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Logistics is now wagging the supply chain tail

Disruptions have given logistics an outsized role in 2022

Long overlooked, logistics professionals now have the attention of the C-suite, and it is time to use it to rethink operations. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Long a sideshow, logistics is now in the driver’s seat, and it is guiding the supply chain to heights never before seen. That is opening up opportunity for logistics professionals to finally get the investment and support for innovation they have long desired.

“Whether it is for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, logistics leaders have never had this much exposure to the [chief supply chain officer] or CEO,” said Brian Whitlock, senior director and analyst at Gartner, during a Wednesday presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/XPO 2022 conference at Walt Disney World’s Dolphin Resort.

The last two years have provided a “continuous uninterrupted stream” of crises that have thrust the logistics professional into the limelight. “Because of that disruption, others have started to recognize logistics,” Whitlock said.

Now is the time for logistics to reap the benefits, and it starts with reinforcing the fundamentals of good logistics.

“As disruptions dissipate, we must return to order,” Whitlock said. “Managing chaos is not good logistics.”

Calling disruptions inevitable, Whitlock said professionals need to prioritize initiatives that provide the best return on investment and use their newfound exposure to the C-suite to get those projects started.

More companies, Whitlock said, are looking at how logistics can be used to make money, with 70% in a recent Gartner survey saying they are reimagining logistics as a service.

“Leading companies are already willing to rethink their logistics as a [separate] service provider and thinking of their [own operations] as a client,” he said.

Increasing visibility in logistics is one part of that puzzle, Whitlock said. This includes implementing data-driven decision-making, improving carrier performance, managing customer expectations and increasing cost optimization.

Organizations can also benefit by digitizing their operations that lead to the creation of logistics ecosystems, implementation of mass automation of processes, quick dissemination of information and reduction in the cost of transportation.

Many companies are also looking to their logistics operations as a means to reduce their environmental footprint. Whitlock advised attendees to consider cleaner-fuel vehicles, improve load efficiency, adopt greener last-mile delivery methods and consider the creation of urban consolidation hubs.

“The tail of a dog tells you a lot about how that dog is feeling: Is it sad, happy, hungry?” he said. “Apply that same approach to your supply chain and allow your logistics operation to tell you how [the supply chain] is feeling.”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]