December 7 2023 | 8 Min Read

Situation Files #9: The first 90 days

Posted By
Wendy Mackenzie
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Situation Files #9: The first 90 days

How we helped a client get their supply chain from struggling to thriving in 3 months

Nine situation files deep, we’ve come to realize that “situations” come in all shapes and sizes. Some situations play out over weeks or even months. Others flash up on our radar and get resolved within the space of a single phone call or flurry of emails.

Up until now, we’ve honed in on the fast-moving situations: Thing X happened on Monday, Response Y happened on Tuesday, Excellent Outcome Z happened on Wednesday. Open and shut kind of stuff.

So, how about we mix things up? 

This time around, we’re going to slow the clock down considerably and look at a client’s first three months of working with IL2000. In particular, we’re going to keep the focus tightly framed around the company’s business intelligence and describe the kinds of supply chain decisions they struggled with on day one compared to those they could confidently make by day ninety.

The upshot

  • Decision-making elevates from reactive to proactive
  • Customized tools shift focus from busy work to outcomes
  • Supply chain data sharpens from generalized to granular

The sitch

This client had their own unique supply chain challenges — just like all our customers — but when we got right down to it, they were dealing with a handful of classic challenges we see time and again.

First up, the client had been disappointed by other logistics providers in the past.

These providers had promised a wide range of efficiency gains, but none of these promised rewards had materialized. The biggest problem was the lackluster tools that previous third-party logistics providers had offered. These were generic at best … and it seemed like every potential pathway forward placed more demands on the company to change what they already had.

But the company’s challenges ran deeper than software. Every supply chain choice they made seemed to be bogged down either by the weight of past decisions or the urgent demands of an emerging crisis. Everything seemed to be about isolated tasks. And while none of these myriad tasks were illogical of themselves, they failed to add up to a clear sense of guiding strategy.

Finally, while the company had business intelligence, it was all confoundingly generalized. Sure, they could extrapolate from their data that on-time deliveries hovered at around 55%, but what did that mean? And what was the most direct path to fixing it?

This was our client’s unenviable supply chain situation when they came to IL2000 for help.

What was going wrong

  • Process-oriented supply chain management: They were bogged down in inefficient processes. It was all “more stuff to do,” and none of it was customized to streamline their approach.
  • Reactive decision-making: When the freight team wasn’t struggling with generic tools that didn’t quite work, they were busy pushing shipments out the warehouse door. Everything was about damage control.
  • Too many data points, not enough insight: At best, the company had a broad-brushed understanding of what was working and what wasn’t. Their reports were generic, and their data conflated many dimensions of supply chain management into a handful of largely useless indicators.

The solve

The solve in this case didn’t happen between 2 and 4 p.m. one Thursday. The situation had been a long time growing and the solve wasn’t instant either. We were looking at a methodical and steady process of video conferences, face-to-face training, email threads, and phone conversations where every moving part of their supply chain would be scrutinized, discussed, and refined.

One of the key early points in this solution happened when we equipped their team with our analytical platform, Power BI. At first, our client was skeptical — and with good reason! Remember that marginally useful solutions had been foisted on them in the past. That skepticism evaporated swiftly, however, when we led with a small but important question: How do you manage your supply chain?

Right from the start, our goal was to customize a solution to their specific needs. Within a few weeks, they’d fully migrated across to a system that could instantly generate reports they’d had to manually create in the past. Laborious number crunching and process-driven supply chain management gave way to a greater emphasis on decision-making and how to build a path to more strategic outcomes.

We eased that transition, too, with seasoned experts who quickly learned how their operation worked and who were available at the drop of a hat to weigh on critical deliberations.

That strong foundation solidified further when we began to introduce excessive cost reporting. Our client had always known that they sometimes used more expensive carriers, but they couldn’t quantify the scope of the problem, let alone identify underlying patterns in carrier selection. This report fixed that by putting a firm dollar figure on excess spending. Moreover, they could see where their costs originated, why they were choosing more expensive carriers, and better coordinate smart decisions across their whole shipping team.

Improved on-time performance reporting was another crucial turning point. The company had been struggling with on-time deliveries. They knew their on-time performance was a big problem. The numbers they’d been crunching prior to working with IL2000 were discouraging, to say the least. On-time delivery performance was 55%, but they didn’t know why the figure was so low.

Worse, that low a result felt “wrong.” Somehow, something wasn’t adding up.

We dug into that data and saw that they weren’t capturing the whole picture. We showed them that they’d been categorizing some shipments as delayed that weren’t delayed at all. Crucially, we also helped our client disaggregate late deliveries into far more granular subsets. Suddenly, the problem wasn’t quite so mystifying, and we were able to work with them to tackle the challenge more systematically.

A few weeks was all it took to get their on-time delivery performance up to 91%.

And today, if a shipment does diverge from the plan, they can use their enhanced reporting tools to know why things are going wrong, right down to shipping lanes and specific products.

What went right?

  • Outcome-oriented supply chain management: We streamlined reporting and analysis, shifting supply chain focus from routine processes to outcomes.
  • Proactive decision-making: Our client was now equipped to quantify the impact of choosing one carrier over another, and this paved the way for a more forward-thinking approach to carrier selection.
  • Granularity: We gave our client more granular data and more accurate ways to analyze their performance. They could now focus their efforts where it’d count.

The take home

I guess the take-home here is that IL2000 isn't in the business of throwing short-term fixes at you.

Our tools offer more than the black box, generic software you're used to dealing with. Our advice is real guidance built on years of experience and it’s actually worth listening to. It runs far deeper than the disconnected chunks of time-boxed advice a prototypical consultant might offer before disappearing over the horizon never to be seen again.  

Think of us as your supply chain partner.

We’ll work with you to find real and lasting solutions.

Want to begin? A real conversation starts here.  

Topics: Logistics Management, Pricing, On-Time Delivery

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