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  January 24th, 2016 | Written by

Fighting the Status Quo in Your Logistics Department

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  • If you don't have a tracking system, it’s definitely time for an upgrade.
  • Examine your vendors critically to see if they are adding value to your business.
  • Your tracking system and freight forwarder should give you a competitive advantage.

The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.”

That’s a quote from Disney CEO, Bob Iger, and it applies to every part of a business, especially your logistics department. However, you might find it difficult to implement changes, even if you’re eager to do so. Your supervisors might be of the “this is how we have always done things” mindset and there may be no impetus to change. You may not even know what can be changed and if those changes would actually help your business succeed.

So how do you determine if you need to take a few risks? Here are three questions to ask yourself to decide if it’s time to buck the status quo.

Is your tracking system working for you?

If you answered that question with, “We don’t have a tracking system,” then it’s definitely time for an upgrade.

Other signs you’re due for a change? Ask yourself these questions: How much time is spent tracking shipments? Do I know what’s in those shipments? If you still manually track your shipments by calling or emailing your freight forwarder, that’s time that can be better spent elsewhere.

A modern tracking system can do all this and more for you. It’ll give you up-to-date tracking data down to purchase order and SKU level. Imagine what the rest of your supply chain would look like if you had instant access to this information without spending hours tracking it down yourself. Instead, it’s all on one screen, the tracking system doing the work for you. This can be hours of time you can allocate to other job duties.

Why are you using your current vendors?

If the answer to that question is, “We’ve always used them,” it’s time to examine your vendors critically to see if they are adding value to your business.

Ask yourself these questions: If there is one thing you could change about your vendor, what would that be? How is their communication? Are they proactive? Are they accessible when I need them? What kind of technology do they have? Do they have an account manager that you can talk to and consult with? Do they present ways to help you improve your supply chain? How experienced are they?

Once you answer these questions about your existing freight forwarder, ask these questions of a new vendor. You may find that the new vendor has all the same experience, but is more proactive in communicating with you and working as your partner to improve your business.

Is your tracking system/freight forwarder giving you a competitive advantage?

Your tracking system and freight forwarder should do so much more than ship your products out and tell you when they will arrive. They should actively be giving you a competitive advantage to help ensure success.

Your freight forwarder should do more than arrange your shipments. A good freight forwarder anticipates your needs based on what’s happening in the market and industry. If there are current labor negotiations at the port, they will keep you informed and perhaps suggest alternative routings. If a major holiday like Chinese New Year is coming up, they will remind you and ensure your shipment gets out on time. If you need their expertise, they should be only a phone call away. They can look at your business and make recommendations to improve your supply chain, so you have more time to focus on you other aspects of your department.

A good tracking system can help in more than one area of the business, for example, customer service. If your salesperson calls to ask when a certain product is due in, what do you do next? You might have to dig through your Excel sheets and call up your freight forwarder. With a tracking system that lists SKUs along with purchase orders, you can get the information to sales right away. That in turn, gets the customer the information they need much quicker.

Everyone knows that change is hard. It’s easier to go down the path of least resistance. But without change, you might find yourself losing out to the more progressive businesses in your industry. As the saying goes, “adapt, or die.”

Start small with a trial shipment. Making changes doesn’t necessarily have to start with a massive change. A way to help ease your logistics department out of its comfort zone is to look for a specific supplier or trade lane to conduct a trial shipment. That way you can get an idea of how your business would run, and you can decide if you want to change vendors. Who knows? You may see a significant improvement over your existing freight forwarder.

The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it,” author Warren Bennis once said. It’s time to be that leader your logistics department needs and fight the status quo.

Marc Dedola is CEO of Dedola Global Logistics, a provider of logistics and supply chain management solutions. In his role, Marc oversees a full matrix of logistics services within all trade lanes of the world, in the air, over land and on the sea.