Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Low Tech Can Still Deliver High Returns

Low Tech Can Still Deliver High Returns

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Immersed in our ever-expanding online worlds, it’s easy to overlook the importance of low-tech solutions. Email, instant messaging, and online forums are highly effective communications channels—but so are white boards when used efficiently.

For example, at TMC, white boards are at the center of our daily discussions that help to drive customers’ key performance indicator (KPI) programs and provide status updates on active projects in the pipeline. This simple communications tool provides a wealth of important information at a glance. But they are more than just whiteboards – they are visual management tools that help drive alignment, consistency, creativity, team-building and continuous improvement. These visual management boards are commonly used in the application of lean principles and is something that most of our customers instantly recognize when they visit our offices because they utilize the same tools within their own organization.

The case for face-to-face

As part of their daily routine, every TMC account team holds a 15-minute stand-up meeting that is led by account and/or operations managers. Team members update their colleagues on current issues, work load, and raise any questions they want to bring to the group’s attention.

The 15-minute time limit is strictly observed, and individual contributions can vary according to what each person wants to say. The important thing is to provide a forum for open and constructive discussion between team members.

Why are daily face-to-face staff meetings necessary in a work environment that relies more and more on digital communications? Here are three reasons:

  1. Encourages ownership. A key part of our daily discussions is customer KPI metrics. Team members who are responsible for specific KPIs are expected to keep the group updated on the performance of the metrics they manage on behalf of customers and flag challenges that need to be addressed. By giving these briefings, individuals reaffirm that they own the metrics and are accountable for them.
  2. Promotes a team ethic. Exchanging information and opinions with colleagues in person builds camaraderie and team cohesion. Everyone contributes, including individuals who are not naturally inclined to speak up in group settings. Also, individuals have the opportunity to tap into the group’s collective wisdom in a spontaneous manner—an experience that can’t be replicated in the online world.
  3. Keeps issues live. Have you ever overlooked an important message that was buried in your crowded email inbox? That’s more difficult to do when an issue becomes part of an active discussion. For example, a customer’s tender acceptance rates had unaccountably fallen one month. The sub-par numbers came up at a team meeting and it transpired that there was a good reason: a common carrier procurement event had taken place recently and the new providers that won the bid were not performing optimally yet. Airing problems like these in live discussions helps to ensure that they remain visible until resolved.

This immediacy is reassuring for customers too; their performance issues are top of mind, and there is a far less chance that a problem gets lost in the operational shuffle.

Traditional benefits

The shift to an online working environment has enabled logistics professionals to achieve remarkable gains in supply chain efficiency, and this trend will no doubt continue. But let’s remember that in-person communications still has a vital role to play, especially in a fast-moving industry like logistics. Something like a simple white board used as a visual management board can be a vital tool to help you keep tabs on freight network performance and ultimately deliver savings and service improvements.