BY MITCH MAC DONALD, GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR outbound
what a concept!
IT WAS AN “AH-HA!” MOMENT. A TREK TO CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA
in the spring of 1991 brought us to the headquarters of AMP, a global player in the electronic components and connectors market. While we were
researching a story on logistics benchmarking, AMP’s name had come up
time and again as the company everybody wanted to benchmark their own
operations against. We wanted to see it for ourselves.
The facility in Harrisburg, the logistics team members, and the opera-
tion’s leadership were impressive. It was clear after just a couple of hours
that there was good reason why so many companies were looking to emu-
late AMP’s operations. It was also clear that much of what the company was
doing wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or innovative. Essentially, AMP
The one exception was something that caught
our attention when we looked at the company’s
organization chart. Rather than having customer
service report to sales and marketing, AMP had
taken the unusual step of placing customer service
under the logistics division.
It made immediate sense. The logistics operation is one of the most customer-facing functions
of any company. Why not put the customer service
folks under the logistics umbrella?
Certainly, it seemed to be working for AMP. For
instance, we learned that it was company practice
to have customer service reps ride along on sales
calls so they could talk directly with customers
about their operations and how AMP could better serve their needs. As you
might expect, most of those “sales calls” turned into discussions about the
way AMP filled the customer’s orders—you know, logistics stuff. But no one
on the sales side seemed to mind. In fact, as one AMP executive commented at the time, the salespeople seemed to like it. They even thought it might
be helping boost sales.
That trip to Harrisburg was brought to mind when we read the very fine
story filed by DC VELOCITY Associate Managing Editor Susan Lacefield from
the 2010 Annual Global Conference of the Council of Supply Chain
Management Professionals earlier this fall.
Summarizing a session on customer engagement, Susan noted that when
it comes to the supply chain’s interactions with customers, there’s no such
thing as standard practice among companies. In some organizations, those
interactions “begin and end with making sure that the products are delivered when and where the customer wants them,” she wrote. In others, the
logistics team makes it a point to stay in close contact with customers and
may even serve in an informal advisory
role. As an example, she cited Avery
Dennison, whose “supply chain managers
don’t just focus on getting product to the
customer, they also serve as an extension of
the sales force.” What a concept.
Like AMP before it, Avery Dennison
sends its supply chain specialists along on
sales calls to find out what logis-tics-related challenges its customers face and how the company can help. As one of the
world’s largest makers of pres-sure-sensitive labels, Avery
Dennison “is both bigger and
more supply chain-savvy than
many of its customers,” Susan
wrote. If a customer is struggling
with, say, stocking issues, the
Avery Dennison specialist might
offer a quick lesson on the basics
of inventory management. And
that could lead into a discussion
of the customer’s options—
including, but not limited to, any services
Avery Dennison might offer that would
help solve the problem.
If that sounds a lot like what we
observed at AMP nearly two decades ago,
that’s because it is. Two different times, two
different places, but the lesson is the same:
Used strategically, logistics and supply
chain is a powerful competitive weapon—
one whose value can indeed be measured
in bottom-line results.
Group Editorial Director