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Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness members look forward to making a difference

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 19, 2012

The recent news pertaining to the United States Commerce Department’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness is clearly a positive one for all supply chain stakeholders.

As previously mentioned in this space, the main role of the Committee, which Commerce said are comprised of 40 senior-level private sector representatives of multiple industries and supply chain experts that the department appointed, is to advise the Secretary, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other U.S. agencies on supply chain issues that affect the international competitiveness of U.S. business. Committee members come from various supply chain backgrounds, including manufacturers, 3PL’s, industry associations, port authorities, airlines, and consultants, among others.

Given the wide range of membership types in the Committee, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to some of its members to get their take on it and see what their initial thoughts and expectations are.

The whole issue of supply chain competitiveness is a large issue, said committee member Leslie Blakey, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “From my point of view, I am especially looking at transportation infrastructure that needs to be there to support goods movement into and out of the United States so that is one perspective.”

Blakey explained that supply chain issues extend all the way from issues like sourcing of materials and regulatory issues having to do with taxes and issues having to do with fraud in the workplace and human rights, as well as packaging and the multinational scope of many businesses.

Transportation infrastructure, which is Blakey’s area of supply chain expertise, is extremely important and a critical part of supply chain competitiveness and is the aspect I she will be representing at this table.

“I am very excited to hear about and learn more about the relationships of transportation infrastructure with these other issues and facets of supply chain competitiveness and how we can work together to keep America the most competitive nation on earth,” Blakey said. “The opportunity and the breadth of the group is a tremendous opportunity to explore all of these elements and how they work together. It is important for the members to be engaged and learn from each other.”

As noted in Blakey’s comments, it is hard to overlook the role that collaboration among stakeholders will play in ensuring that the Committee’s efforts are successful.

And helping shippers to better successfully navigate the myriad supply challenges they face is another chief objective according to committee member Carl Fowler, senior director of sales and solutions for Menlo Worldwide Logistics, the 3PL subsidiary of Con-way.

“It is exciting,” Fowler told me.”It is the first time I have ever seen anything like this at the federal level. From my perspective at Menlo, what I am responsible for is helping customers that come to us from the high tech, consumer, auto and industrial sectors with challenges in the supply chain space that we try to solve for them. Seeing what they are up against in terms of regulatory issues and the competitive landscape and we try to help them with the basic blocking and tackling of execution in the supply chain that they are struggling with.”

The Committee presents an opportunity to bundle up the challenges these organizations are facing and enlisting the help of the federal government to help solve these problems on a macro level and help these companies succeed and excel in a global market, he explained.

He said this is one of his biggest professional satisfactions—helping America companies see growth, adding this Committee can only help to do more of the same.

In terms of how the Committee might be able to help shippers, he used cross-border transportation as an example. For a U.S. shipper with manufacturing/near shoring set up in Mexico and a supply base is in North America, he said shippers still for the most part can “have an incredibly hard time moving stuff across the border from the U.S. to Mexico” with Customs closed at 5 p.m. and having to transload freight out of another trailer and paying a cross docking fee—things which drive the costs of business up.

What’s more, there are not the same challenges in moving freight from US to Canada like there are in moving fright to Mexico.

“The supply chain industry is faced with the challenge of moving freight south to Mexico on their own and up until this point it has not had a vehicle to effectively support it from a supply chain perspective,” he noted. “I see this as the first step in the federal government making that initial move to help support the challenges these industry segments are facing.”

Fowler said he impressed with the people and resources Commerce is pulling in for the committee as they touch multiple industry segments from carriers to academia to shippers, among others.

The Federal Government is now taking steps to help and support ways to lend a hand with supply chain challenges; it is really exciting,” Fowler said. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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