Supply chain 'forever about cost, quality and service'

Beth Ward, COO of 3PL provider, Smart Warehousing, says supply chain "is always going to boil down to cost, quality and service". She adds: "You can’t get round these basics, but what you can do is be really good at them and add value for customers."
Beth Ward, COO of 3PL provider Smart Warehousing, explores logistics trends, including why firms are more inventory-minded than ever & how tech adds value

Beth Ward is Chief Operating Officer of third-party logistics provider, Smart Warehousing. Here, she tells Supply Chain Digital about the company, her role and what she believes the future holds for logistics.  

Who is Smart Warehousing?

Smart Warehousing is a 3PL company providing warehouse and transportation services to a wide variety of customers across an extensive format of products. 

We are known for our ability to customize solutions for customers to meet their needs and add value to their supply chains. 

The ‘Smart’ in our title refers to the highly flexible solutions we provide. There is our warehouse management system, called SWIMS, plus we have a great experience base across all our 30-plus warehouses, handling many different customer needs.

Explain your role at Smart Warehousing

As Chief Operations Officer, I’m our integrator. I’m responsible for running the business, supporting customers in our day-to-day operations, as well as ensuring we hit our goals as a business. 

This includes helping guide the strategies, developing talent, and helping make the right investments.

The cool thing about my job is I am involved in helping customers across many different areas of the business.

This year’s logistics industry shifts?

I continue to see after-effects of Covid in supply chains. Companies are pivoting to try to get costs back out of their supply chain because of the disruptions. 

A lot of companies are re-engineering their supply chains, through nearshoring, offshoring, or insourcing tactics, or even by leadership changes. Companies are trying to increase value in how they serve their customers, which in supply chain, always roots in cost, quality and service. 

What trends are you seeing on inventory?

Companies are paying more attention to inventory levels, bringing inventory levels back down because their supply chains have shifted. They need to get smarter about where inventory is located. 

For example, through Covid, we just wanted the inventory, no matter what it took. Make more, buy more, store more.  Now, companies can’t afford to do that. They still need the right inventory for the right customer at the right place, but can’t just throw cash at that. No longer can they make tons and tons of inventory and simply store it; it’s too expensive. 

Companies are now having to get a lot smarter about their inventory strategy, in terms of how they’re placing it. 

To enable that, you have to view your supply chain from a total cost perspective. You need to view and design the supply chain holistically. Some companies were prepared to do that, while others were not, so they’re looking for help, and solutions. 

Is inflation still a problem for supply chain?

These trends we’ve talked about are only going to continue and become more important. Some opportunities are to provide more holistic supply chain solutions to more customers. Putting good data and tech into those solutions. 

Inflation is stabilising but we need to keep a close eye on costs, including wage rates,  materials costs, and the cost of space. Companies will have to make sure pricing is aligned with forecasts, relative to inflation. No one can afford to overshoot it and price themselves out of the market. Neither do they want to undershoot and you ruin margins to the point where they can’t be profitable as a business. 

Pricing is the secret sauce in all this. The way a firm adds value for the customer is to price in a way that makes sense for customers and helps solve their problems. 

A lot of the time we can get creative and help the customer’s profit and loss (P&L). An example is through smart inventory strategies. We can help take inventory levels down through our tech, our maths, our algorithms, and our data.

As a company, we can help customers mine data to help them make better choices about where they manufacture and where their nodes of distribution are. This could have a double-digit impact on P&L and add value. It’s about helping customers find those opportunities to lean into core capabilities, and help supply chains get smarter.             

Future direction of supply chain tech?

The supply chain is always going to boil down to cost, quality and service; you can’t get round these basics. What you can do, however, is be really good at the basics, and innovate by using tech to add value for customers. 

It’s always going to be working a puzzle with those same pieces. It’s not glamorous, but get it right and there are benefits to be had.      

Advice to younger self?

With people, and in business, always trust your gut. And also, never prolong tough decisions. Years after a decision, you’re never going to look back and wish that you had gone slower. That hardly ever helps.    

  • For further insight check out the latest issues of Supply Chain MagazineProcurement Magazine & Sustainability Magazine
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