World Trade recently ran an article on lessons learned by supply professionals which started out by doing a great job of proclaiming the obvious — it’s been a rough year. As noted, unemployment continues to thwart efforts to tame it, customers are becoming more conservative, and in some quarters, forward thinking and strategizing seem to have been put on hold and profits are hard to make these days.
But is there a silver lining? New opportunities borne of anxiety and the desire among clients and potential clients to overturn every stone they can find to bolster their competitive edges and their bottom lines is a good start, but not a silver lining in and of itself. And executing on the lessons learned from 2008 is something companies should already be doing.
Understanding the market is good, understanding the technology requirements of the market is better, and understanding how to utilize both to provide more value to the customers is key, but should it take an extreme harsh environment to learn the lesson? And is the consensus reaction of lengthening decision times and more deliberation right when efforts need to be made to reduce costs and create value now?
And are 3PLs really getting more business opportunities? They’ve always done, and had the ability to consult on, inventory, regardless of whether or not companies care about inventory optimization outside of down markets. And there hasn’t really been any new offerings in VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory). And leading companies have always been doing supply network optimization on a somewhat regular basis. And smart companies never chase bad deals.
It sounds to me like average company hasn’t learned much, and that it definitely has not learned that the best way to weather a storm is to prepare for it before it hits. Innovation and improvement should be continuous and strategically planned, not a one-time tactical response to a down market. That’s the one lesson worth learning.