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A Conversation with Donald G. Maltby
Executive Vice President of Logistics Services, Unyson Logistics


LQ: How are 3PLs using IT to coordinate the supply chain requirements for companies across several modes of transport? (David Closs, Ph.D.)
Donald Maltby: I believe that all 3PLs should use IT to integrate with the customer’s supply chain, as technology enables the 3PL to be unbiased in providing the customer with solutions. The 3PL must be well versed in all modes of transportation and must also have the ability to connect to these modes through technology enhancements. This will give the customer visibility throughout the supply chain and can eliminate backroom costs. If the 3PL does not have that ability, its effectiveness will be limited in managing that customer’s supply chain. Customers look to the 3PL to provide continuous improvements. The 3PL must be focused on process improvement and deliverables,which are driven through technology, resources and innovation.
LQ: Has your firm developed proprietary systems?
Donald Maltby: We do both.We bought our TMS, the core operating system, and a financial package,and we have built our Web-enabled tools around that for customer, vendor and supplier interface and for general Web portals for customers to place orders. It is a lot different than it was 10 years ago, when you could not interface with other software. Today many shippers are up against IT constraints, and they can’t get the IT resources they require. A 3PL must therefore be flexible in how it can integrate,whether it is with an ARP or an old legacy system. Nowadays it is just a transfer of files.
Years ago it involved a lot of complicated integration. Many clients initially inquire how much IT will be required on their part, and we respond that it is very little.
LQ: How do you create better visibility using IT in regard to cost and product in the supply chain? (Russ Doak)
Donald Maltby: The 3PL provides better visibility through integration of IT into its supply chain and those of all the underlying carriers, irrelevant of mode. IT enables the shipping public to have visibility in their supply chain way upstream, through all modes of transportation. It allows firms to drive cost out of that supply chain by optimizing not only the network of that customer but also the network of the 3PL.
This allows customers to collaborate both internally and externally within the 3PL marketplace. If a 3PL is doing business with major retailers across the U.S. and Canada, it is getting files from all those retailers,which allows them to look at multiple customers to drive cost down.
LQ: To what extent may we see technology providers collaborating with 3PLs to improve the software they may use to better manage themselves and their customer relationships? (John Langley, Ph.D.)
Donald Maltby: As in all business, technology partners are now shrinking. The 3PL is on the leading edge in providing technology solutions to its customers.What you are seeing now is that TMS applications have to be enhanced, and that is done with the 3PL in mind.Web-enabled tools that are user-friendly and easy to deploy are now accessible to the 3PL marketplace.Those discussions focus on how we can improve the product or the technology to service the 3PL, which then enhances the value to the customer.
LQ: What are the major impediments to achieving global supply chain visibility and how will the technology sector step up to help improve in this area? (John Langley)
Donald Maltby: One major impediment is a lack of good information. The technology to provide visibility is easily accessible in the marketplace, and the ability to receive data from shippers and customers is a critical piece of that.Technology to provide visibility across countries and modes is in place today.The problem is the quality of the data that is going into the system from the shipper, not the technology itself. I do not see technology as being the impediment.We must learn how to manage.We must be able to accept that the product or service is out there today and we need it to succeed. It takes effort to implement initially,but it is worth it.
LQ: As you grow your business,you can expect to apply more and more effort to managing legacy applications and customer customizations. How are you dealing with this challenge? (Nicholas Seiersen)
Donald Maltby: We believe in customized solutions for our customers. As we grow our business,we are always trying to enhance our technology.The 3PL marketplace must tailor its solutions to meet the demands of the customer. The core requirements of the customers are often the same: these needs are visibility, driving cost and process improvement.
These are the drivers from a 3PL perspective, although there are variations that make our customers’needs slightly unique. A 3PL must be ahead of the curve in order to provide customized solutions to its customers,and must continually reinvest in new applications.
LQ: What are you doing to create the right balance between agility and lean-process business practices? (Russ Doak)
Donald Maltby: As a 3PL you must focus on who you are and what you do. Our tagline is “Unyson is a major 3PL that is the best at offering multimode transportation and guaranteed savings.”Once you have established a business relationship with a client, the question is “Does it fit?” If it does not, you need to move on. 3PLs need to clearly define where their strengths lie rather than spin their wheels; otherwise they will have a lot of technology and staffing costs. The right balance is understanding value, delivering that value and being able to move toward that value all the time.
LQ: As more companies look at order fulfillment and getting closer to their customers, how are you preparing for this trend? (Russ Doak)
Donald Maltby: More customers are looking at their footprint and asking, “Am I in the right marketplace? Am I in position to service my customers? Am I providing the service and cost to meet my customer demand?” These are all important questions that will separate you from the competition.What you are seeing on a global level is customers evaluating their supply chain to take out costs and be closer to their customer to deliver the value they promised. What we are seeing more of, especially over the past 10 months, is network modeling.

Questions for this Executive Interview were prepared by LQ’s board members:

David Closs, Ph.D., Michigan State University; Russ Doak, Director, Supply Chain Logistics, Heli-One; Tom Goldsby, Ph.D., University of Kentucky; John C. Langley Jr., Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology; and Nicholas Seiersen, Senior Manager, KPMG, and LQ Executive Editor.

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