Mexico. While the problem is less severe on the Canadian side, the
study will look at delays at both borders.
Getting the information needed to do this research won’t be
easy. Customs has some of the information but it is not much interested in sharing, Maltz says. “Customs’ role has become much more
about security in recent years and they don’t want people to know
too much about their operations,” says Maltz. For most of the information, Maltz is relying on importers and forwarders, who keep
very good records, he says. “We also are putting people on the
ground observing traffic as it goes through border points,” he notes.
Maltz hopes to have initial results of this research in the spring,
with a final report in the summer.
comb, supply chain professor at the University of Tennessee.
This is one of the findings of the “20th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends,” conducted by UT and Georgia Southern University.
More Companies Try to Be ‘All Things
to All People’
Logistics companies are moving away from strategies based
either on customer service or cost leadership and toward
mixed strategies that attempt to provide both, says Mary Hol-
This trend began to emerge about three years ago, Holcomb says.
“From our 2007 study to our study this year, we have seen this strat-
egy of ‘being all things to all people’ really increase.”
The economy is not the major driver of this trend, she says. “We
saw a small uptick in 2008 of companies adopting a cost leadership
strategy, which was related to the economy, but in the 2009 study
that settled back and it didn’t really change the underlying trend.”
The balance between cost and service is often difficult for
firms to find, Holcomb says. “Even with long-time customers, the
balance often tilts between the two, which is indicative of a
mixed strategy,” she says.
Understanding how a mixed strategy will affect other decisions
is also hard to predict, Holcomb says. She notes that an analysis of
responses to one question in this year’s survey provided unexpected results. The question was regarding the number of discrete
supply chains that a company operates,
Holcomb says. The average across all
764 respondents was 3. 16 discrete supply chains. “We analyzed this further to
see how the number varied by strategic
approach,” she says. The assumption
was that service-oriented supply chains
would operate more discrete supply
chains and cost-focused companies
would operate fewer, but that was not
the case. “In fact, the reverse was true,”
says Holcomb. “The number of discrete
supply chains for service-driven firms
was 3.02 compared with 3. 21 for cost
leaders. Mixed strategy companies had
the highest number of discrete supply
chains, with 3. 35. “Our hypothesis was
blown apart,” she says. “It seems there
are a lot of other factors, such as maturity of markets and product characteristics, that drive the need to have
differentiated supply chains.”
Embedding Sustainability in a Supply
Sustainable business is about driving better business value at the same
time as you’re driving improvements for the planet, says Cynthia
Wilkinson, director, supply chain
sustainability, Staples Inc. That
means energy efficiency and
reduced packaging, among other