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April 16 2018

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14 The Journal of Commerce | April 16 2018 International Maritime THE UNPREDICTABILITY, COMPLEXITY, and pace of the modern supply chain has left logistics managers and exec- utives wrestling with the problem of how to effectively communicate the nature of their work to the C-suite in advance, rather than waiting for a disruption or disaster. Too often the spotlight lands on the logistics department only in the event of a major blockage — such as the collapse of Hanjin Shipping, the cyber attack on Maersk Line, or the current truck driver shortage — when top company executives de- mand to know what went wrong and what is being done to fix it, logistics managers and executives say. In response, they are quietly mak- ing their case to the top echelon, and highlighting the importance — and difficulty — of their work in advance of any problems. That way, they say, top executives will be better prepared to absorb information and make decisions when the chain is cut and the pressure is on. However, the theory is easier said than implemented, several shipper logistics managers and executives told a session at the recent 18th An- nual TPM Conference in Long Beach. And to get it done sometimes requires the kind of guile and agility needed to keep a supply chain on track. "Explaining this industry to people that are always right, and very precise in performance and exe- cution, can be a very difficult thing," said David Torma, vice president of global supply chain and logistics for Claire's Stores. "Ultimately, what we all manage is a rather complicated set of moves that all have to hand off very, very well to make things work," he said. "And at any given point in time, there can be a bump in the road, and the next thing you know you have got a box with $5 million worth of product sitting somewhere for a few days." At that point, the delayed product can dent sales and hurt the bottom line, and the recriminations begin, logistics managers say. That learning curve has im- proved somewhat in the last decade, as the importance of supply chains has risen, and customer service and speed to the consumer have taken center stage, said Klaus Schnede, manager of North American Marine Category, at Eastman Chemical. "Ten years ago, we were an after- thought. After 10 years, we have a seat at the table," Schnede said. Still, he added, "our seat at the table is only as good as 'What have you done for me lately?' We have had some success, and kudos. But it gets back down to, 'Now we have a trucking crisis, how are we going to deal with this?' And you have to anticipate that." One way to deal with the situa- tion, Schnede said, is to understand the mindset of other departments and top executives. "These people are known for these kinds of criticisms," he said. "They may live on a different planet, because they are in their own world — order- ing materials and doing nothing. And then something comes from our side that gets in their way, and they expect us to take care of it. They have unre- alistic expectations at times, and you have just got to deal with the situation and move on. No hard feelings." One important skill for logistics managers to acquire is knowing when and how to raise the issue, said William Schmitz, director of global transportation, Stanley Black & Decker, who noted that "when things are perfect, you are invisible. So, it's really only when there is problem that they see you." Some issues are "on the horizon," and you have time to try to "manage expectations … try to formulate a plan," he said. Others, such as the Hanjin collapse, give no warning and demand a response created on the run. "I think the ones that I struggle with most are things like ELD [elec- tronic logging device] and driver shortage — things we have been talking about for years," he said. Once you get attention, it is important to know how to use it effectively, Schnede said. Logistics managers have to provide a string of bulletins — from memos, to daily updates, to international phone calls — that convey to multiple stakehold- ers around the world what is going on and help them to react, he said. To that end, brevity and concise- ness are key to help get the point across in what may be a very limited opportu- nity to communicate, managers said. In addition, logistics managers have to look for opportunities to increase their visibility and communicate "when things are not in crisis," Schmitz said, adding that logistics have been assisted in such an effort by the fact that "Ama- zon has made supply chain sexy." JOC email: twitter: @HughRMorley_JOC Keeping it short and sweet for C-suite Logistics managers see benefits in communicating with top-line executives in advance of any problems By Hugh R. Morley Logistics managers are advised to look for opportunities to increase their visibility and communicate to executives instead of waiting for a disruption. Importing & Exporting | Ports | Carriers | Breakbulk | Global Logistics

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