Executive Insights: Conversation with Tracy Rosser

Before Tracy Rosser held his current position of EVP of Operations at Transplace (a Talking Logistics sponsor), he was senior vice president of transportation and supply chain at Walmart, where for more than two decades he had a frontline view of the retail industry and all of the changes that continue to transform that industry today. How have those changes redefined the rules for success? What is top of mind for shippers today? Which technologies are going to make a difference moving forward? Those are some of the questions I discussed with him during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Redefining the Customer Experience

A lot has changed in transportation and retail over the past two decades, so I began our conversation by asking Tracy what he sees as the biggest changes over that time. Tracy notes that 20 years ago there were no smartphones and the internet was just starting to come into its own. “But the biggest change I’ve seen is in customer expectations,” says Tracy. “What customers were willing to accept and what their desires were back then are nowhere near what they are today. This [change toward more stringent customer expectations] has been caused by technology and the information they have access to today.”

While cost is always an important element of transportation, in recent years, providing an enhanced customer experience has become of equal or greater importance. Tracy comments that whether a customer is shopping online or in a brick-and-mortar store, they need execution and reliability that meets their expectations. “Meeting those expectations at that moment must be holistic because transportation is part of an end-to-end supply chain,” says Tracy. “Therefore, if you’re going to be in transportation, you have to understand the supply chain. You can’t work in silos.”

Tracy notes that customers today are also more interested in sustainable supply chains, especially with e-commerce. “How much and what kind of packaging are you using and how does it impact the environment?”

Maximizing 3PL-Customer Relationships

I next shifted gears and asked Tracy what third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and customers look for in their joint relationships.

“What customers want from 3PLs is a deep and intimate understanding of their business,” states Tracy. “They want 3PLs to not just look for compatibilities in requirements, but to understand as shippers what their mission and strategies are. Is their strategy customer service or cost savings? Do they understand their culture? To be a successful 3PL you have to figure out how to integrate into the customer’s business as an extension of their supply chain organization.

“Shippers want more than execution. They want to know how a 3PL will add value to their business,” continues Tracy. “How can the 3PL leverage data and analysis to improve the shipper’s operations? They’re looking for strategic partnerships, which actually work best for both parties because investments are going to be made on both sides for continuous improvement. These cultural alignments and strategic partnerships are also what 3PLs look for in customers.”

Current Customer Questions

In his new role at Transplace Tracy has spent a great deal of time meeting with customers. I asked him what they are asking him. Tracy comments that customers take flawless execution as a given. What they are asking is how a 3PL can leverage all of the data out there to provide actionable insights that can help them be more efficient and better serve their customers. “That’s a common thread across all customers regardless of what industry they are in.”

Tracy also notes that with all of the changes going on in the marketplace and with technology, customers look to 3PLs to be their transportation experts. “We help customers ‘see around the corner’ so they can concentrate on running their business.”

The Growing Role of Technology

In our discussion the topic of leveraging data came up several times, so I asked Tracy what technologies he sees playing a major role over the next few years.

Tracy pointed to a number of technologies that enable and facilitate network analysis and engineering, including control towers, business intelligence, AI and machine learning. The objective, he says, is to help customers improve operational efficiencies such as planning direct continuous move programs, which he notes is really hard to do. “But with the new technology, we’re getting it done.”

Tracy provided a lot more details around these and other emerging technologies, as well as gave great advice for new professionals entering this industry, so I encourage you to watch the full episode for all of his insights and advice. Then post a comment share your perspectives!