In my previous blog I discussed some of the supply chain management principles used in both 3PL providers as well as for trips to the back country. It is useful to consider some guiding principles for Supply Chain Management Strategies. They act as a reminder so that the proper effort is exerted. They are the checks and balances of Logistic Supply Chain Management. Every decision, change, or idea should be judged against these principles to ensure that the criteria of the principles are met. For those with an extensive familiarity with Supply Chain Management Strategies, these principles become second nature. For those who are still developing that level of experience, I advise thinking in terms of the following:
Planning: Planning is the most critical aspect of any logistical event. Complete plans must be made to cover all likely courses of events. Furthermore, contingency plans should be made for the most likely problems, such as inclement weather or a participants health issues. Planning effort should be given to what-if scenarios. What if we can’t cover the distance due to inclement weather, do we have time on the back end to make up for a lost day? Finally, planning should include numerous decision points that act as balances against possible drift. This keeps the trip streamlined, promotes momentum, and ensures good anticipation.
Efficiency: Every resource and the way it is used must produce the maximum positive impact possible. Resources that are used infrequently, such as luxuries, will burden the expedition and make logistical management slow and unresponsive.
Effective: There has to be a reason for every logistics effort, and this reason has to promote the success of the trip or enable an objective or goal that will promote overall success. There is no point in pushing many resources at an effort that will have negligible positive impact on the expedition. Every resource and the way it is used must have an effective impact on the progression of the expedition towards its conclusion.
Simplicity: In times of stress or difficult conditions, a simple logistics plan is more likely to survive than a complex one. In project management terms, this simplicity can be achieved by identifying a critical path with as few links as possible. Effort should be made to achieve this critical path.
Flexibility: Despite the best planning, things will not always develop in the way that they were envisioned. For this reason, a flexible approach to the management of logistical effort is required. The ability to anticipate and react to situations in an appropriate and timely fashion is essential.
These principles make it abundantly clear that it is not only impossible to produce a logistics capability that provides for every eventuality, but it is counterproductive and undesirable to even try to do so. For this reason, there is an element of risk involved with every logistical and planning decision. A balance must exist that allows logistics to be robust enough to be effective yet not so cumbersome that it becomes an uneconomical burden. Erring too far in either direction can place a trip at risk. Achieving a good balance reduces overall risk of failure. The primary responsibility of the planning and logistics team is to achieve and maintain this balance. The trip organizer must control this balance, especially when responsibility is devolved to area or function managers. It is easy to become so engrossed in one’s own responsibility that one forgets the overall picture.