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Supply Chain Musings at an I90 Truckstop

by Marcy Rizzo

July 18, 2010

Supply Chain Musings at an I90 Truckstop

Dodging out of the stream of traffic retreating fromf Boston late on a Friday afternoon, I find my self at the Ludlow Truckstop. It is packed with vacationers headed north to our famous New England - for lobster, lighthouses and the promise of clean, (albeit) chilly shores.

 The entrance to the Ladies Room is crowded with travelers waiting in line. We look at each other; nod in our collective impatience, wondering silently why there are never enough stalls? Each of us ponders the question finally asked aloud, (and to no one in particular), by a line-compliant observer, (and likely being repeated at truck stops, restaurants, pubs and stadiums across the country):  “Why is it you never see a line in the Men’s room?” Heads shake, shoulders shrug in sympathy. I continue to wait.

Finally my moment arrives, as I move to the front of the line; awaiting the opening of a stall door so I can assert my position. Entering and making myself comfortable, I neglect to do the one thing that every woman knows to do before things go too far, the toilet paper check. I think you can imagine the situation.


I contemplate the supply chain.


A few lines return to me from various abstracts I’ve written, and sessions I’ve attended over the years at SAP Insiders’ Logistics and SCM Conferences;

“Never use safety stock as a reorder point.” (A lesson clearly lost on the toilet paper inventory manager).

“Too little inventory affects customer service promises." (If only I could charge someone a fine for this).

“Too much inventory is a storage problem!” (Ok, but where it it?).

“Are you running too many ZReports?” (Perhaps someone is analyzing this situation?)


…and of course my Mother’s famous adage (I think in direct relationship to supply chain effectiveness, or lack thereof)…”always be prepared.”

So, why are there never enough stalls? Perhaps the answer is simple.
After all – it is likely most often men who design public plumbing systems. Granted, I am speculating, but odds are good. Perhaps they don’t understand their user.

The fact is, one can't take two steps without being impacted by the relative success of a supply chain. It is a dependency that impacts every day life like oxygen is to the air we breath. It is just that one doesn’t really notice until there is an exception.

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