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Logistics of complex supply chains can become a stumbling block on the path to transparency. One way to meet the growing consumer demands is to simplify, simplify, simplify.

We spoke with Shani Atapattu, Vice President of Overseas Cargo, Inc. about how third-party logistics companies (3PLs) can lighten the food manufacturer’s burden of proof.

What are the biggest logistical challenges food manufacturing supply chains face?

One of the biggest challenges food manufacturing supply chains face is being unprepared or unaware of lead times or shelf lives of products or ingredients. Timing and coordination play the biggest role in making sure that you are as efficient as possible, so if food manufacturers do not have their timing locked in, they may face problems and delays that can result in reduced product quality.

How can complex supply chains be simplified? What is needed at each stage?

Transparency is the key to simplicity. The more you know about what needs to happen and when, the easier it is for you to simplify and make adjustments at each stage without missing a deadline or jeopardizing quality. It is important to know your  options and for everyone to work together to accomplish the best end result.

Food processors can increase their transparency at each stage by making sure they have procedures in place to ensure that all safety precautions are met and that all information is captured and reported correctly. This includes managing lead times and making sure your company can stick to them.

How can a third-party logistics company help manufacturers simplify their supply chains and make them more transparent?

Third-party logistics companies can help manufacturers simplify their supply chains if manufacturers are willing to relinquish some power. The more closely a manufacturer listens to their logistics partner, the easier it is to adjust and increase transparency. A good 3PL also understands their customer’s needs. This begins with having the right dialogue and understanding the end goal.

Your 3PL can communicate with suppliers to ensure transparency throughout the process and to avoid any setbacks. The more you trust your 3PL the better because they know the requirements and deadlines for your product. They will make sure everything is on track to reach realistic goals and devise solutions along the way.

What are some of your favorite tools [tech or non-tech] for simplification and transparency?

In terms of technology, we like to use our proprietary web-based supply chain software, RapidLink. Unlike other systems, RapidLink is built around the concept of “predictive decision making,” giving customers unprecedented access to their supply chain through a single platform with live data, photos, and instant status updates.

RapidLink uses a unique customized system that integrates 3PL activities directly with customer operations and gives them access to their shipment data at any time, from anywhere. Its high levels of visibility allow customers to pre-plan for inbound shipments, avoid delays, and improve service levels.

Additionally, you can never go wrong with something as simple as an email. It helps document everything and is one of the quickest ways to get everyone aligned.

How do you train personnel in practices that promote simplicity and transparency?

Apart from issues that are out of your control, the main challenge in the way of transparency is human error. When supply chain workers do not follow procedures or are not educated to handle certain tasks, then the transparency can be jeopardized.

It is extremely important to set clear standards and expectations and to make sure your staff meets them. Your staff should be qualified to handle every aspect of the job, from making calls to operating machines or software systems. Personnel should also develop relationships with shippers and customers alike, keeping everyone in the loop and dissolving any problems that may arise.

Shani Atapattu is Vice President and head of the Miami office at Overseas Cargo, Inc.
Part of the ten percent of women in the logistics sector in top management positions, Shani manages many day-to-day business operations including overseeing production, projects, and sales, ensuring quality customer service, reaching company benchmarks, and monitoring the employee progress.


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