The next step towards collaboration

Len Harper

FOLLOWING the article that appeared in the November edition of MHD regarding collaboration amongst the various professional associations, many questions have been raised.

The responses have been mixed but the issue remains that there is a myriad of professional associations working in many cases separately and in direct competition with one another.

One key question raised was “what is the benefit of having an umbrella organisation for the coordination of logistics and supply chain management?”

There isn’t any benefit if the umbrella group is set up to administer. We are not talking about a separate group here, rather, the opportunity for broader collaboration amongst the professional associations before the event.

At the present time there is no one organisation that is focusing on the development of supply chain management, and before organisations start jumping up and down and say we are doing this and we are doing that, consider this: In the past decade, the Australian logistics industry has developed to the stage that supply chain management is now considered an important process. The supply chain is not an industry in itself; it is a process to ensure that the delivery of products to the customer is of quality and the company achieves this in a cost efficient and competitive way.

At the SMART Conference in June last year, it was evident that supply chain management was important across all industries. It was not a matter of delegates coming from the transport and distribution industry or the procurement or warehousing sectors. It was a matter of representation from a broad range of industries – because all industries benefit from an efficient supply chain.

What is needed amongst the professional associations is the endeavour to work together and in the interest of the industry and the people in the industry, not in the interest of the associations.

This can be achieved by associations consulting as one on ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the supply chain elements of procurement, inventory control, warehousing, transport and distribution and the handling of returns.

For instance, I would be surprised if CIPSA and APICS could not combine their efforts. Each of these associations is about procurement and inventory management.

SCLAA and LAA are similar associations yet are doing much the same thing in competition with one another.

CILTA is more transport and logistics focussed but has the chance – and in fact has taken the opportunity – of working with all other associations where the issue is of similar interest, such as the SMART Conference, the national awards and joint conferences.

In summary, there are too many professional associations doing much the same thing. The obvious answer is for the associations to merge but each time this has been raised the groups concerned have an apoplexy.

We are thinking about the achievements of the associations rather than the best way to achieve a unified and effective contribution to the industry. No association can do that in isolation.

There is the real opportunity for the associations to work as one without the option of being the one association.

For instance, it makes little sense to have so many industry awards. For a start, the associations could ‘merge’ on this issue and develop a co-ordinated industry recognition for achievements across the national supply chain. What an event that would be! And don’t begin to tell me that can’t be done. It can happen if one wants it to happen.

Industry conferences and specialised summits throughout the year are other opportunities. Here I am suggesting options in isolation. Think what chances we could develop if the associations combined thoughts and worked as one.

Disneyland? I don’t think so. All we have to do is get rid of a few egos and work together in a structured way to make it happen.

Len Harper is the executive director of CILTA.

Visit www.cilta.com.au.

*Excerpt from MHD Supply Chain Solutions March/April 2008, p.12

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