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Mastering the dark art of logistics – part one

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In part one of this two-part blog, guest blogger Richard Amey, National Logistics Performance Manager at Hope Construction Materials, explains how companies can get to grips with logistics in order to improve business performance.

You can broadly divide companies into two types, those for which logistics is their primary business activity and those for which it is not their primary activity but a part of it.

In a logistics-focused business it is normally straightforward, as everyone is working for largely the same aim. Logistics is THE operation. The team will have a shared background and knowledge, they speak the same industry language, everybody gets it.

In companies where it is a function, such as those in the construction industry, it gets more complicated.  Often the operational focus is not logistics, the key decision makers might or might not understand, or even take an interest in, the logistic operation. This is because, for many, logistics is seen as a dark art, boring, a source of regulation, an unavoidable cost.  This is often exacerbated by logistics being confused with transport – one is the overarching activity, the latter a function of that activity.

They realise they have an issue with logistics and hire a transport manager when what they actually need is a professional logistician.

A transport manager most importantly helps keep your operation legal. They make sure it is used properly and efficiently and is correctly maintained.  As I like to say, ‘wheels not turning are wheels not earning.’

Glass walls for logistics visibility

This is normally where I come in.  A Logistics Manager connects the logistic operation to sales, production, operations, CRM, marketing and HR.  They seek to create glass walls so that colleagues don’t actually have to come in to our department (if they don’t want to) but they can see what’s going on and understand it.  This starts with good communication. As logistics professionals, we have to go out and show people what we do, show them how simple it is and, most importantly, the impact it can have on them.

I once found myself explaining to an experienced board of directors what drivers hours regulations are and how they can impact on the business. The paucity of knowledge at very senior levels can be quite surprising and very worrying.

The professional logistics manager will demonstrate how an efficient operation will know and control its costs, improve business and provide a strategic and tactical edge over competitors.  It can be used to make happy customers and forge strong relationships with them.  Your drivers and vehicles are often the public face of your business.

Most customers don’t meet the sales people, they meet the guy who gets out of the cab. And if your vehicle is dirty or poorly branded, or the driver is poorly presented, it reflects badly.  I always seek to create an operation where other drivers say ‘I’d love to work for them’.

Essentially logistics is simple and by helping all departments within an organisation understand it and by removing the operational silos, it becomes easier to achieve change across a fleet and effectively achieve buy-in for any new initiatives.

Check back for part two, where Richard looks at breaking down silos within a business to achieve greater efficiency and communication.

In the meantime, learn how to get the best out of your vehicle fleet in our blog looking at why data is key to top-class service in the construction industry.

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