Canadian Shipper


Defining winning shipper-carrier collaboration

MISSISSAUGA, Ont.–How do you define true collaboration between shippers and their carriers, when it comes to visible characteristics?

That was the question debated by a leading shipper-carrier panel at Wednesday’s 2014 Surface Transportation Summit at the Mississauga Convention Centre.

Jacquie Meyers, President, Meyers Transportation Services, said true collaboration is about joint problem-solving, long-term commitment and investment in that relationship.

“Give us a commitment of five years that you’re going to work with us.

When you get to the step where you’re investing and committing together the world is your oyster,” she said.

Giving carriers that legitimate seat at the table is important.

“Collaboration saves you far more money than a poorly managed RFQ,” Meyers said.

Susan Promane, Whirlpool Canada’s Director, Supply Chain, said that in her experience “There aren’t that many carriers who truly operate that way. How we define carrier management is that we make sure we articulate our business goals on a regular basis.

We look at scorecards and reward annually. We lock in for two years which we consider to be realistic. We do test the market after this.

We typically don’t have that many changes but what we are really looking for are carriers who do what they say, and who can adapt to change, which is a real opportunity for some,” she said.

“From my professional experience we have always taken the approach that the transport company we hire is an extension of our brand,” said Anna Petrova, a supply chain manager with experience in the food sector.

“Aligning strategies is an important part of the relationship. Our customers are the retailers who can punish us and fine us. When that happens it’s important to stay aligned with the carriers. This is easier said than done, and requires commitment on both sides,” she added.

Elias Demangos, President and CEO, Fortigo Transportation Management Group, stressed the communication factor as important to collaboration. 

“It’s about regular communication, and not letting issues fester.

You have to go into this honestly. A lot of our partnerships are multi-year partnerships. A lot of hard work, dedication and straightforwardness has to go into continuing that partnership,” he said.

It’s a given that issues will arise, Demangos said, so “for me having a Plan B is critical to how we play in the business.”

When you’re entering into a rate discussion, said Promane, “everyone has cost pressures but I want to understand a little more about what they (carriers) are doing to drive down their costs. As a true partnership that’s what I expect from the other side. But oftentimes this is met with resistance,” she said.

“It’s sometimes difficult for shippers to be very clear about their execution expectations. It takes only so long to agree on the rates and then it takes two years to cohabitate on this ‘hopefully successful marriage.’ There’s a lot of room for grey areas when the expectations are not defined,” said Petrova. 

She suggests formalizing them in a document and designating it as a service level agreement, or carrier document, or by something the parties will recognize as such.

“Do you want a dedicated CSR on your account? Do you want regular reports? All those things need to be clarified and transparent.

Demonstrating mutual respect and cherishing the partnership is what builds the relationship,” Petrova said.

From the carrier side, how do you demonstrate to your partner that you are worthy of their trust?

“Don’t ever lie to your customers. If my dispatcher lies to you they will not last as a dispatcher and I will not last as a supplier,” said Meyers.

“We are very open with our customers about where our costs are going, about our load balance and about what are we doing to improve our service levels. What do I expect back? Openness, honesty and transparency,” she said.

Measurement of a carrier’s performance, said Petrova, strongly considers the carrier’s service capabilities.

“We measure on-time performance, carrier-controllable, safety, and what I would call compliance to administration, i.e. billing accuracy, EDI compliance,” said Promane.

Positive leadership at the carrier makes a difference, said Petrova.

“I attend lots of (transportation) conferences. They all tend to have that cloud of continuous complaint. We all have our challenges.

We need to create more positive leadership for our teams and focus on our wins. I’m sure every transport company in this room has had great achievements. We’re hoping for more visible positive leaderships-an industry that is always on the defensive is not very attractive,” she said.

“It’s been very often that we as shippers had to drive the innovation.

It so happened that for the most part it was always us,” Petrova commented.

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