Bring out your imagination in supply chains

Roger OakdenSupply Chains & Supply Networks

Using logic and imagination as a logistician.

I noted an insightful message this week in an advertisement for a product I cannot remember. The message said “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”. It was written by Albert Einstein, who knew a thing or two about logic and imagination.

As logisticians, how are logic and imagination applied to what we do? Logistics is the ‘time-related positioning of internal and external resources to provide availability of goods and services for customers at lowest total cost’. Logistics is therefore what your organisation does, requiring logic to be applied in addressing the challenges.

As the term logistics is derived from the ancient Greek and Roman words meaning ‘to compute’ and ‘skilled in calculating’, you require quantitative and analysis skills to structure, plan and schedule logistics activities. Imagination can play a role in considering how you will design and implement the time-related positioning of resources and providing availability, but logic and a systems approach are the critical capabilities.

There is a different approach when considering your supply chains. The supply network of your business is the totality of business relationships with many suppliers and logistics service providers. How these relationships are identified, contracted and developed depends on the imagination of all who are engaged in the supply chains. You manage relationships in your supply chains – you do not manage the supply chains.

Your supply network informs your logistics

How logistics in your business is structured and managed is dependent on your supply chains; they inform, then enable your logistics strategy.

Unlike logistics, there are few rules and techniques to govern your supply chain decisions, therefore structuring supply chains requires imagination. You are not only forming and maintaining business relationships, but also your network of non-business relationships with governments, other industries that use the same critical materials, NGOs and lobby groups. The countries from which you buy and sell and the possible transport routes and modes have multiple permutations, all requiring more imagination than logic.

Using your imagination and having ability with techniques such as scenario planning and risk analysis are therefore necessary skills for a logistician. The strategic link between your supply chains and the logistics structure required to manage availability are the inputs from your supply chains into your logistics strategy:

  • Knowledge of flows (materials, money and information as inputs to your supply network map); technologies; constraints and relationships
  • Knowledge of markets and the customers’ service expectations
  • Knowledge of the product development capabilities and technologies of your organisation

These attributes defines your logistics operational framework and that requires logic to manage.

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About the Author

Roger Oakden

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With my background as a practitioner, consultant and educator, I am uniquely qualified to provide practical learning in supply chains and logistics. I have co-authored a book on these subjects, published by McGraw-Hill. As the program Manager at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, I developed and presented the largest supply chain post-graduate program in the Asia Pacific region, with centres in Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong. Read More...