Expect Accountability from Supply Chain Operators & Partners

accountability in supply chain

This past summer was fabulous. My brother-in-law got married and so my family got to go to India and participate in a typical South Indian wedding ceremony end to end, including all the pre- and post-wedding rituals, pre- and post-wedding parties, gift giving and receiving, the astrology and horoscope-based ceremonies, the auspicious poojas, and other traditions that the elders insist must be done.  My daughter was very excited.

indian wedding

A lot of these traditions stem from past experience that is barely remembered by those present. The ancestral, ethnic, clannish practices and formalities bring two tribes together and restore relationships. Sometimes, cultural differences between the families get in the way, whether its religious beliefs, food customs, or other ceremonial preferences. The two sides don’t agree, with one side insisting that the wedding rituals need to be performed based on their tribal culture while the other says that they won’t participate if a particular ceremony is done.

It really comes down to herding cats. Typical, a few senior family members become facilitators how help the group get through the rough patches. In the end, everyone is relieved, both bride and groom, and the parents. The whole objective of the occasion is to engage this new couple and initiate them in this new phase in their lives.  Sometimes, of course, the agenda of other family members (hanging on to past hurts, proving success, etc.) can get in the way. Everyone puts a lot of stock into who is invited, what they should wear, and who is getting attention. It gets challenging, but it is also fun working through these challenges. It’s an opportunity to form new relationships and have new experiences.

Our family had its own challenges. My daughter wanted to bring her guitar, so she could continue to sing and post songs on YouTube. But taking the guitar wasn’t easy, and of course we didn’t want it to be damaged. We finally decided to take an older smaller, guitar as a compromise. Then we set about packing it securely. My daughter documented the packing process by taking pictures.

As I went through this, I saw a lot of parallels with the supply chains that we operate and support. We all ship expensive, bulky, mission critical merchandise every day. Failure comes with big penalties including compromised profit margins and eroded reputation.

We are working on solving this problem for several of our customers.  They all move big ticket items. Often, there are many parties involved. The flow of these goods starts at the manufacturing facilities, often in Mexico, then goes to the fulfillment distribution centers (FDCs), the regional distribution centers (RDC), and finally the cross-dock facilities. At the cross-dock facilities, the whole shipment or the pallet does not have to be split or unwrapped. Rather, they pick up only the portion of the pallets that go to a specific destination.

You may have seen less than truck load (LTL) terminals. These narrow long buildings with dock doors on either end house a beehive of activity. All day, the workers cross dock pallets from inbound trucks to outbound trucks without breaking open the pallets. Finally, the goods get to the final retail partner’s distribution centers and are sent to retail stores and finally into the hands of consumers.

When moving billions of big-ticket items through the supply chain, damage, in the form of dents, dings, and scratches, small and big, significantly reduce the value of the merchandise and. Often, it’s hard to know where the responsibility lies. Many partners are involved, including the shippers, the 3PL companies, warehouse workers, truckers, unloaders, and cross-dock employees. There are a lot of people that touch the merchandise.

So how do you hold all these people accountable? One of our customers, a 3PL, took the same route as my daughter, taking pictures to show the rest of the supply chain actors so they could prove they did the job right and without damage. As a result, everyone else in the supply chain are more cautious because there’s proof. It hasn’t solved the problem completely, but it has reduced it.  Another major manufacturer looking at deploying this capability in vantage points in their supply chain network to minimize damage. They estimate that it could save the company millions of dollars.

Oh…and to finish my story, the guitar got to India unscathed. My daughter continued her creative endeavors and the instrument got back to the U.S. intact.

Does your supply chain use picture proof to increase accountability? What results have you seen?  Does it impact your efficiency? Let us know in the comments section below.

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