By all indications, the most recent FMI (Food Marketing Institute)/GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) 2011 Supply Chain Conference held in Orlando last week was another successful joint venture. The two industry organizations joined forces for the first time last year to host the meeting. Attendance at the second annual conference nearly doubled.
The buzz at this year's conference was collaboration. Everyone is on board that it is the right thing to do. The challenge is execution and having the will to drive a more efficient, greener model for product distribution.
Comparisons to Europe's approach to "green logistics" were common during the conference, including the greater willingness of companies there to partner with others, even competitors, and their proactive solutions to deal with the high price of fuel.
Perhaps that second point – fuel – is the main driver. It's no surprise that a few years ago, when a barrel of oil was going for $150, transportation became everyone's top priority. Trucking companies went bankrupt, larger carriers took power units off the road, and the airline industry hemorrhaged more money than it usually does.
Since fuel prices went back to a palatable level, the lights stopped flashing and everyone went back to business as usual. Fuel lost its cachet in the board room. It became yesterday's news story and the efforts to mitigate its impact on the supply chain fell silent.
The U.S. has a long track record of great resourcefulness and innovation when we are pushed up against a wall. But must it come to that? To make progress in implementing green strategies like collaborative distribution, must we be faced with an imminent crisis that threatens our bottom line?