Macro and Micro Logistics 

macromicroNot long ago, I submitted a piece titled “Things That Come Up a Lot.” I dove into some of the common challenges AV and CE businesses face, regardless of the specific vertical they’re in. I made the point that most are more similar than they are different and that while specific solutions may need to be tailored, there are usually lessons to be learned from what your peers have experienced.

In the past couple of weeks, there’s been a surge of business in the channels I work with, possibly due to pent-up demand and forward-looking optimism. While it would be nice to definitively identify the underlying reasons for this surge, on a basic level, we should all be grateful and just roll with it.

As the saying goes, “Every solution has two problems.” Even as the economy opens up as public health restrictions are lifted, other challenges present themselves. Supply chains are still running slowly, although arguably faster than they were last year. The new problem is there’s not enough stuff in the supply chains: Shortages of parts, products and materials continue to dog every industry that I pay attention to. It is remarkable how many products can’t go anywhere without semiconductors.

Economists and business writers can tell you what we’re facing is the consequences of reduced or shut down production last year during the height of COVID restrictions. This was followed by an inability to meet demand with adequate supply. Knowing this is one thing; working around it is something else entirely.

All of that is fascinating, but at the front end of business, there’s not a lot you can do about macro factors like that (except build more time into your Gantt charts). On the more immediate, micrologistics side, there are always things you can do to make better use of your time and resources. All this has been my segue into telling some funny (yet informative) stories about times where I didn’t plan ahead and had to deal with problematic logistics.

If you don’t already know, being unprepared will ruin your day.  Once, we received a delivery of extremely expensive, extremely heavy and high-end home theater furniture. How heavy? There were three crates, weighing from 160 kilograms to over 300 kilograms (353 to 661 pounds). Because we didn’t think it through, the crates arrived on a flatbed with no power tailgate and no forklift. You do what you can with what you’ve got. We had to dismantle the solid wooded crates, each one held together by hundreds of screws, just to get to the furniture. We then had to haul them off of the flatbed and through the front door into the showroom. Oh, and it was January, just to make it even better.

It hadn’t occurred to any of us when the trucking company called to schedule the delivery that we ought to specify a truck with a power tailgate. If we had, we could have used our pallet jack to drag the crates inside and opened them there. Lesson learned.

When we started specifying motorized lifts for plasma flat panels, the ones we were dealing with were massive. It became apparent the best course of action was to schedule delivery to the job site, and not our office. Of course, we learned that the hard way with the delivery of our first 150-kilogram (110-pound) unit. We also learned to arrange the rental equipment necessary to get the lifts where they need to be installed, such as second-floor bedrooms.

Pablo Picasso said, “Everything is easy or impossible.” In my experience, the difference comes down to whether the equipment rental company has what you need. If I had to pick two aphorisms to bookend my comic/tragic job site experiences, I would probably pair “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” with “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

I often think of what a recently retired military friend once said: “Amateurs obsess over equipment. Professionals obsess over logistics.” The guns, ammo and so forth don’t matter as much as getting them to where they need to be. That’s definitely applicable to our field as well.