I share Peter Bradley's concern about micro management ("a fair exchange," bigpicture, July 2006, page 9), but I don't share what I perceive to be his defense of the DC on the DC/driver efficiency issue.
Here's why. The only regulated party in the three-legged logistics stool is the carrier—and specifically, the driver. The law does not restrict the shipper or the DC. Furthermore, drivers have very little control over their schedules: they arrive at a designated spot, get unloaded and move on to the next point all based on shipper directions. In my opinion, they represent the party with the least flexibility and as such, deserve to be accommodated by plants and DCs.
No one blames us if we, as consumers, all stop off at the grocery store on the way home from work, creating lengthy checkout lines. The store has to figure out how to keep the lines short. It's no different for DCs. The biggest difference between ourselves and professional drivers is that we are not regulated ... yet. Sobriety issues aside, we don't risk fines—or even losing our livelihood—for driving when we want to. Drivers do, and it will not get any better than it is now.
Our ability to whisk goods through the supply chain is critical to the success of our economy. But right now, small companies and their inefficient receiving remain a huge hurdle. We can ill afford to have America's informed and professional distribution centers operating in like manner.
John A. Gentle, John A. Gentle & Associates, LLC