October 2020

Your supply chain organization has likely seen more than its fair share of changes in the past several months as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. While many aspects of your work may be getting back to some semblance of normalcy, it's important to note that experts believe a variety of issues stemming from the outbreak could continue to linger over the entire industry for quite some time to come.

Some of those changes will absolutely be for the better, but others require significant strategizing to avoid pitfalls, according to a recent industry survey conducted by Foley & Lardner LLP. While 62% of respondents will shift their supplier base to ensure they can adhere to a just-in-time model so they can be more responsive to developing issues.

Along similar lines, more than 9 in every 10 respondents said that they were trying to do more to build additional visibility into their full supply chains so they always have the best information available, the report said. Many are shifting away from truly global supply chains to create a more regionally focused approach, with more sourcing coming not from China (where 59% say they are cutting supplier ties) and more from the U.S. (with almost three-quarters increasing ties), Mexico (nearly half) and Canada (close to 1 in 4).

The entire state of the supply chain has changed significantly in 2020.The entire state of the supply chain has changed significantly in 2020.

Why the shift is necessary
It should come as little surprise that the COVID crisis led to shifting trends among consumers as well, and nowhere is that more clearly illustrated than when it comes to e-commerce — a trend which logistics firms have to account for these days, according to CNBC. As recently as the start of this year, e-commerce only accounted for about $1 out of every $9 spent on retail nationwide. However, since the pandemic started, that number has been cut by one-third, to $1 out of every $6 spent on retail.

Meanwhile, it seems that specialization in retail stores could be headed the way of the dodo, with stores that sell a little bit of everything (like Target, Walmart or even Best Buy and the Home Depot) continuing to go strong while smaller, more specialized competitors struggle in the new environment.

Changing worker roles
Just about everyone in the U.S. has had some aspects of their jobs disrupted by the pandemic, and those who work in the supply chain have likely been impacted far more than others, according to Transport Topics. After all, someone has to pick and pack items from warehouse shelves, put them out for delivery, take them from Point A to Point B, receive those shipments and distribute them further. That's true for business-to-business or direct-to-consumer shipping, and perhaps most importantly, when it comes to getting health care professionals the supplies they need to test and treat coronavirus cases.

The more that can be done to adjust processes so that logistics firms are always able to respond to shifting needs and simultaneously keep their own workers safe, the better off the future of the supply chain on the whole is going to be.

In every aspect of your logistics business, efficiency should be the watch word. However, this is often easier said than done, especially in departments like procurement where your own operations are heavily dependent on the involvement or actions of others.

So what can your company do to ensure you have even a little more efficiency and flexibility when it comes to purchasing? The following tips should help, and in doing so, improve your operations more than you might realize:

1) Rely on your best suppliers

You have no doubt found that there are some suppliers you can always count on to get every order and shipment right, while others aren't quite so dependable, according to SpendEdge. While it's a good idea to give yourself backup plans, it's critical that you put your primary efforts into prioritizing the partnerships with the companies that have proven to be trustworthy.

A better procurement strategy helps avoid headaches.A better procurement strategy helps avoid headaches.

2) Analyze your strategies

The ups and downs of the market, reliability of suppliers and plenty of other factors can come together at any time to make your old standby strategies a little less reliable, SpendEdge advised. For that reason, you should continually examine how your efforts have proceeded in recent months and, if any issues are spotted, change course so that you can minimize your risk in this regard.

3) Invest in new technology

Along similar lines, any technology you use to help with procurement should be evaluated every once in a while to make sure it's working as effectively as possible, according to Procurement Academy. Over time, you may find that software or hardware becomes less reliable and should, perhaps, be replaced. While this might require a bit of investment, it's likely something that will pay for itself over time.

4) Train your employees

It's always important to make sure all your workers are on the same page when it comes to processes and objectives, Procurement Academy added. A lot of that can be accomplished with training and team meetings that help direct everyone's focus in the same direction and ensure everyone has the best possible skill sets to meet your needs.

5) Build better relationships

Any time you can foster better connections with companies in your supply chain — or even just individual professionals working for those partners — you will likely both benefit, Procurement Academy said. A stronger relationship always helps one hand know what the other hand is doing, giving you more insight and opportunity to strategize.

6) Find new companies

Even if your group of most reliable suppliers have long served you well, it's never a bad idea to find new options for branching out your procurement efforts, according to Maven Vista. The more options you have as fallback positions when even your most dependable partners fall short, the better off you will be when it comes to avoiding a potentially costly disruption.

7) Centralize everything you can

Finally, it's worth noting that many companies make the mistake of siloing at least some of their procurement efforts off from other departments; this is inadvisable, Maven Vista noted. Instead, purchasing for all departments should run through a dedicated procurement team so that there's continuity and visibility at every step of the process.

The whole point of running a business is to maximize your income while keeping your operating expenses as low as possible. In the logistics industry, you may not always have a lot of control over how much money you bring in, but you can almost certainly find ways to cut costs in some way. That kind of effort may go a long way toward ensuring your entire procurement process become a little more streamlined and efficient without slowing your operations.

The following tips should help you find more ways to control costs throughout your company:

1) Automate whatever you can

Anything you are doing manually that could theoretically be automated may be taking more of your resources than you realize, according to 3PL Links. Take data collection or entry, for instance. There are a lot of ways to automate these processes, and it can be both time-consuming and tedious to do them manually. As such, even if you have to make an initial investment, you'll likely see them pay for themselves many times over in the end, especially in freeing up workers to tackle other high-priority tasks.

Do what you can to get to the bottom of your operating expenses.Do what you can to get to the bottom of your operating expenses.

2) Find ways to smooth your ordering processes

You may occasionally find that you experience hiccups in your ordering efforts, and when that happens, it can have a massive and costly ripple effect on your entire operations, 3PL Links said. For that reason, it can be a great idea to continually evaluate how ordering processes have worked out; look at what's gone well, what hasn't, and what can be done to maximize the former while minimizing the latter. You may start recognizing patterns that you can address in short order.

3) Strike the right balance between quality and price

Everything you buy from a supplier has to fit your needs — and those of your partners, customers or clients — in a number of ways, according to Supply Chain Mechanic. If you can find a supplier that sells a comparably strong product to the ones you already buy, at a notably lower price, it might be wise to pivot (at least in part) to see if their offerings suit your needs just as well.

4) Plan as much as you can in advance

Let's face it, the supply chain can be highly unpredictable for a lot of different reasons, so it's  important to craft contingencies when you have long-term plans in place, Supply Chain Mechanic added. Strategies you map out in February don't always end up working out in July, simply because a lot can happen in the intervening time. As such, you need to be able to pivot quickly and easily.

5) Define and measure everything you can

It's always good to have a clear picture of your entire operation so you can continually identify and iron out kinks in your processes, according to The Balance Small Business. The more you can do to quantify all those processes and keep close tabs on them, the better off you will be with this effort, and potentially find areas requiring significant improvement. This will help you operate more efficiently overall.

The state of the purchasing portion of the supply chain is seemingly always in flux, as companies strive to stay on top of the developing trends locally, regionally, nationally and globally. The question, then, is how the tumult of the past several months has professionals within this corner of the industry feeling about the present and future of their work.

First and foremost, it seems as though thought leaders in the procurement sphere are increasingly seeing the need for digitization, according to a recent poll from SAP Ariba. Indeed, 84% of respondents say going digital will be critical for any company trying to improve how effective their purchasing efforts will be, but only 28% felt their own companies' standing in this regard was stronger than their competitors'.

When it comes to going digital, the professionals largely saw the need to automate more of their processes, improve the quality of the data their systems collect and analyze, the report said. They also emphasized the need to cut costs and improve regulatory compliance.

High-quality data is critical to everyone's supply chain success.High-quality data is critical to everyone's supply chain success.

Why it's important
Having to go digital and improve the quality of data they collect is increasingly apparent these days — 93% of industry leaders say they have run into difficulties stemming from inaccurate data received from suppliers, an industry survey from Tealbook found earlier this year. Of those professionals, more than half also said that's a problem for their organizations on a regular basis.

In fact, more than 4 in 5 respondents said they are not confident about the data they receive from suppliers, and this leads to a litany of problems, the report said. About 60% of orgs falling into this category says it takes them four days or more to fix bad data, resulting in missing deadlines, frayed client relations and financial losses. Companies in the survey said they spent about three weeks validating and onboarding suppliers overall.

The impact of coronavirus
Of course, the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of the supply chain in recent months cannot be understated, and companies may feel as though they have bigger fish to fry when it comes to organizational health, according to a Spend Matters report. However, many within the industry say supply chain continuity in these times is almost as high a priority as the health and safety of their employees, and that certainly includes identifying areas of risk with their partners.

The more companies can do to work with their suppliers — and internally — to make sure all data being shared between supply chain entities is fully accurate and up-to-date, the better off all involved will be going forward. This may take careful consideration of existing processes and stronger efforts to keep up with the speed of data, both under coronavirus constrictions and even after COVID. Such an effort may not be easy, but it is critical to becoming a better partner in the global supply chain.

This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science.

Even logistics professionals with years of experience in the supply chain may face new challenges when working with construction companies that need heavy equipment. 

Finding the best equipment for the job can often be a challenge — especially if you're working with a construction company that faces difficult site conditions or a limited budget. It can also be difficult to make decisions about equipment — like whether to lease or buy outright. 

These best practices will help any logistics professional ensure they provide the end user with the construction equipment they need — even if they face unique obstacles or project conditions. 

1. Start With Project Specs 

Not every construction job is the same. Challenges posed by certain job sites — like uneven terrain or excessive dust — may require specific equipment or safety features. 

If possible, get a sense of the job site conditions this equipment will be up against. Information from investigations and condition reports on future projects can give you a sense of what your end user will need to handle. Fielding potential concerns from a customer can also help you source the right equipment for them. 

2. Consider Length of Use 

Some construction companies may only need a piece of equipment briefly — just long enough to cover a few projects or seasons. If your customer doesn't need a machine for long-term use, leasing or renting may be a better option than buying. 

3. Prepare for Transportation 

Heavy machinery, once purchased, will need to be hauled to the job site. When selecting a dealer, make sure the equipment or location won't result in prohibitive transportation costs. 

Some vendors will help you find local dealers to minimize travel distance. 

Depending on the equipment your end user has available, you may need to work with a third party to haul it from the dealer to the intended location. 

4. Consider Buying Used 

Not every piece of heavy equipment needs to be new. Often, used heavy equipment may be significantly more affordable and typically won't need extensive maintenance or repairs compared to new equipment. 

Used equipment also doesn't lose as much value as new machinery over time. Most market depreciation is seen in the first year of use. Because preowned items are typically older, you won't have to worry nearly as much about that lost value. 

5. Take Depreciation Into Account 

When buying used equipment, it can sometimes be hard to know if you're getting a good deal — especially if you're unfamiliar with the particular niche or industry that uses the tool or machine you are looking to buy. 

Estimating market depreciation can give you a ballpark idea of how much money you should be spending, based on the wear and tear the equipment has likely seen. 

6. Source From Reputable Dealers 

If you decide to purchase used equipment, be sure you're working with a reputable dealer. Asking for testimonials and reviews will help you identify trustworthy vendors, even if you don't have strong industry knowledge. 

If you buy used machinery, working with a reputable dealer will help ensure you don't invest heavily in equipment that's not worth the asking price. Factors that affect the cost include damage or extensive wear and tear. 

7. Vet New Sources 

In the construction industry, good sourcing practices can still help you identify if a source is trustworthy. For example, when buying from a new vendor, asking the dealer for proof of ownership can help you avoid purchasing stolen equipment or counterfeit parts. 

8. Don't Forget About Maintenance 

Unless you rent or lease a piece of equipment, the end user will need to regularly maintain it to keep the machine functional. 

Some machines are easier to repair than others. Manufacturers may not fabricate replacement parts for some models. The end user may also use third-party tech that isn't compatible with a certain piece of equipment. Factors like these can complicate repairs, making maintenance more expensive or difficult. 

9. Consider Testing Equipment 

A reputable dealer that's confident in the value of its products may be willing to let you test out a piece of equipment. 

A quick walk-through can let you know if the machine is in good working condition — though it may require assistance from a worker with certifications or training necessary to operate it. 

10. Plan for Additional Parts and Equipment 

The business you’re working with may have additional wants that you'll need to fulfill with outside solutions. For example, telematics systems — like those provided by equipment manufacturers — are becoming a popular choice for companies that want to track their equipment across a job site. Some RFID-based safety solutions can provide workers and heavy machine operators with some extra protection from backover incidents. 

Successful Sourcing of Heavy Equipment for Construction 

Even skilled logistics professionals may run into difficulties when sourcing and procuring equipment for a construction firm. Fortunately, foresight and the right planning can help keep you on track. Using these best practices — especially those that involve considering unique industry needs or potential job site hazards — will help you secure the best possible heavy machinery for a business in the construction industry.

Thanks, Megan!

The novel coronavirus pandemic is still wreaking havoc on all sorts of processes in the supply chain and beyond, even several months after it first took hold in the U.S. As such, companies have continually been forced to pivot to new suppliers and strategies, and that's a trend that's not expected to reverse course any time soon.

Indeed, according to chief financial officers who responded to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey from a host of major companies, supply chain issues were cited as one of the three largest concerns for 21% of companies. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds said they were going to try to change the products and services their companies relied upon, and a quarter of respondents said they were shifting their supply chain strategies overall.

Find more links for your supply chain.Find more links for your supply chain.

No doubt, this will include shifting to a more diversified and broader group of suppliers, and the following reasons show exactly why your company would be wise to do the same:

1) Prepare for any eventuality

As the coronavirus, wildfires, Atlantic hurricane season, military strife abroad and more have all shown in the past several months, you just can't plan for everything these days, according to Thomas. As such, it's critical to be able to quickly tap new suppliers if distribution problems arise, to ensure a smooth situation on your end of the chain. Often, more than one issue persists at the same time, meaning you need to have contingency plans for your contingency plans.

2) Ethics and sustainability

In addition to just being able to avoid problems stemming from natural disasters and COVID-19, you might want to diversify your supply chain simply because more consumers are increasingly concerned with sustainability and ethical consumption, Thomas added. For that reason, you may have to start thinking about ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in the supply chain and otherwise do more to meet consumers' expectations. That can even become a selling point for your company, as long as it's consumer-facing.

3) Keep up with the competition

As that PwC survey showed, other companies are already strategizing for a more diverse supply chain, so you can't allow them to get an edge on you if you can avoid it, according to Supply Chain Digital. Even if the big impetus to do this is just to keep up with everyone else in your space, that's as good a reason as any to put in the time and effort required to find more suppliers that can meet your needs on short notice.

4) Gain more visibility

If you've been in the logistics business for a long time, you may have many old standbys you support because, well, you've long relied on them, just as they've relied on you, Supply Chain Digital said. But those partners might not be as integrated as you need them to be, in terms of providing you all the visibility you require. It's always worth the effort to gain that extra little bit of operational efficiency and insight.

If your company is thinking about expanding its purchasing department and bringing new workers aboard, there's a lot to consider. Particularly when it comes to unique skills in today's hyper-competitive market, there are some things that should stand out more than others in terms of giving your new hire the ability to hit the ground running.

What are those key indicators of future success? The following should at least put you on the right track:

1) Data analysis skills

These days, everything about your procurement efforts probably boil down to pure data at some level, and your new hires need to be able to quickly look at and interpret any set of statistics or numbers, according to the Oxford College of Procurement & Supply. Being able to spot trends and otherwise get to the bottom of whatever the numbers are saying will help you make the most informed decisions as quickly as possible.

You need to look for certain skills in prospective procurement hires.You need to look for certain skills in prospective procurement hires.

2) Market knowledge

It should go without saying that anyone you hire must be intimately familiar with the world of procurement in general, but you should really focus on the candidates that seem to understand your specific corner of the sector well, the Oxford College of Procurement & Supply said. The more they can tell you off the tops of their heads about your potential partners or industry trends, the better off you are likely to be pursuing a long-term relationship with that professional.

3) Creative problem solving

This is a skill less specific to the world of procurement, but nonetheless invaluable in getting that kind of work done day in and day out, according to Business 2 Community. There are any number of knots to untangle in the course of a week, month or quarter, and you need to be confident your new hire can pull all the right strings to maneuver you out of a problem spot.

4) Team skills

You are likely expecting anyone who's hired will integrate somewhat seamlessly into your purchasing department as a whole; that means they need to be team players who are good with people, Business 2 Community added. That quality has an added benefit: This new hire will also spend a lot of time dealing with people outside the company, and building relationships is a must.

5) Researching techniques

No one in your company should feel as they though have everything about their jobs figured out and, therefore, have to be continually looking for new knowledge and insights, according to Argentus. Do they know where to look? Are they actively engaged in the ongoing conversation industry-wide about the world of procurement? That kind of skill is going to be invaluable as the sector grows and changes.

6) Negotiation skills

Part and parcel with good people skills is the ability to get the best possible deal for your company on every order you make, Argentus noted. Being able to negotiate without causing hard feelings with suppliers and other people in the supply chain is a critical skill for any procurement pro.

As of mid-October, most major players in the retail and logistics sectors have laid out their plans for holiday hiring, even if they haven't started onboarding new workers yet. This year, despite the economic downturn and the still-raging novel coronavirus pandemic, hiring expectations are still sky-high for many of these companies.

Indeed, the retail titan Target recently announced that it plans to hire some 130,000 seasonal workers for the coming season, more or less the same as last year's total, but with a bit of a twist, according to CNBC. Instead of just hiring normal in-store staff as usual, the pandemic has led the world's second-largest retailer to push new hires to work on same-day pickup fulfillment, either curb-side or in-store, as well as increasing the number of workers in its distribution centers.

The reason for this shift, beyond the pandemic itself, is simple, the report said. Some projections show holiday sales climbing by as much as 1.5% over last year, despite the fact that tens of millions are out of work, and Target is trying to ramp up operations to meet needs in a very different economic and social environment than what has been seen in years past. Generally speaking, Target will aim to retain up to 40% of the seasonal employees it hires in the weeks ahead.

Despite the economic slowdown, hiring is picking up in retail and logistics.Despite the economic slowdown, hiring is picking up in retail and logistics.

Another big effort
Meanwhile, Walmart — the world's largest retailer — says it will strive to hire more as well, continuing a surge it has been experiencing for months, according to a separate CNBC report. Since the start of the pandemic in March, it has hired some 500,000 new workers, and wants to add another 20,000 for the holidays, all to work in its fulfillment centers. Like Target, Walmart sees its efforts at reaching consumers shifting dramatically.

As part of that, it is shifting away from the traditional Black Friday deals it offers to people who show up in stores the day after Thanksgiving, and instead extending them for the entire holiday season in stores as well as online, the report said. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the company will handle brick-and-mortar staffing because it has typically preferred to stretch existing workers' hours rather than go on a hiring binge like Target.

From Point A to Point B
Of course, many companies need to do more shipping at this time of year, whether it's business-to-business or direct-to-consumer, and as usual the freight giants UPS and FedEx are hiring a huge number of support workers to meet that need, according to Supply Chain Brain. In addition to hiring tens of thousands already throughout the pandemic — as package volume increased 23% on an annual basis — UPS will seek to bring aboard some 100,000 seasonal workers as it projects record-high demand for shipping services.

Likewise, FedEx is planning to hire as many as 75,000 workers, a number that is up 27% from what the company sought last year, the report said.

With all this in mind, companies would be wise to start seeking holiday hires sooner than later to avoid the heaviest competition in years for such workers.

At the best of times, your procurement department should function like a well-oiled machine, but if you're like a lot of companies, the need for that kind of certainty will most definitely increase around the holiday season. The more you can do to fully plan these efforts in the next few weeks will help your entire organization be fully prepared for the ups and downs of the hectic holidays.

Especially because of the complications accompanying the novel coronavirus pandemic, this planning should already be underway and it requires more insight into the kinds of behavior your supply chain partners and consumers bring to the table these days, according to Google. Largely because of the outbreak, demand for e-commerce is surging and shipping processes have changed quite a bit for many companies, especially in comparison with what they looked like last year.

Holiday orders can't be put off.Holiday orders can't be put off.

For all these reasons, it's absolutely critical that you examine how your past efforts contrast with the current situation and determine what it will take to get these considerations up to speed, the report said. This, of course, comes with the understanding that you can't predict everything that will crop up in the weeks ahead, but the more you can do to plot out some fallback positions and contingency plans based on the most recent data — and not just what has worked in years past — the better off you are likely to be.

Understanding shipping
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind these days is not how you will tap suppliers, but rather how you will get the things you purchase from Point A to Point B, according to Material Handling & Logistics. Connecting with carriers to determine what the freight charges will cost for your various shipments, either individually or collectively, is the kind of effort that can really help you identify potential areas for savings. Moreover, getting estimates for shipping times will typically help you properly weight your decisions between price and speed.

Along similar lines, the more you can do to see your purchases in real time as they move from a supplier to your front door will be critical, so making sure you have access to tracking data could also be a good idea, the report said. That may be particularly important if you choose a shipping partner you haven't tapped in the past.

Get it done sooner than later
You certainly don't want to be in a position where you are still waiting to see how some orders will shake out the week of Thanksgiving, according to Elementum. For that reason, whatever you can do to ensure shipments have arrived and are properly sorted out before that all-important week is going to be extremely valuable. Moreover, it may give you extra operational flexibility to handle any lingering problems from yet-to-arrive orders.

All of these efforts may require a more holistic, top-down view of your purchasing operations as a whole, but if you start laying the groundwork before November arrives, you'll be in better shape to handle everything with aplomb.

Going green isn't just for individuals and it's not just something executives promise to do and not follow through — it's increasingly how businesses operate. This is for more than altruistic reasons, but also because consumers legitimately care about the carbon footprint companies create, and in many cases, because it can be cheaper in the long run. As such, more organizations that operate in or adjacent to the logistics sector are committed to greening their supply chains on an ongoing basis.

One such company is the consumer goods titan Unilever, which recently announced that it uses geolocation data and even satellites to ensure deforestation in its supply chain is kept to a minimum, according to CNBC. Too often, when it comes to a supply chain, businesses are in a position where "one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing" and there isn't a lot of transparency from one end of it to the other. That's increasingly changing because consumer pressure is pushing Unilever and other multinationals to change.

More companies are finding ways to cut emissions.More companies are finding ways to cut emissions.

Now, the company uses cellphone data from truck drivers to track how items in its supply chain move, then overlays that information on top of satellite images, the report said. If the company determines that deforestation is part of a supplier's stock and trade, then it can discontinue those business partnerships. Unilever says it further hopes other companies will join in the effort, reducing costs and carbon footprints.

Why it's important
Experts stress that carbon emissions are a growing problem in the retail game overall, largely because of how much online shopping has become the norm, according to the World Economic Forum. Think of it this way: There are now perhaps a few extra steps in the supply chain between a source and the end consumer simply because brick-and-mortar retail stores have been cut out of that picture. Now, instead of going from a regional supplier to a centralized store that consumers visit at their convenience, a pallet of 100 items will typically be delivered to 100 different homes, many of which are delivered by individual vehicles.

As such, for many companies that don't control manufacturing processes on their own, going green starts at the procurement stage. Logistics firms may increasingly strive to cut out one or more partners in the supply chain to increase efficiency, lower costs and, perhaps most important in the big picture, slash the carbon footprint of their operations, the report said.

What's at stake
However, even as online shopping has proliferated between the end of the 20th century and today, companies have been extremely good about finding that efficiency, even if they don't put a name to the efforts. Edie.net notes that between 1990 and 2018, the emissions from manufacturing in the U.K. slipped by 56.7 million metric tons, and many industry experts say they're on a path to net-zero emissions within the next few decades.

With all these issues in mind, it's important for companies at every level of the supply chain to investigate how they can reduce emissions in their own processes and ensure going green is more than just an industry buzzword.

Every business should strive to get as much efficiency and effectiveness out of every department under its roof as it possibly can. Of course, that's often easier said than done, but when it comes to the purchasing department in particular, there are some simple steps you can take to be more effective overall.

These include the following simple changes or tweaks to your current processes:

1) Put one department in charge of all purchasing

First and foremost, if you are leaving each individual department at your company in charge of its own purchasing, this is probably a mistake, according to Business Development Canada. With a centralized purchasing department, everyone else gets to drill down on their own expertise, and leave the purchasing efforts to someone who specializes in the field.

Do you have a dedicated procurement team?Do you have a dedicated procurement team?

2) Look for local suppliers

One of the biggest problems many companies face in purchasing is they rely on a long, complicated global supply chain, Business Development Canada added. While that's sometimes unavoidable, it always pays off to find local or regional suppliers whenever possible, simply because it cuts down on headaches.

3) Build your relationships over time

Just like anything else in life, if you have a good relationship with your suppliers, they're more likely to want to help you out whenever they can, according to the Purchasing & Procurement Center. The longer your supplier relationships last over time, the better off you're likely to be when it comes to ironing out any hiccups.

4) Craft fallback plans

In the world of procurement, you can't expect every process to go exactly as planned every time you place an order, the Purchasing & Procurement Center said. For that reason, you need to have contingency plans in place any time something goes awry so you can quickly and easily pivot to the next step.

5) Train workers to refine their skills

No one in any aspect of business today has all the answers, even if they've been on the job for decades, the Purchasing & Procurement Center further advised. As such, prioritize regular training as a company-wide effort, including in the procurement department. That way, you can always be sure your employees are keeping up with the latest trends and setting you up for success.

6) Seek out the best talent and strive to retain it

In a highly competitive field like logistics, there can be serious competition for the right talent, and you'll start to feel the pinch quickly if you struggle to attract or retain great employees, according to Supply Chain Minded. As such, you need to make sure you offer the most competitive salary and benefits packages you can, especially when you've already found a great worker.

7) Measure everything you can

Key performance Indicators are everywhere, as long as you know where to look, Supply Chain Minded noted. The more you can do to keep a careful eye on every aspect of your supply chain and purchasing efforts, you'll be in a position to grow.

For professionals in the logistics industry, the need to maintain a strong posture against cybersecurity risks should be obvious. However, there are often so many of these potential pitfalls that it's hard to recognize them, especially because many are all but hidden from their view. That's especially true because of the sheer volume of supply chain partners with which they typically share data.

Indeed, 80% of supply chain businesses that were hit with at least one cybersecurity incident in the last year believe the incident originated with a third-party partner, according to a recent survey of industry executives found from BlueVoyant. On average, those businesses experienced nearly three breaches in that 12-month period, and worryingly, 29% said they have no way to assess risk from their partners.

Cybersecurity risks often originate with third-party partners.Cybersecurity risks often originate with third-party partners.

That should come as little surprise, however, as only 22.5% of those polled said they have the capability to monitor all aspects of their supply chain and almost 1 in 3 re-examine these risks twice per year or less, the survey showed. It's little wonder, then, that 4 in 5 executives polled say they are increasing their cybersecurity budgets.

"The fact that cyber risk management professionals are reporting difficulties across the board shows the complexity they face in trying to improve performance," said Jim Penrose, BlueVoyant's COO. "It is encouraging that budget is being committed to tackling the problem, but with so many issues to solve, many organizations will find it hard to know where to start."

What to consider
Because of these issues, companies would be wise to take stock of potential vulnerabilities more regularly, but also more holistically, according to Tripwire. That includes looking at all assets — including workers — they have under their roof, as well as a realistic assessment of the risks they might face. Not having insight into partners' own risks is clearly a big red flag, but it's also important to understand what data you are sharing and how that might expose you both in-house and via third parties.

Once you have this information and have your best minds focused on dealing with these issues, it becomes easier to find ways you can improve, the report said. That can include working more carefully with your partners to get more insight into their own potential exposure to come up with a better path forward together.

It starts at the beginning
When making new connections with third-party supply chain partners, a critical assessment of those companies' cybersecurity risks and readiness should be standard operating procedure, according to Machine Design. That kind of due diligence can go a long way toward keeping your risks minimized and allow you both to succeed on your collaboration — whatever it may be — on an ongoing basis. However, this kind of issue doesn't always get the scrutiny it deserves when making new business partnerships, so your entire integration process may have to be reconsidered from the ground up. The good news is that as you put more effort into these changes, the better off you're going to be in the long run.