While You Were Asleep ...

While You Were Asleep ...

Copyright 2004, Traffic World, Inc.

Some day, supply chain professionals are going to wake up and ask ... "What happened?" When they wake up, they will find that they live in an environment where expectations are more rigorous and the demands more challenging than anything they can remember. And as they''re terminated, or replaced by new hires or third parties, they''ll ask: "Where did I go wrong?"

Serving on the boards of the National Industrial Transportation League, NASSTRAC, and American Society of Transportation & Logistics Professionals, I receive a steady stream of information about issues that are either currently, or will be, affecting shippers and carriers in the future. I also receive updates on the number of members in each organization.

You would think that in this sea of economic and political uncertainty, shippers would take advantage of the resources of these organizations, or the other top-notch shipper based organizations such as Council of Logistics Management or Transportation Consumer Protection Council, to stay abreast and informed about what is happening in the industry.

However, as one takes a look at their membership numbers, and talks to other industry professionals and columnists, the level of apathy is staggering ... and ominous. (It reminds me of a joke involving a boss who asked his subordinate if the reason for his lackluster performance was due to ignorance or apathy. His subordinate answered: "I don''t know and I don''t care.")

Consider for a moment the top three issues on my list of things that domestic shippers need to be concerned about: security, legislation that will adversely impact truckers, and the deteriorating condition of our national transportation infrastructure. On a stand-alone basis each one of these would pack a wallop; collectively, along with all the other global issues, corporate supply chains are at risk.

For example, look at the security issue. When I talk to CEOs and presidents, I remind them that their supply chain is one terrorist incident away from being shut down. When senior officials from Homeland Security talk about a terrorist incident in terms of "when" as opposed to "if," it affirms the belief that shippers need to act now to assess their preparedness to respond to a terrorist event.

With respect to legislation or government rulings that could adversely affect truckers, most people think that this refers to the hours of service situation; but the reality is that HOS is just one area of concern. Whether it''s terrible legislation such as SHIPPA, or the Senate''s version of the current Highway bill that would significantly increase the cost of tolls on the Interstate Highway system, actions by state legislatures and the Congress could significantly increase shippers'' costs.

Anyone who assesses the national transportation infrastructure front can only come to one conclusion: our roads, rails, waterways and airports are already overburdened. In other words, there is not a lot of capacity and certainly not enough to handle the volume assuming even the most conservative growth in GDP in the United States; globally, the situation may even be worse. Traffic World recently had an article chronicling the fact that Ford Motor Co. had to shut down a plant in Hapeville, Ga., outside Atlanta for two days Aug. 30-31 due to a lack of parts. Estimated cost? According to manufacturing industry experts, millions of dollars.

Given this landscape, you have to ask yourself: "Why wouldn''t shippers want to support the professional associations that are fighting the battles on their behalf?" After all, the NITL, NASSTRAC, and other groups such as TCPC and Americans for Safe and Efficient Trucking are out there in the trenches fighting the battles on behalf of shippers throughout the country. Groups such as CLM or the American Society of Transportation & Logistics (which I serve as the chairman) are committed to providing educational resources that help shippers understand these issues and develop strategies for managing the supply chain.

Overall, professional logistics and supply chain associations have valuable information and offer professional networks that can help you deal with the security issues; keep you abreast of legislation affecting productivity and costs; and update you on matters that will impact your business and affect how goods are moved in the future.

The only thing that is missing from this equation is broad-based shipper support for these groups. So if you want to avoid asking "What happened?" here''s some great advice: Wake up! Get involved and support one of these great organizations. Every one of the groups mentioned above could use your support. You and your company will get a great return on your investment of time and money through your membership.