If you are in a B to B, that is a business whose primary customers are other businesses, you are probably staring at the B to C, business selling directly to consumers, supply chain world. Vast changes are happening there, requiring more sophisticated software, multiple distribute points including retail stores, with rapid delivery requirements. If your firm is primarily product distributor such as Grainger or Uline, there is no doubt you must be on the absolute top of your supply chain game. But most B to B’s when they handle transportation of their products are doing as a service to the customers for outbound shipments. Inbound supplies are handled usually because supplier providing those products is inadequate for some reason.
So how do you, a logistics/supply chain professional respond to the wild and crazy supply chain revolution that is going on out there in the B to C world. Your management is interested in being value to the customer and cost effectiveness. It is not really interested in spending money for super cool supply chain stuff because it those not see the value in it (correctly at times).
An important start is to understand your customers, both the customers the business sells to and internal customer of your services in the company. The difficulty with both is getting clear information. Realizing what you don’t know may be start of learning where to focus the future supply energies of the firm.
If the company has multiple product lines it will likely have differentiating customer needs. Many B to B organizations, dare I saw almost all, do not have a real good way to communicate customer needs to their supply chain personnel, other than the truck was late, code one emergency. It is important to understand what one dose not know, so ways to obtain this information can be found. Those late trucks problems, can be a starting point to understand what the customer really needs and when.
Internal customers have bosses, budgets, suppliers and customers to which a response is required. Empathy for their business needs is clearly important in the supply chain personnel if they want to provide operation efficiencies for the company. Again, not all these are readily apparent and supply chain information is likely to be incomplete. That is real world. Supply chain leaders need their antennas up to engage these issues.
Until one can get a sense of an improved direction of the supply chain, a transaction environment is inevitable. It is not easy to get away from this, but ultimately the firm is dependent on supply chain personnel to set the future direction. Learning about customers needs is the way to start this process.