Be like Amazon - Five tips for managing logistics

By Staff Reporter - 3 November 2020

Expert Voices

Sometimes getting your logistics right is an art in itself. The more steps there are in your logistics plan, the more efficient your entire process needs to be especially if you're supplying several different types of product.

If you ever really look closely Amazon's set-up you can see that they have got logistics down to a very fine art. For them efficiency is an artform and they have the ability to quickly respond to problems as they happen. The larger your operation, the more difficult this becomes, and the more prepared your business needs to be. Here’s five tips for effectively managing your supply chain.

1. It's all in the planning

The less decisions that need to be made on the hoof during the process, the better. And, while a plan can never cover every circumstance (sometimes life does like to throw a spanner in the works), it will keep choices on the hoof to a minimum. A good manager will therefore plan well ahead to eliminate any delays in the supply chain.

2. Always have a back-up plan

No matter how brilliant and irontight you think your plan is, it’s impossible to prepare for everything. A good manager knows their job is far from done after their plan has been made, as they need to follow the supply chain at every point and firefight when they need to. You should have contingencies for every part of your plan. You should also know when to stick it out with your original plan and when to switch to your backup — something that can only come with experience.

3. Being good with people helps in a crisis

When your plans go wrong (and at some point they most certainly will), it’s essential that the person tasked with sorting out the mess has great people skills. When you're firefighting and having to rearrange things on the hoof having a good relationship with your staff and suppliers is essential as life gets made more awkward for them. Good interpersonal skills are also helpful when finding last minute suppliers to fill in. Fnding the right person for the logistics manager position is a part of effective logistics management.

4. Don't be afraid to automate

In the digital age, it has become essential to automate the logistics process wherever you can (just ask Amazon!), including tracking and monitoring each delivery. Automated systems take the guesswork out of planning by reporting the raw info without bias. Ensuring your business is better informed by using fleet and inventory management software will allow you to refine your processes around the factors that impact your bottom line the most. Amazon especially have been good at sourcing good logistics real estate with good road connections and then filling it to the brim with automation to make sure it runs efficiently.

5. Don't be proud. Learn from your mistakes

This last one is actually a good lesson in life overall but is essential when it comes to logistics as it's pointless if you don't learn as you will repeatedly run into the same problems. Depending on the size of your company, poor logistics management can cost your company up to hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. Perhaps the most important thing you can do when optimising your supply chain is to learn from your mistakes. Regularly sit down as a team and openly discuss the mistakes you’ve made in the past, focussing on what systems you’re going to put in place to ensure they don’t happen again.

Keep these tips in mind and you might just be able to get the job done without making your hair go grey in the process.

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