooting footage of the enormous backlog of containers. News articles are advising consumers on how to plan for empty shelves in their local grocery store or worse yet, the toy stores around the holidays. Remember the toilet paper shortage of 2020? It’s on the horizon again. Parents are urged to shop now for holiday gifts for their kids.
The problem has become so dire that the White House launched the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force in June, which focused on bottlenecks that are bedeviling everyone in the logistics industry. As part of that, President Biden named a “Port Envoy” specifically charged with driving coordination between private companies who run the transportation industry and the logistics supply chain.
At the UN General Assembly earlier this fall, heads of state worldwide got a letter from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warning of a global transport system collapse if governments don’t restore freedom of movement to transport workers.
The government doesn’t have to tell the logistics industry about the problems it has been facing since 2020. And typical bureaucratic red tape might suggest they’re not going to snap their fingers and fix what’s wrong immediately. So what can logistics companies do to make sure the goods they deliver will keep rolling?
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping companies navigate all types of crisis situations for more than fifty years. In this two-part blog, we’ll highlight some of the strategies we’re recommending to our clients.
Rethink foreign supply chains
Having Asia as a supply partner has long been seen as a way to cut costs. But that business model had been fraying at the edges even before the pandemic unraveled it. According to the 2022 26th Annual Third-Party Logistics Study, 83% of shippers saw supply chain disruption this year, and 68% of logistics pros believe supply chains have become too global. Looking for domestic suppliers is vital. And it’s not necessarily about the pandemic. Yes, the issue of pandemic-based restrictions and hold-ups exists now, but when this pandemic is in our collective rear-view mirror, it’s still vital to have more domestic suppliers. That’s because trade policies, diplomatic relations, tax laws, and governmental regulations can change, putting your supply chain in jeopardy.
Make operations more efficient by taking a 360-degree look
We specialize in making operations more streamlined by looking for hidden opportunities for efficiency that exist in your current processes and procedures. Will this solve the problem of your containers sitting at a port instead of being on the road? No. But making sure your internal operations are running at optimal efficiency will help balance your bottom line in the event more slowdowns occur.
Use SIOP to perfect supply levels
You’re probably familiar with sales and operations planning (S&OP), a process that involves sales forecast reports, planning for demand and supply, and other factors. It’s useful, but we think it’s incomplete. Inventory is left out of the mix. If you’ve been using S&OP, we encourage you to use sales, inventory, and operations planning, that factors in your all-important inventory. For more information on SIOP and how it can increase your operations efficiency, download our free eBook, Sales, Inventory, and Operations Planning: It’s About Time.
Ramp up your hiring
The trucking industry in particular is stretched extremely thin when it comes to drivers. All industries are experiencing a hiring crunch right now, and logistics needs to step up its hiring game to entice more people to sign on to the great jobs in transportation. That means competitive pay, solid benefits, and generous PTO.
In Part 2 of this topic, we look deeper into the Third-Party Logistics Study and go into more recommendations for moving logistics forward.