How I Learned to Love 3rd Party

Many years after the fact, I can finally face up to it. I just didn’t like the idea of 3rd party pallet management, especially when it seemed like my raison d’etre was on the line. I didn’t need CHEP, and I certainly didn’t need the Canadian Pallet Council (I ran a program in Canada) to show me how to improve things. After all, I had inherited a company pallet program that was bleeding $500K per year and a few years later was turning a $300K annual profit. Did I feel insulted and threatened that outsiders were going to come in and “steal” my job? Without a doubt.

But no matter what success in my own mind that I was having locally, at the corporate level there were issues with pallet management. And that aside, I was just starting to figure out that across the grocery distribution landscape, non-core jobs such as pallet management were being discarded as quickly as the cardboard boxes were being fired into the baler. Ultimately, I had to figure out what business I was in – the pallet management business or the grocery distribution business. As far as my career went, I chose the latter. (Mind you, that didn’t prevent me from writing about pallet management, which became a therapy of sorts.)

In the ever more lean world of grocery distribution, there were no longer hours for pallet repair, for accurately tracking movements, for working closely with receivers, shippers and drivers – all those people on the front line who determine whether you are going to have a successful pallet program or a disastrous one.

As the years went by and our management team became smaller and smaller, I really came to welcome the benefits that 3rd party entities provided. I was no longer managing a pallet program as much as partnering in relationships.

Ultimately, whether a 3rd party is the competition or an ally comes down to a number of factors which can be situation specific. For me, having clear expectations, great communications and high level of trust in 3rd party relationships were important pieces in the puzzle that allowed me to transition the nature of my role as the grocery distribution landscape was changing even more rapidly around me.

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