Amid supply chain issues that have no end in sight, the Port of Philadelphia (PhilaPort) is known as one of the most efficient ports in the world. Jeff Theobald, CEO of Philaport, shared with Invest: how the port is achieving this success and helping to alleviate supply chain struggles in the region.
“Our longshoremen in Philadelphia are second to none. We are rated as the most productive port in the country, according to the World Bank’s metrics,” said Theobald, referring to opens in a new windowThe Container Port Performance Index 2020opens pdf file. “We excel at the ability to unload ships quickly.” The combination of the port’s skilled workforce and techniques implemented during times of heightened volumes has allowed the port to avoid many supply chain issues.
Theobald walked Invest: through the strategies that have allowed the port to circumvent supply chain challenges. Additional gate hours, long schedules for delivery and pick up, keeping the terminal open on the weekends, making 30 acres available for additional storage and utilizing rail assets more efficiently are some of the changes that Theobald says have made a big difference.
In addition to improving efficiencies at the port, Theobald also discussed how the fundamentals of supply chain management have shifted. “For the last four decades, everybody talked about just-in-time (JIT) and keeping inventories very lean. Well, JIT is history. It is going back to just-in-case (JIC). You need to have product on the shelf in a warehouse just in case demand goes up,” he said.
JIC means that ports, and the rest of the economy, have to overproduce to avoid further shortages and price increases. “There just needs to be more warehousing, and there needs to be more product. I don’t know if we will ever go back to those lean, JIT days,” Theobald explained.
While the past few years have been challenging from a supply chain perspective, Theobald noted a silver lining. “As a result of the pandemic, and even before that, young people specifically are starting to realize how important transportation is and the many facets of that. It is not just trucks. There are many different layers to transportation and it is very important to all our lives,” he said.
In addition to the increasing number of individuals joining the industry, career growth opportunities are also rising. “It used to be that people in transportation management might have had an office by a loading dock somewhere. Now, logistics is so crucial to the profit of corporations that the logistics people are next to or in the C-suite because the sector makes or breaks companies now,” said Theobald.
Looking forward, growing product demands will lead to tremendous growth for the port. “We anticipate our double-digit growth to continue for at least the next decade. On the container side, we would like to go from our current 740,000 to 1.2 million containers as quickly as possible,” said Theobald.