If we want to evolve how the supply chain operates, we have to evolve how we think about it. We have to expand our perspective on how to operate within the supply chain. Then we have to encourage our clients to expand their view too.
A lot of companies approach their supply chain operations the same way every year. But if we keep operating the same way and expect things to change, well, that’s the definition of insanity. To break out of old operational patterns, the solution is more solutions. We continue expanding our offerings so our clients have multiple options for how to get things done. Whether it’s more storage, better equipment, closing a facility, opening a new lane, we work with our clients to test new strategies and see the potential of optimizing in a different way.
The power of patience
Evolving supply chain processes can be a challenge, partly because logistics providers and their clients often focus on shorter term goals – three or six months at a time – with little bandwidth for longer term strategizing. It can take months to dissect a company’s logistical challenges. Whether it involves production or warehousing or transport, it takes even more time to implement a new strategy and wait for it to gain traction. Such an investment can be daunting to a Head of Procurement or a CFO who’s got a plate full of priorities.
A McKinsey study, Measuring the Economic Impact of Short-Termism, found that 87% of executives feel pressured to demonstrate strong financial performance within two years or less, so the pressure is real. But that same study also indicated that companies focused on long-term planning exhibit stronger financial performance in the long run.
More of our clients have become open to experimenting with their operations and continuing to prioritize these experiments beyond a 12-month period, and they’re starting to see an impact on their bottom line. Savings and efficiencies are revealing themselves over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is ROI.
The art of adapting
The state of the supply chain will always be impacted by unpredictable factors, which is why adaptability is so critical. To be adaptable isn’t to have one master game plan and stick to it; it’s about regrouping on a regular basis, and restrategizing based on the current lay of the land.
A company’s ability to adapt may very well determine its survival. According to McKinsey, 77 percent of US consumers changed stores, brands or the way they shop during the pandemic, and two-thirds said lack of availability was the main reason for switching. The big winners during this disruption were companies that kept products flowing in a difficult operating environment.
Our adaptability stems from our hybrid model, which has acted as the foundation on which we are consistently able to build and scale resiliency. By combining a non-asset and asset-based approach, we have crafted a unique framework that enables us to offer flexible options to our clients. This hybrid model empowers us to deploy teams efficiently across North America, ensuring timely and effective solutions to meet our clients’ needs. We bring immense value to our clients by leveraging their existing network and seamlessly integrating it with our extensive roster of trusted partners. This collaborative approach creates a multitude of opportunities, allowing us to capture additional capacity and unlock synergies across our One Network.
We complement our hybrid model with communication, and encourage company leaders to have regularly scheduled discussions about how to modify operations based on emerging trends. Sadly, many companies don’t have the resources to launch their own dedicated think tank for this, but we can help with that. A core element of our process at Fuel is to enable innovative thinking about the supply chain, anticipate changes to the landscape, and explore new ways for our clients to adapt.
The more perspectives, the better
The best way to adapt to highly complex, everchanging problems is to bring more points of view to the table. We like to hire people who have different lived experiences, and can brainstorm solutions inspired by their unique view of the world. That’s why we don’t just look for “logistics experience.” We want people from tech, from service, from communications… people who think differently from us.
Research shows diverse teams are more innovative and stronger at anticipating shifts in consumer needs and consumption patterns. Diverse teams are more adaptive and effective; they’re able to bring more perspectives to a problem, and generate more creative solutions.
When you have an ambitious goal like reimagining how the supply chain operates, you need curious people. We constantly encourage our employees to question how we do things, poke holes, and evaluate processes for themselves. If they see a better way, we tell them to take it. Trying and continuously learning as we go is how we build a better understanding of our client and get closer to a solution.
Our challenge, should we choose to accept it
Our ultimate goal – today, tomorrow and in the months and years ahead – is to solve a puzzle. We’re solving puzzles every day for our clients, while simultaneously strategizing how to evolve an entire industry. Our role is exciting, and challenging, and has a widespread impact on people’s lives. It’s a wonder more people don’t consider a career in it.
Stay tuned for our next instalment: The Most Underrated Job on the Market.