Reprinted from SUPPLY CHAIN DIGEST, August 1, 2007
Expert Insight: Supply Chain InView by Ann Drake
Ventures Requiring “Super” Powers
Outsourcing Sometimes Requires 3PLs to Take On New Responsibilities
In the movies, when Spiderman needs to call upon extraordinary powers, he just steps into an alley, changes outfits and he’s ready to go. In the real world of logistics and supply chain management, taking on responsibilities outside the normal supply chain arena doesn’t happen all that simply.
As more companies choose to outsource their logistics and supply chain management, they may be asking us – as 3PL providers -- to take on entirely new roles and responsibilities. In each instance, we have to ask ourselves: Is this something we WANT to take on? And How will we make sure we do it RIGHT?
One example I can offer is the handling of medical devices and kits that contain prescription drugs. This type of product brings with it a complex set of “Pedigree Laws” that govern the data that must follow each physical along with the change of ownership. The objective of these laws is to assure that the traceability of the products back to the point of manufacture to combat the efforts of drug counterfeiters.
The 3PL industry is in a unique position of handling such products on behalf of customers without actually taking ownership. Because many state laws do not clearly address 3PL providers when it comes to pedigree laws; compliance can be challenging. It may involve becoming licensed in numerous states in order to be able to legally provide warehousing and transportation services.
Of course, the first time for everything introduces a valuable opportunity to learn new skills. Before deciding to commit to a highly specialized request, questions that can be asked might include: Is this consistent with our business objectives and our organizational strengths? Do we have the flexibility to adapt and deploy necessary resources? Do we have access to information and/or partners to shorten the learning curve? If a valued customer makes the request, chances are, the effort will be well worth it, and the answer will be yes.
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