Last weekend, I went through a stack of newspaper clippings of economic and industry news from the past year, and made two piles: good news and bad news. Guess which pile was larger? In an ostrich moment, I went to the shredder and irrationally fed the bad news in, sheet by sheet.
As I fed the shredder, it seemed like I was reading headlines from 30 years ago, when I first began working in the transportation sector. It was a time of economic crises, much like today.
But while the early 1980s was an economic bust, it was also a time of renewal. Transportation professionals faced many challenges beyond their control. Their response to that crisis was a stubborn refusal to give in and give up—a "bring-it" attitude.
And so it became a boom time of transportation innovation, adoption, and adaptation. Carriers offered expanded coverage and innovative solutions, adopting and applying myriad technologies to logistics. Acceptance of demand-driven logistics practices grew. A broad range of 3PLs emerged. Logistics education programs exploded. And, most importantly, functional silos crumbled across purchasing, manufacturing, operations, transportation, and logistics.
That’s how people in our industry deal with tough times. You dig deep and fight to create wealth for your companies, refine your skill set, enhance logistics practices, adapt and adopt new ideas, and channel privation by producing productivity gains—crafting a well-developed, practical nature honed by rationalizing thousands of ever-changing variables.
You build on that refusal to be defeated incrementally, hour by hour, day upon day of achieving the small triumphs of taming a supply chain network. It eventually toughens your character so that you may not always welcome a challenge, but you certainly don’t back away, and you always relish the win.
From the corner of a loading dock, across a yard, around a cubicle, through a warehouse, and to the corner office, there exists a sense of practicality created by years of orchestrating seamless global product flow.
Every missed commitment—no matter which value chain partner is at fault—could mean a missed delivery, a lost sale, a lost customer, a lost dollar, and certainly a lost opportunity to make a difference.
Will what happened in our discipline in the 1980s happen again now? Can transportation, logistics, and supply chain professionals help drive the kind of change that will make a difference?
Yes, for their own companies. And isn’t that the real economy—thousands of companies chasing individual excellence? Who knows which way 2010 will go? But I can already hear you say, "Bring it!"