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Nine Logistics Strategies from a Leading Industry Expert

By Elizabeth Rennie |   2013 | 8 | 10

Editor’s note: James W. (Jim) Tilton, CPIM, is logistics manager for Rolls-Royce Global Repair Services: Americas. He recently copresented “The Supply Chain in Reverse—Component Remanufacturing at Rolls-Royce” at APICS 2013 and subsequently gave a follow-up interview to APICS magazine managing editor Elizabeth Rennie.

Smart logistics professionals are constantly looking ahead in order to stay competitive, knowledgeable, and effective. According to Tilton—a veteran of supply chain and logistics management for original equipment manufacturer, aftermarket, and component repair logistics and asset management—the following nine strategies help make this possible.

  1. First and foremost, take a holistic view and approach to managing the end-to-end supply chain. “Every corner of a company is touched by the supply chain in some fashion and is a link in that chain,” Tilton says. “I like to think of logistics as the mortar running between the bricks throughout the enterprise and its supply chains.”
  2. Make the conversation about logistics accessible to everyone. Because logistics covers such a broad area, Tilton’s second suggestion is for these professionals to develop the skills necessary to converse with executives about strategy just as intelligently as they talk tactics with warehouse workers and truck drivers.
  3. Stay informed. “Keep up-to-date with what is going on in your and associated industries. Attend industry conferences. Learn about who does what best to fit your needs,” Tilton urges. For example, most third-party logistics (3PL) providers will tell prospective customers that they can perform all the tasks requested. However, not all 3PL providers are equal and thus must not be treated as such.
  4. Learn to think lean because opportunities to improve are everywhere. “I have recently been on a lean improvement team where we evaluated the processes for managing our remanufacturing supply chain,” Tilton says. “The results of these projects have helped us identify and capture approximately a $3 million in cost savings and avoidance.”
  5. Consider joining a professional organization, such as APICS, and augmenting your education with the proper certifications. “This is a great place to develop your network,” Tilton says. “There are only two things you can’t do with a network: one, build it too soon; and two, build it too big.”
  6. Use your networks and contacts to help benchmark business processes. “You don’t always have to compare industry to industry for the best ideas,” Tilton explains. “Besides, that route usually finds you trying to see how your competitor is doing something—and competitors don’t usually like to share with you.”
  7. Collaborate and embrace the ever-changing global marketplace. “Growing up and living in the Midwest, I appreciate the functions silos play in the agricultural markets; however, for supply chain and operations folks to operate in functional silos is detrimental to the overall supply chain and its effectiveness,” Tilton explains.
  8. Understand technology, and know what solutions can best add value. Because the entire industry is so dependent on technology, it is important to have a good understanding of available tools, systems, and capabilities. “Technology is key to supply chain efficiency—and there is a lot to choose from,” Tilton says. “Embrace the proper technologies for your supply chain and logistics operations.”
  9. Finally, Tilton advises that logistics professionals stay current: “Engage in continuous education, as it engages you in continuous improvement of your profession.”

Read more about Tilton’s take on reverse supply chains and remanufacturing in the “The APICS Interview,” which will appear in the upcoming November/December 2013 issue of APICS magazine.

Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at editorial@apics.org.


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