The weakest link

In Supply Chain Management, collaboration is essential for the seamless transfer of property, paperwork and accountability from the shipper to the receiver.  Why would this process be compromised by anyone within the sequence? Think about the phrase, “supply chain management.”  The word chain has two distinct meanings; the first is, “ a group of enterprises or institutions of the same kind or function usually under a single ownership, management, or control.”  This is the meaning we generally accept when referring to supply chain management.

However, the other meaning of a chain is, “something that confines, restrains, or secures.”  You’ve probably heard the phrase, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”   What is your weakest link?  Is it the result of the driver, the shipper, and the 3PL or is your process to blame for disruptions?  Could it be the communication between the partners? 

There are two things to consider in how you communicate from the initial transaction to the completion of the order. First, what is the medium and secondly, what is the message?  Both are important to ensuring the continuous transfer of information and a broken link in either one could hinder the process.  Depending on which part of the supply chain you control, the medium could change.  The load could be placed on the internet by a shipper, faxed to a broker and then relayed to a driver over the telephone. Different modes, same message…. at least that’s the goal. 

Mistakes occur when the transfer of information is disrupted because of human error. By using one method to record all of the information you lessen the chance of a broken link in the relay.  If the shipper posts the load online and the broker records the information online and the carrier (or carriers) access the same information online, the chance of error is greatly reduced. Technology to the rescue!  Everyone is on the “same page” and is getting the same message. The links are intact.

When you experience a break in the supply chain continuum, go back and determine where the problem occurred. Was it a misunderstanding of the schedule or was the rate of pay the issue? Maybe the wrong piece of equipment was ordered or an inappropriate carrier was called. Where did the break in the communication occur?

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