The Berlin Blockade is an episode from the start of the Cold War when Stalin, leading communist Russia blockaded Berlin in June 24, 1948 in order to try and establish communism in Germany including western Berlin. For 11 months allied planes made 2,13000 sorties carrying 1.7 million tons of food and fuel. The blockade ended on May 12, 1949 with West Berlin becoming a bastion of the capitalist and free enterprise based way of the allied power block and Eastern Berlin the capital of communist East Germany. This episode from history is perhaps the most powerful example of supply chain management from the recent past. Supply Chain management is an amalgamation of technical, logistical managerial and above all leadership know-how. Working under tremendous pressure, the supply chain managers ensure transportation and distribution of essential raw materials or finished products within the country or for export to foreign countries. Massive loads of goods are imported, picked-up, customs-cleared and trucked from port or airport to the destination.
In-house coordination depend on internal coordination between purchase and administration to secure packing lists and invoices, open L/Cs, contact courier companies to send important documents, contact the shipping or airlines executives to secure the proper transit time so that the goods reach destination within the time frame given by the buyer. Heavy equipment, trucks and cars are used to load and offload goods in offsite places as well as the airports and sea ports, and constant supervision is done through land phones and mobile phones as calls go out by the thousands to and from different point men in home and abroad involving more than one and some times dozens of companies. Supply chain management is truly a gargantuan task that is done by hardy men of character who have tremendous organisational sense. The men working to manage the supply chain of an organisation are the great-unsung heroes on whom the organisation depends for survival. The various companies that link the supply chain throughout the world are massive multinational companies that literally keep the world tied in one large chain of demand and supply.
An executive working for a shipping or airlines or a cargo company would be doing more than just a mundane chore needed to sustain a livelihood. He is a foot soldier in the mechanics of the national economy. He would be working to book customers, convince them of a service that his shipping company provides which involves transporting essential exports or bringing imports from different countries and continents. The paper work -depending on export or import functions are - an invoice and packing list, getting clearance from government agencies like CCU and Bangladesh bank, ensuring the accuracy and technicalities of a Bill of Lading (B/L), communicating with regional office while tracking the cargo, contacting the office in the port city in case of import or destination office in case of export, do customs clearance and secure stevedore to do lifting of goods into the ship and above all keep the customer happy. The main concern of a customer is to get the fastest "transit time" or time needed from send off and arrival. Therefore, the shipping executive tries to sell the "transit time" and if his transit time is equal to some other shipping company than the trick is to try and give good rates, offer services at destination or just get the branch at destination to contact the buyer at destination end, sell a deal and get the buyer to nominate your company. Sending sales lead to your destination office with details about a prospective shipment does this. Sales agents at principle's end visit the buyer and if they can convince the buyer then a shipping company is used for transporting the goods. Sometimes the buyer himself tells the seller the name of the company. Airlines executive do same kind of paperwork, their shipment document consists of an Airway bill instead of a Bill of lading. Besides this small difference in terminology, the same kind of documents is needed for import or export. Courier companies and other logistics operatives like trucking companies, freight forwarders, clearing and forwarding (C&F) companies follow-the same beat to do their jobs. In Bangladesh, most shipping companies work via a local agent. Airlines have their main offices but also the local agents known as the General Sales Agents (GSAs).
Supply Chain companies are performing a vital function by ensuring successful delivery of export cargo. This earns foreign currency for the country, and supply chain companies help in getting the order successfully completed. Essential raw material and urgent machinery and other supplies are imported from abroad via the logistics companies. Besides this rudimentary function the logistics companies employ many thousands of people, give tax, and support the existence of many other companies that depend on the major players in the supply chain business by offering auxiliary services.
The main complaint from all supply chain management companies would be the massive red tape and corruption that are existing in the customs department. The sooner the country improves ports and airports and cargo sections by buying modern machinery the better. The infrastructure needed by the supply chain management companies should be improved and import restrictions should be eased so that these companies can bring the equipment needed to improve service. But most importantly, these companies would see better days when export picks up and greater import can be sustained to support increasing rise in export potential. In the meantime, we can appreciate the function being performed by the supply chain management companies.
The mushroom growth of logistics companies is not a good development for genuine supply chain service providers. Whoever has a personal computer, a brief case and a fax machine hires one person and opens up a logistics company. Granted there is provision for open competition but a natural growth of the market would mean that the smaller companies would have been wiped out simply because they are unable to provide good service. But instead, these smaller companies are responsible for eating up certain market share and since they provide mediocre service, the entire logistics fraternity gets a bad name. The multinationals like the shipping, cargo and freight forwarding companies bring millions of takas of revenue by way of tax, customs revenue and much indirect contribution to the national exchequer. We hope that the market would develop enough for the genuine players to be appreciated for the wonderful contribution they make to the economy .