Every so often, we nudge the team at IL2000 to answer a weird and open-ended question. What would logistics look like on Mars was one such brain bender. You might wonder why we inflict such vague and open-ended questions on busy people with important logistics stuff to do.
Well, we won’t lie. For one thing, it’s just fun.
Toss a “penny for your thoughts” question someone’s way, and you never know what nuggets of wisdom come flipping back. But questions like these are also surprisingly useful when you ask the right people. At IL2000, odd little questions (OLQs) have proven their worth as a powerful way to shed revealing light on some weighty logistics topics. After all, our team is a diverse collection of experts! LTL, freight audit, international shipping, accounting, business intelligence, you name it – the IL2000 menagerie of logistics management mavens can offer surprising insights into how logistics really works.
This week, we asked what might be our most obtuse and deceptively simple question yet:
What's been going through your head lately about supply chain management?
Here are some of the answers we got back.
Brooks Wise (VP of Sales) cogitates on the constants.
Brooks: “I was reminded this week that variation is a constant in our industry. No two shipments are alike. I think one of our strengths at IL2000 is that we actively expect everyone's needs and expectations to be different. What constitutes urgency for one person may be totally different for someone else. A mild inconvenience for one company can be a huge problem for another. Staying focused on what makes a company’s supply chain unique is a big part of what we do here.”
Q: What does that look like in operational practice?
Brooks: “It could mean many things: Dealing with carrier delays, handling billing disputes, resolving some complicated facet of international shipping to name just three. We deal with the trickiness, so our customer doesn’t have to.”
Victoria Pacitto, Freight Auditor, ponders product availability
Victoria: “Before working for IL2000 I didn't think much about supply chain management. These days I’m struck by how important supply chains are to daily living. When you need something you just go to the store and buy it. It’s easy to forget that getting that product on the shelf for consumers is not always easy or straightforward.”
Q: Agreed! Do you think a deeper awareness of supply chains will change how our society consumes stuff? And if you do think it'll change society, then what kinds of changes will we see?
Victoria: “If society understood supply chain management at a deeper level I believe people would have a different outlook on all the products they use. They’d realize why costs fluctuate. When gas prices are up so are the cost of goods. When the economy is good, the cost of goods seems to level off. If more people knew how the supply chain works – and what it takes to get the goods to the consumer – they may view products in a different light.”
Cody Duvernois, Operations Account Manager, speculates about simplification
Cody: “I was thinking about complexity. The more links you have in your supply chain the easier it is to break that supply chain. Or to put it another way, the more unnecessary factors you introduce, the higher the odds of complications. A supply chain expert is someone who has become really good at simplification. They’ll navigate directly to the problem when something goes wrong, and they’ll have relationships built with every link of the chain, from shipper to consignee, so they’re well-positioned to know exactly what’s going wrong and fix it at the source. Without that knowledge or those relationships, the chain will break down, and the machine will come grinding to a halt.”
Q: I haven't heard that idea: that the more links you add, the more likely a supply chain is to fail. Does that mean IL2000 sometimes tries to help clients simplify supply chains to make them more reliable?
Cody: “Yes. We try to help reduce the number of touches that are made on freight for our clients to ensure accountability and communication are clear for them. Worst case, if they have to have a complicated number of steps to get the freight where it needs to go, we can facilitate that communication for them as a one-stop shop.”
Rachel Clark, Accounting Coordinator, ruminates on ripple effects
Rachel: “Lately I’ve been thinking about the geopolitical ripple effect of the world on supply chains — for example, the Russian-Ukraine war. This conflict has caused huge organizational turbulence impacting freight costs, shortages, and delays. That’s the geopolitical backdrop we’re dealing with. Meanwhile, at the forefront of innovation, an increasing number of companies are using AI to get more efficient with their logistics and to better adjust to the pace of change. The supply chain management field is dealing with a complex array of factors right now.”
Q: Hmm, intriguing! Do you think AI might eventually have an application for “Big Risk mitigation?” Will AI be mapping geopolitical unrest against commodity prices to tell an exporter that continued unrest in Eastern Europe will mean their production line will be missing key raw materials next year? Or is that pie in the sky?
Rachel: "I don’t have an answer to that right now, but I know these are important questions! If you’re interested in digging deeper, here’s a great place to start."
What supply chain issues have you been thinking about lately?
We’d love to know what supply chain topics you’ve been considering lately.