Baseball and Logistics: The Top Four “Rules of the Diamond”

With baseball season in full swing, fans are out supporting their favorite teams in ballparks across the country. It will be several weeks before the top four teams face off in the the League Championship contests leading up to the World Series, but shippers can perform like champions all season with the top four “rules of the diamond,” lessons from the nation’s favorite pastime.

1.  You need a good lineup with skilled players in every position.

As a shipper responsible for a complex, global supply chain, you need a skilled team and providers across all modes (less-than-truckload, truckload, rail/intermodal, ocean and air) that are the best at what they do. And just as it is important to have a strategy for your batting lineup, you must have a clear strategy for what mode and which providers you need to handle your shipments.

2. Signals must be clear

On the baseball diamond, hand signals between the catcher and pitcher have become an art and a language between those two players. However, in logistics, your communication must be clear at all levels — across your company’s operating divisions, with logistics service providers, vendors and your customers.

If a catcher is expecting a low ball and the pitcher is aiming for the stars, chances are the bases will soon be loaded. By the same token, if your customer expects delivery within a certain time frame and the provider you have chosen cannot meet that schedule, you need to address the issue quickly.

3. Curve balls are a given

It is a beautiful day. The bases are loaded. A ball comes directly to your bat and you hit a homerun. While this sometimes happens, more often batters are reacting to a wide range of pitches, some more challenging than others.

The same is true for retail shippers. While you create solid transportation management plans, your skills are often tested when you face a “curve ball” – a delayed shipment, a carrier missing a deadline, product not being ready for pickup. The curve balls are endless, so you have to be ready to adjust accordingly to avoid striking out.

4. Never take your eye off the ball

There are a lot of distractions at the ballpark – cheering fans, calliope music, food vendors. And while the pitcher is focused on striking out the batter and communicating with the catcher, he also has to make sure that no one is stealing bases behind him.

In baseball and in logistics, you can never take your eye off the ball or any aspect of what is happening.

In many instances, shippers are responsible for managing drivers, equipment and operations. Any one of these elements can be data intensive and time-consuming due to the requirements that drivers and equipment must meet at all times. When you add in the need to develop and execute a transportation plan that meets service level requirements with available assets and capacity, the process can become even more challenging.

And what is the final lesson that logisticians can learn from baseball? You need the right equipment to support your skills and strategy. The great baseball teams of today don’t practice by playing stickball in the streets. By the same token, if you are still managing your transportation operations with a room full of file cabinets and excel spreadsheets, it might be time to explore transportation management software.

Technology is a great enabler of visibility, efficiency and cost savings. And that, baseball and logistics fans, is a home run!

DP Color Pic 2015Debra Phillips, Director of Marketing for MercuryGate International, has worked in the transportation, logistics and supply chain industries for more than 20 years. She has held positions of responsibility with a global transportation services provider, a national industry trade association and a truck rental, leasing and dedicated logistics firm. A graduate of the University of West Georgia, she is a resident of Jacksonville, FL.