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Think Small for Big Supply Chain Collaboration

Supply Chain Collaboration

We’ve all heard about the concept of collaborative shipping in the logistics world. To many shippers and logistics providers, collaboration conjures images of ambitious initiatives that take a lot of time, cost, and effort to pull off. These include continuous moves involving multiple companies, and optimization of partial truckloads across multiple shippers to squeeze efficiencies out of the supply chain in a big way.

But by thinking small, there are easier ways to collaborate that ultimately benefit the shipper in the form of lower rates. I had the opportunity to hear a few fresh collaboration ideas at the recent Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Chicago Roundtable conference. Consider these ways to “think small” about collaborative supply chain practices:

  1. Think within the box. It all starts within the organization. As a shipper, what can you offer your carriers and 3PLs? For example, at the CSCMP conference, a large shipper of paper goods mentioned their carriers appreciated simple things like making sure drivers have access to a bathroom or a lounge, even Wi-Fi access while their truck is loaded or unloaded. These things just make your freight more desirable and encourage carriers to give your freight priority and better rates.
  2. Provide longer lead times. Our research, based on careful analysis of more than one million truckload transactions, indicates that giving your carriers more lead time reduced transportation costs by decreasing routing guide substitution. For more ways to reduce transportation costs through the load tendering process, download and read this white paper: Increase Lead Time, Decrease Costs.
  3. Longer DC hours. A motor carrier at the CSCMP conference noted many shippers can’t even coordinate the timing of loading and unloading between their shipping and receiving docks at the same plant for streamlined inbound and outbound tendering. But offering longer hours and weekend unloading at your distribution centers (DCs) does make a difference. Especially for large DCs, expanding your hours or staying open more days of the week gives carriers efficiencies, sends drivers on their way, and helps avoid the pile up of freight on Monday mornings.

All of these examples show how thinking small in supply chain collaboration can ultimately make a big difference in the service and rates shippers receive. These tips support the principles of continuous improvement—often referred to as Kaizen—and illustrate how small, incremental changes over time contribute to steady, long-term gains in supply chain performance.

What do you think? How do you think small? Please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.