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Football or Supply Chain: The Playbook, Process, & Teamwork Makes the Difference

Posted by Dallas Walker

As Super Bowl LIV draws near, most of the country has their calendars marked with party plans for the year’s biggest sporting spectacle. I consider myself blessed to have lived out my dream of playing in the NFL, where I learned valuable lessons that have carried over into my personal life, as well as my career in the logistics industry.  Football and supply chain share striking similarities, with a team-oriented approach to success along with other attributes that you may notice while watching the big game on Sunday.

Here are four ways that football and supply chain share a locker room:

The playbook is your standard

dw- Panthers

Every football team, professional or not, has a playbook that holds the blueprint to their success, and logistics companies are no different. Their playbook houses their mission statements - their game-plan for how to uniquely serve their customers and differentiate themselves from the competition. While everyone has a different selling style, at the end of the day, the playbook is the foundation of your approach. At Kenco, we run our “plays” each day with a common goal to “Be Honest, Serve, and Get Better,” an approach I can relate to from both a faith aspect and my life around the game of football.

There are many ways to run a play, but you need to be able to react on the fly, in real-time. As a tight end, you can potentially run one route multiple different ways depending on what coverage the defense presents. The tight end needs to be on the same page as the quarterback in order to execute the route and get open. At Kenco, we know the destination – our endzone – and all team members must be on the same page for how we’re going to deliver each load.

Football or Supply Chain The Playbook_Side by side

Audibles are inevitable

In the supply chain, and football, it’s not a matter of if you will face adversity, but when will you face it. Weather, mechanical issues, sudden changes to load pick up or delivery, etc., are just a few of the problems faced by 3PLs, all of which must be overcome at the end of the day in order to deliver on our promises. We must figure out new ways to address issues and adjust our approach as necessary to resolve them before the time clock runs out.

DW - cowboysraiders

It’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day routines – whether it’s high volume contracted lanes, or maybe just the familiar handful of lanes that you are used to moving for a customer – and just like in the NFL, the direction of the game can change in a split-second. A team may spend weeks preparing their offense for certain coverages, but opponents will always try to throw something different at you, something you’ve never seen before to separate you from your game-plan. We may know when a load is scheduled to be picked up and delivered, but there is always a chance that the customer may need to make a last minute change, which we must adhere to in order to maintain the highest level of service. The destination, or endzone, doesn’t change, but operations must be shifted to adapt to changing customer needs. We must anticipate and be prepared for game-time decisions. A true strategic partner has the ability to alter their typical procedures and call the audible necessary to cater to its customers.

Teamwork is Vital

Football or Supply Chain The Playbook_Pointing_2

A football team only functions when all 11 players on the field do their job and share the same focus for the execution needed to get the job done. For most transportation companies, every role on the team is vital.  From a leading role, like a CEO or quarterback, to an entry level position, it takes every individual, united for a common goal, in order to succeed.

Bench strength is important. The team is only as strong as their bench, who serve as the supporting staff, and must maintain a “next man/woman up” mentality. In any company, there will be days where someone is sick, traveling, or having personal issues, and other team members must always be ready to step into the game and fill that gap. 3PLs don’t stop working for our customers because a piece of the team is missing; instead, we collectively tweak our daily formations to put the right people in place to tackle the tasks at hand.

Football or Supply Chain The Playbook_Huddle+1

Process & Accountability

It’s all about the process. I firmly believe that success is a daily thing, not an end goal. Success comes from your daily approach to how you handle the process, and if you fall in love with the process, you will walk out of your respective arena each day with your head held high. In life, logistics, and ball, unfortunately, mistakes are inevitable. We’re all imperfect and fall short at times.  What’s important is that you’re accountable for your mistakes, you learn from them, and put yourself in the best possible position to ensure success moving forward.  In logistics, like in football, you must learn and improve every day if you want to stay at the top of your game. 

Dallas Walker

Written by Dallas Walker

Vice President, Freight Logistics

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Kenco Logistics

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Kenco provides integrated logistics solutions that include distribution and fulfillment, comprehensive transportation management, material handling services, real estate management, and information technology—all engineered for Operational Excellence.