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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News - Sorting It Out

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

August 23, 2017

Sorting It Out: Don’t Let Daily Tactical Issues Subvert Strategic Planning

If You’re not Planning for Growth – then Don’t Expect Any!


Busy logistics executives and DC managers are so often involved in tactical issues (order processing and shipping) that it becomes easy to overlook the need for planning at the strategic level. However, growth oriented companies are the ones that are committed to continuous improvement strategies, accompanied by superb implementation plans. In those companies strategic planning is closely related to operations. Their thinking is that if you’re not planning for growth – then don’t expect any!

For example: within the DC, labor planning is vital for reasons of both cost management and customer service performance. Labor planning needs to be done to meet peaks and valleys of activity. It also needs to be done for longer planning horizons, to prepare for the inevitable changes in customer order profiles and SKU mix. Personnel recruitment, training, development, and retention are all strategies requiring planning. Here strategic planning can and should address questions such as - what technology and environmental changes will the next generation of workers require?

Strategic planning is the cornerstone of any change initiative, whether technological, process, or cultural.

Holste Says...

Strategic planning is the cornerstone of any change initiative, whether technological, process, or cultural.

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In addition to the above question, the following is a list of additional questions all with operational implications that can best be addressed in a comprehensive strategic continuous improvement plan:

  • What changes (processing and value added) are contemplated by and for existing customers?

  • How will these changes influence marketing plans and day-to-day operating relationships?

  • What changes are required to successfully approach new customers and markets?

  • What changes are underway or being considered by the competition?

  • What are the most likely industry trends and how will then affect current practices?

  • What are the company’s internal and external vulnerabilities relative to new demands?

  • What are the most critical immediate issues facing the company?

  • What changes (economic and regulatory) will most influence the company’s profitability?

Most industry consultants agree that unless strategic planning drives continuous improvement, it may have only marginal value. In fact if the plan does not drive continuous improvement it can be counterproductive.

A great place to start your planning process is at industry trade shows such as Modex 2018 in Atlanta, GA. April 9 thru 12, 2018. You can quickly check it out and pre-register at

Final Thoughts

There is at best no point, and at worse negative value, in having a plan just so you can say you have one. Most hands-on managers eventually come to realize that there may not be a lot of point in trying to develop tactical plans if there is not real “flesh-on-the-bones” strategic continuous improvement planning on which to base them.

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