Inside View: September 2010

August 31, 2010
Written by Gary Jones
  1.  “(Military) the aspect of military operations that deals with the procurement, distribution, maintenance, and replacement of materiel and personnel.”1
  2. “(Economics) the management of materials flow through an organization, from raw materials through to finished goods.”1
  3.  “The detailed planning and organization of any large complex operation.”1

Back in my days supplying U.K. “big box stores” with bedding plants, the season used to become real crazy between March and June. An insatiable flow of trucks endlessly brought in materials and whisked away finished plants to customers in ridiculous amounts. Fifty acres of glasshouses can grow quite a number of lobelia plants and hanging baskets!

One job I definitely did not want was that of the shipping manager. Too many “melt-downs…” not my idea of fun. Managing the deliveries was referred to as “logistics.” It obviously included the maintenance of the trucks and equipment, and the staff to prepare the product and drive those trucks. Decisions had to take into account the shelf life of the plant products, timing of delivery to suit the store, time at the wheel for drivers, fuel use/energy costs, and which trucks had suitable temperature or atmosphere control in their “boxes.”

In Canada, logistics managers have the added complication of border controls and documentation. Of course, the easy way to manage the shipping logistics is to get rid of them altogether. “U-pick” is the ultimate in reducing outgoing trucking costs, but we’re not all that fortunate.

From the definitions above, however, “logistics” is clearly much more than shipping management. It extends to include the whole operation, right from the start, not just the final few hours of getting product to ultimate points of (retail) sale. In essence, everyone on site is some form of “logistics manager.”

Let’s consider one example of another “logistics manager” in most companies: the sales representative. No doubt he/she spends many hours visiting customers. Physical inputs such as fuel consumption and “softer” inputs such as time and hotel bills can be better managed these days with GPS systems and “BlackBerrys™.”

But maybe sales and marketing “logistics” can also be served with social media tools? At the 2010 Horticulture Growers’ Short Course in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Jeff Nield (Farm Folk – City Folk) and Roberta LaQuaglia (Vancouver Farmers Markets) outlined how “Twitter™” can be of help to growers.2 They suggest that “Nebraska farmers who have flocked to Twitter provide insight on those subjects and more by “tweeting” what they are up to on any given day – and helping their “tweeps” (Twitter followers) and others around the world better understand farming, farm life and food production” (from nebraskacorn.org.) They argue that if managed well, and especially if linked to other social media tools such as Facebook™, Twitter can help grow your firm’s audience. Some of this audience will become customers. Now, there’s a neat way to manage marketing logistics.

At the same conference, Della Smith brought to light a number of key points that are fundamental to embarking on the use of social media into a communications program. These include:
  • “Clear objectives and philosophy.
  • Willingness to admit mistakes.
  • “Stick-to-it-ness.”
  • Dedication of resources (time, money).
  • Flexibility.
  • Sharing.
  • Sense of humour.”3
The aim of bringing this up is not simply to suggest that Twitter is the answer to all your sales woes, logistics and time on the road. Clearly. But there is more than one way to skin a cat (as the saying goes). And in a world where we are all logistics managers to some extent, we have to consider new ways of getting the job done with the most effective use of resources. That might be managing physical inputs, final product or sales visits. It might be managing accounts, people or fuel/energy inputs. Unless you’re fortunate enough to run your business with all your suppliers on one side as your neighbour and all your customers as your other neighbour, then you will have to deal with logistics.

But remember, just because you’re not managing a fleet of delivery vehicles, doesn’t mean you’re not a logistics manager. ■

1 “TheFreeDictionary.com.”
2 Nield and LaQuaglia, (Jan. 2010), “Twitter – What’s all the Fuss About?,” LMHIA Short Course, Abbotsford.
3 Smith, Della, Q Workshops Inc., Vancouver. (2010) “Online/Social Media: Promise or Peril?,” LMHIA Short Course, Abbotsford.


Gary Jones is chair of production horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and would welcome comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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