"Power to the people" was a frequent slogan of the Sixties generation when young people found world problems too much to accept. In the complex business world of the 21st Century, global challenges of time, distance, cost, regulation and competition have created a new frustration. But the mantra we now hear from beset manufacturers and retailers is "power of the partnership," and it is one of hope rather than anxiety. Supply chain executives have learned that by truly partnering with a trusted logistics provider, carriers, technology companies and a host of other outside services to help run their businesses, they can be successful beyond their expectations.
This fifth annual Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies (GL&SCS) 100 Great Supply Chain Partners report is all about the power that manufacturers and retailers find through their partnerships. On the pages that follow, logistics and supply chain professionals share their success stories and explain the contribution that these vendors have made in building their companies' success. These manufacturers and retailers know that they are competing in a demanding global marketplace. They can only succeed with the help of partners that possess the skills and services they need to connect and empower every participant in the supply chain wherever they may be.
The case histories that follow are more than testimonials from satisfied customers. They are insights into how the manufacturers and retailers have gained competitive supply chain advantage by working closely with reliable vendors. This 100 Great Supply Chain Partners report covers the globe. We have received nearly 1,800 nominations from small and large companies covering scores of different industries on five continents. More than 350 vendors of every conceivable type of supply chain activity-from software, to specialized technologies, to global 3PLs, to highly specialized transportation services. Vendors being nominated include many of the most widely-known logistics providers and technology vendors. This year, we received a huge number of nominations for all types of 3PLs, specialized logistics service providers and a wide variety of technology companies. The breadth of these nominations shows that our readers are looking for results very specific to their needs, not just for the big brand names.
The GL&SCS 100 Great Supply Chain Partners program is the result of a six-month poll of readers in which we asked logistics and supply chain professionals to nominate vendors and service providers whose technology, logistics, transportation or consulting solutions have made a significant impact on their company's efficiency, customer service and overall supply chain performance. The purpose of the list in this report is to recognize those vendors that have so impressed our readers that they deserve to be singled out and to be held up as examples for others in the industry. In one sense, it is an opportunity to thank those providers who have helped our readers achieve better results, and to let the industry know who is making a genuine effort to be a supply chain partner-not just another vendor. On a higher plane, the commentary in this report is intended to emphasize which services, technology, expertise and support our entire industry needs for all of us to be more successful.
What Customers Want
We received nominations for carriers in every mode of transportation. Most are represented on our final list, as are various outsourced logistics services and a wide range of supply chain technologies. Regardless of what type of vendor a reader nominated, there are clear themes within the commentaries that accompanied most of the ballots. As with previous reports-and probably forever-the most common 10 qualities that users looked for in their vendors were as follows:
1. Reliability-Without doubt, the single most important element that our readers value is reliability. These readers' customers will not accept excuses for service failures, so neither should they. And when a vendor has proved itself to be rock-solid reliable, an enduring partnership is assured.
2. Repeatable excellence-While good performance is expected, the vendors receiving accolades for service always went over and above what was required. At least one quarter of our nominations provided an example of how a vendor exceeded expectations on many occasions.
3. Value and cost savings-As many readers commented, their key motivation for purchasing any new technology or outsourced service was cost savings, but the most important financial measure was value in terms of increasing sales, production or other revenue-related metric.
4. Expertise and knowledge base-Manufacturers and retailers increasingly look to their technology and logistics providers for best practices specific to their industry, market or product. Vendors that have this expertise quickly become trusted advisers. Vendors that claim to be masters of all trades have no credibility.
5. Problem-solving ability-Many of our nominations were based on companies that had experienced emergencies. Partners that were able to deal effectively with these unexpected events without missing a step earned the eternal gratitude of their customers.
6. Continuous improvement-Especially for technology vendors, companies want to see a plan for product development, so they know their needs will be met in the years ahead.
7. Support-The downsizing of most companies means that they have greater dependence on their vendors to implement, train, maintain and support the technologies and service provided. The support component is almost as important as the technology or service itself.
8. Positive culture-The phrase most often mentioned in all of our nominations was "can-do." Companies want to do business with vendors that are positive about what they can accomplish. The greatest accolades were bestowed on those vendors that took on any challenge and found a way to accomplish a goal without complaints or excuses.
9. Global capabilities-As supply chains become more global, companies of all sizes are looking for technologies and services that allow them to operate with trading partners all over the world.
10. Strong Management-Most businesses today experience frequent personnel turnover, even at the highest ranks. Nothing can damage the relationship between a company and its partners faster than an erosion of commitment from the partner's management. Leadership is monitored very carefully by companies that depend on their supply chain partners.
Finally, before presenting the reader nominations and their comments, please consider the following housekeeping points:
• The methodology for exactly how the Supply Chain Partners program was conducted is presented on this page. Very simply, the companies listed here are totally based on voluntary responses from readers. No one at GL&SCS had anything to do with which companies were nominated.
• We have included 100 vendors just because it is a manageable number. We actually received nominations for more than 350. The companies included just had more, and more in-depth nominations than the others. The comments offered for these unmentioned companies clearly reflect their customers' appreciation, but we had to draw the line somewhere. For better or for worse, the number 100 has become the standard for any list of this type.
• We think the success stories of these powerful partnerships are at least as important as the fact that a partner has been nominated, so we have included 18 short case histories.
We thank all of the readers of Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies who participated in the 2007 100 Great Supply Chain Partners program. By voicing your appreciation for the vendors of technology and services that help you achieve your supply chain goals, you not only give them the recognition that they deserve, but you point out to all vendors the qualities that you admire-and expect. That effort helps the entire industry. Thank you again, and we look forward to your participation in next year's 100 Great Supply Chain Partners program.
Methodology for the GL&SCS 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Awards
The list (click here to view) is based entirely on the entries voluntarily submitted by readers of Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies and users of its sister web site, SupplyChainBrain.com, where the official nomination form has been posted since the early spring. Over the last few months, many GL&SCS readers received emails asking them to participate and directing them to the form. Other readers and users of the web site independently found a link to the official nomination form on the home page of SupplyChainBrain.com.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.