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Trust but Verify: Wisdom on 3PL Relations

During arms-control summit meetings with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, President Reagan often used a favorite Russian “doveryai, no proveryai,” that is “trust, but verify.” Reagan had come to realize that the evil empire might be a negotiating partner. The path was rocky, but the two managed to reduce the nuclear arsenals that were both the threat and the stabilizing factor of the Cold War.

Reagan and Gorbachev
Source: The Reagan Vision

Reagan and Gorbachev Source: The Reagan Vision

“Doveryai, no proveryai,” became Reagan's watchwords for the relationship with the Soviet leader. Trust, but verify. Possibly the only Russian words Reagan had rehearsed. “You say that at every meeting,” Gorbachev noted laughingly at the White House arms treaty signing in 1987.

“I like it,” Reagan replied. As an industry, it's important that we take a similar stance with our partners, especially third-party logistics partners.

One visible phenomenon that no one can deny is that technological evolution has accelerated, creating many innovators and entrepreneurs who create new products and services with relatively meager resources. No longer is innovation only the bailiwick of only billion dollar companies with budgets of $20 million or higher. Now, with a solid understanding of the industry, even small entrepreneurs can come up with innovative products that we all use in our daily lives. This has resulted in numerous companies with unique products.  Often, these companies sometimes don't have distribution infrastructure or logistics capability to distribute their products to retailers or end users. That's when third party logistics service providers become important. 

Often these 3PL service providers run into issues where their customers are asking for unique services, as well as better system of records. For example, if a shipment or product is damaged, then the 3PL would benefit if they could provide picture based documentation for every single shipment or load that is received or shipped from their facilities. Today's legacy system, though, preclude quick integration of these capabilities, without outside help.

I still remember a client, a food manufacturing and distribution business, that implemented a warehouse management system (WMS) back in 2008. They had stringent quality requirements, because they distributed a lot of potato salad that they manufactured in their plants to retailers like Costco. We spent hours discussing the quality control requirements needed in their receiving and shipping processes.  They wanted the ability to write detailed comments to ensure that the personnel thoroughly cleaned the trucks. (Even a slight lapse in the cleaning process could spoil the date sensitive, temperature controlled, and highly perishable food.) The picture capture capability in this instance would have been a perfect tool to ensure that the trucks/trailers are cleaned thoroughly by not only documenting before and after cleaning pictures. It would also allow for users to document the seal that was put on the truck/trailer at the end of the loading process. 

3PLs dealing with a product companies that want to make sure their products are delivered in a pristine manner could benefit by providing this capability to show pictures for any important scenarios. For example, think of the benefit of being able to send a picture of loads sent to important customers like major retailers, or images of any exceptions that happened or damaged shipments during transportation or anything along those lines. Suddenly, both 3PL and customer has a trust but verify scenario to ensure good results.

Share your thoughts on how a tool like this might make life better within your supply chain in the comments section below. 

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