Like other consulting firms, Vertix is often engaged only after something has been determined to be “a problem.” Only after we’ve gotten a thorough and accurate picture of the “problem” can we provide a solution that addresses the issue at its root. Typically, when we deal with complex network deployments and dig up that root, we often find logistics to be among the culprits. Logistics is one of the foundation pillars upon which projects and plan success can be measured, particularly when referring to network deployments.
It’s important to understand the logistics of logistics.
To explain, we recently completed a project for one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers (good business is knowing when to ask for help). The network upgrade’s aggressive timeline required a defined in-house logistics structure and operation in order to effectively forecast, order and conduct warehousing operations. In an attempt to address these challenges, the carrier engaged a 3rd Party Logistics (3PL). This is a perfectly normal and traditional course of action, right?
It’s not that simple.
For us, the key was understanding the depth of knowledge and experience the clients’ 3PL provider brought to the table, on what was a highly complex and technical network deployment initiative. As part of our initial peeling back and observation of the issue, we determined that, like many other projects in which we’ve consulted, there was a lack of a critical process and logistical foundation missing from their skillset. We found the 3PL was approaching the deployment project as it typically does with projects outside of the telecom industry, which meant that they didn’t have the specialized skills to deal with a telecommunications deployment. To compound the issue, the client did not have the required systems and personnel to manage such a program. So while engaging the 3PL was the right step, it shouldn’t have been the final step.
A 4PL is basically an arrangement wherein a firm outsources services to a 3PL firm and additionally hires another firm that specializes in managing and coordinating the activities specific to the industry. A 4PL firm possesses a high amount of technological expertise and management capabilities. The 4PL can cover several customized warehousing and distribution services and is critical to meeting the specific needs and technical demands of highly specialized projects. This approach is applicable across any complex implementation of high value materials and is often the difference between a successful project implementation and one that is doomed before it begins.
In the case of a wireless company, each site is customized and there is a significant cost to the carrier if the service is not deployed on time or is disrupted. Other companies, regardless of industry, may need a 4PL to integrate a multitude of 3PL vendors, however in wireless deployments, this is critical not only for integrating multiple vendors but to provide specific network deployment logistics know-how – the piece often most critical to success.
Shaun Cohen, Partner at Vertix Consulting