The B2B’s guide to an efficient supply chain

The reason that super-successful companies like Amazon value an efficient supply chain is that they look at it as an essential part of their customers’ experience.

It’s an idea that B2B companies are still catching up on.

Further upstream in the supply chain, businesses tend to put more energy into their customer relationships and commercial agreements (which are, of course, essential) but can sometimes neglect the simple, satisfying delight of knowing exactly where your shipment is and exactly when it’s going to arrive.

Mindsets are changing, however, and it won’t be this way for much longer.

B2B decision-makers are Amazon and Uber’s customers as well, so we’re already seeing B2C expectations reflected in the ‘middle mile’. Patience for poor logistics experiences is on the wane, and boardrooms are beginning to see how an efficient supply chain can help them provide the best customer experience.

In other industries, service-led B2B companies are growing rapidly. Project management and customer service platforms like and Zendesk are focussing on providing outstanding service to their customers. It may be a ‘Silicon Valley’ mindset, but I think it will separate the winners and losers.

Know anyone providing the same level of customer service in logistics? I’d love to hear about it. Comment underneath this article or send me a message on LinkedIn.

What are the three principles of great delivery?

Although the freight itself might be vastly different, the principles of a great B2C ‘last mile’ delivery service hold up when we apply them further upstream. Let’s take a look at those principles in more detail.

1. Transparency

More than just a ‘fluffy’ layer on top of a product or service, transparency is a professional and cultural requirement in 2018.

Consumers demand full transparency with every purchase they make. Recently, this has extended to the supply chain. And just as accountability at the last mile grows more important, we’re seeing some change upstream as well.

Middle mile shippers and handlers have a responsibility to be completely transparent about their pricing, their movements and their practices. Transparency is interactive, and depends on all links in the chain communicating openly.

Tech can help make this happen, but people and processes play just as important a role. Having people who are hungry for change and engaged in their role – and processes that allow that change to happen- is vital.

2. Visibility

The area where technology could (and arguably already is) having the most immediate impact is in enhancing stakeholder visibility along the middle mile.

It’s already happened in B2C (think the ‘Amazon Effect’) which has really shifted expectations of what’s possible with regard to real-time tracking of freight.

B2C innovators like Amazon and Uber are making plays for the freight market—so to survive, B2B wholesalers and enterprise shippers have to do some serious future-proofing.

As start-ups and technology companies saturate the ‘last mile’ with pretty GUI and impressive mobile capability, the focus will begin to switch to the rest of the supply chain. The middle mile is where we’ll start to see some sophisticated visibility tools hitting the market.

It will be real-time, and for those companies yet to deliver, it needs to happen right now.

3. Efficiency

It’s human nature to want things faster and cheaper. The ‘Amazon Effect’ has turned the industry on its head by providing B2C customers with just that.

How will the Amazon Effect change the way the ‘middle mile’ operates?

While there’s no definitive answers yet, there is plenty of interesting technology that could make the top of the supply chain more efficient.

The future of the supply chain will involve many different modes of transportation, varying distribution centre strategies and more hand-offs. Squeezing every last drop of efficiency out of the supply chain will be the end goal – and it will put extreme pressure on the processes and systems in place.

A tight, efficient supply chain is an essential part of customer success – and should be treated as such. Likewise, having full transparency about processes and visibility over each moving part is essential to do business in 2018 and beyond.

As supply chain’s influence grows within organisations, and its representatives start to sit at the leadership table, we should start to see some major changes and innovations. The businesses that do this will be securing their future.