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

Guest Post: Three Pillars of Effective Supply Chain Collaborations, Part 1

Guest Post: Three Pillars of Effective Supply Chain Collaborations, Part 1


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Kelly Allen, Berry Plastics Corporation & Cecilia Symanski, IPC.

Supply chain partners can be a vital source of ideas for improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of freight transportation networks. But how do logistics managers establish mutually beneficial, collaborative relationships with their counterparts in customer and supplier organizations?

Miami, Florida, based Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC), a purchasing cooperative owned by franchisees of the Subway food outlet chain and Berry Plastics, a packaging company headquartered in Evansville, Indiana, have developed a successful partnering arrangement in the logistics space.

In this two-part series of blog posts, we offer some insights into what it takes to build a relationship with an external partner that fosters the exchange of best practices, and we explore the value of this type of alliance.

3 Keys for Productive Supply Chain Collaboration

Even if you are open to new ideas from suppliers or customers, identifying likely collaborative partners and translating this interest into a working relationship is challenging. In our experience, there are three important supporting mechanisms that underpin productive collaborations with supply chain partners.

  1. Work with a honest broker: The broker serves as a mediator to bring the parties together – then initiate and facilitate an ongoing dialogue between them. In this case, TMC fulfilled the go-between role.

Ideally, the third party should already be working with the participants. Having a matchmaker that knows the companies involved has a number of advantages. The provider is familiar with the way each organization operates and their respective tactical and strategic goals. Also, a neutral third party has a feel for each corporate culture and how they might mesh.

Use the provider to generate an initial list of target areas for discussion. In addition to laying a solid foundation for the fledgling relationship, this agenda can function as a catalyst for the conversation. As the conversation progresses, it triggers more ideas and helps the group to build momentum.

2. Sharing a common technology platform: Commonality in this critical area avoids wasting endless hours interpreting disparate data sets and having to decipher analytics that are structured differently. Speaking the same IT language also makes it much easier to identify opportunities for improvement.

Logistics managers can readily appreciate the benefits of using transportation management systems that have similar processes and levels of supply chain visibility, for example.

3. Bring in the right mix of perspectives to the collaboration. The third critical component is making sure that you have the right people in the group. This might sound obvious, but mismatched roles and personalities can impede the flow of ideas and rob the effort of momentum. Make sure that you recruit individuals who can bring relevant perspectives to the table. Also, avoid involving individuals who are more interested in gaining knowledge or controlling the proceedings than making a valuable contribution to the discussions.

Of course, these three supporting mechanisms do not guarantee success. But, without them, it is much harder to create a collaborative group that is both long-lasting and meaningful.

Read part 2 of this series to learn how all the hard work to create a collaborative relationship—and keep it on track—can pay off.