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VIEWPOINT: To be a logistics leader, state needs a plan

May 29, 2006

Indiana is poised to become the country's logistics center. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on that topic. Now is the time for business, government and education to come together and make it happen.

SupplyNet 2006-the recent statewide conference that brought together not only transportation, distribution and logistics industries, but also representatives from manufacturing, retail, information technology, government and academia-detailed the broader picture of supplychain management.

As a cutting-edge business strategy, supply-chain management integrates internal and external logistics among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, transportation providers and third-party logistics firms to maximize productivity.

Those in business today know global customers want full-service providers that integrate logistics, operational knowledge and a bundled portfolio of services.

Flexibility is proving to be one of the most critical factors in the supply-chainmanagement process. To remain competitive in the modern global economy, companies depend on fast-cycle logistics. Slow delivery costs them time and money. Every moment a computer sits on a warehouse shelf, for example, the less it is worth.

It's clear where the "Crossroads of America" motto came from. With major transportation modes, a mature agricultural and manufacturing base, and a central location that is a day's truck drive to 80 percent of the major business centers in the United States and Canada, Indiana ranks as one of the country's best of the best for the management and movement of goods.

More interstate highways pass through Indiana than any other state. Indiana is ranked 14th for ship ments via water. And we've got the second-largest FedEx hub in the world.

How do we move forward? How do we take all these incredible assets and position them as viable opportunities to attract companies to move here, manufacture here and create jobs for the local economy?

It begins with collaboration, and SupplyNet 2006 is a great example-bringing together key players across a broad spectrum, and initiating a dialogue and a vision for development. Leslie Gardner, professor of operations management at the University of Indianapolis, is a driving force behind supply-chain-management cooperation.

"Our conference goal was to look at the whole supply chain, which is much more than transportation, distribution and logistics. Supply-chain management is about cooperation," Gardner said.

As Gardner noted, cooperation can be a competitive strategy. For Indiana to capitalize on this $1 trillion industry, we must come together and formulate our own strategy to position the state as the country's leading supply-chain-management provider. We must leverage the academic and research capabilities of the state's colleges and universities, along with the public and private sector.

As noted by the Indy Partnership, the key to the success of the life sciences ini tiatives has been the collaboration among industry, universities and government.

That blueprint must be duplicated to reap the rewards of a similar initiative in the supply-chain-management field. To gain momentum and maximize Indiana's potential to become the country's best for supply-chain management, a formalized plan must be developed.

As we have seen, an industry's individual components cannot succeed without the support of a public-private partnership. Now is the time for all the partners to step up to the plate. In a fast-cycle world, we don't want to be left behind.



Palmer is vice president of air ground freight services for FedEx Express in Indianapolis.
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