Should logistics be boring?
Admittedly, our trade doesn’t have the most glamorous image. For as vital as transportation or procurement are, you probably don’t hear many kids say they want to run a trucking company when they grow up. At least not the way they aspire to be, say, an astronaut.
Obviously, we disagree. We navigate interesting challenges every day. But as headlines last year suggested, the movement of inventory from the manufacturer to a customer’s doorstep isn’t something that’s on most shoppers’ radars until something goes wrong.
And, hey, we get it. At the time of WSI’s inception in 1966, logistics looked pretty different from what it has become now. We ourselves started out as a handful of forklift operators who needed more storage space at a paper mill. In those days, logistics operations mainly consisted of making phone calls and sending faxes. There wasn’t a lot of glitz back then, just a business need for our services.
These days, the field has embraced a lot more technology. There are warehouse management systems and transportation management systems, end-to-end visibility, robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, to name a few. Not to mention, the engineering needed to wrangle what is becoming an increasingly complex puzzle. Logistics has turned into one big optimization challenge.
WSI has been around since logistics was a ‘boring’ field, and in that time, we’ve grown into a family of six companies spanning across the United States. We’ve built over thirteen million square feet of warehouse facilities. Our technology has gone from clipboards and notepads to cloud-based apps.
Suffice it to say, a lot has changed over the past half-century. It’s been a wild ride.
But in spite of the industry’s innovations, its old reputation seems to have stubbornly hung on. Interest in container drayage or pick-and-pack best practices hasn’t quite gone mainstream. Prior to 2020, the closest we got to widespread enthusiasm was the introduction of Amazon Prime in 2005, which ushered in new expectations for free, fast shipping.
Not that we’re complaining. We can’t think of too many instances of customers noticing logistics operations going well, but there are plenty of examples of clientele feeling the difference when there’s a hiccup. There was far too much of that last year. 2020 was a bad PR campaign for our industry.
It’s actually WSI’s goal to go unnoticed.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to getting a product from the manufacturer to the customer, from demand planning to inventory management to the last mile delivery. Under normal circumstances, it all moves together like a well-constructed Rube Goldberg machine. But even a small unexpected event can throw the process off. When a major black swan, like Covid-19, comes along, it can have wide reverberations that ripple through supply chains for months.
It went without saying that everyone, from individuals to grocery stores to hospitals, was painfully aware of the supply chain last year. Somewhere between the empty store shelves, the meat processing plant closures, the holiday ordering crunch, the safety concerns for factory workers, and the toilet paper shortage, the logistics industry found itself in the global spotlight. When there’s that much awareness of logistics operations, it means that too many things have gone wrong, and at too high of a cost.
We prefer the version of the story where it’s easy to pick up a can of soup at the grocery store or order a set of headphones online. We’re happiest when we can operate quietly in the background, with customers blissfully unaware of our presence. The more invisible we are to those we serve, the better we know we’re doing our job.
From the beginning, our objective has always been absolute reliability™. Not to be flashy or make the evening news but to be a solid provider of logistics services that our clients can depend on. Reaching that goal entails a lot of hard work, dedication to our clients, and adaptation to whatever the world throws at us. So when Covid struck, we knew what to do: roll up our sleeves and step up our level of service. That strategy worked before, and it will keep working whenever the next challenge comes our way. It’s gotten us to where we are now, with more than a half-century of service under our belt.
When logistics goes back to being ‘boring’, we’ll still be hard at work to provide the reliability that our clients have come to expect. We promise that whether your products come off of a shelf or the internet, your customers won’t be aware of our presence. In fact, we’re kind of looking forward to that.