June 2020 | Commentary | Checking In

In Defense of You

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

You've failed at logistics. So says David Segal in his recent article entitled "What Happened to the Great American Logistics Machine?" in The New York Times.

Here are the article's punchlines: The virus is "winning at the logistics game," and "let us acknowledge the obvious: The country is flunking a curriculum that it basically wrote." So somehow this is all your fault?

Wait, there's more to this off-the-mark article: "Rationing meat. Scrambling for masks. Running low on critical drugs. The early shortages for the pandemic—swabs, toilet paper, ventilators—were a foreshadowing, not an aberration. Our national pantry, long bursting, lacks essentials."

All that was temporarily true. But why? The author tries to explain by rambling about pizza, Dean Martin, Henry Ford, iPhones, Google, and an eight-year-old study on the U.S. Postal Service from Britain.

Plenty of reasons exist for this so-called logistics failure, but "there's no point in tagging this a problem endemic to the U.S. government." Reason? Segal uses that old study to laud the performance of delivering letters (letters, mind you, not the explosion in post office e-commerce deliveries these past eight years that eclipses the importance of letters from a logistics perspective) to make the case that the "logistics failure" he points to is not the government's fault.

I guess the writer missed that whole lockdown thing ordered by governments, or the man-caused malfeasance of global virus dissemination, or encouraging offshoring of vital U.S. manufacturing capacity (as The New York Times has done for many years), or the Fourth Estate engendering panic-buying with less-than-sober coverage of the crises.

I'm not for pointing fingers here. If fault is what the Times is looking for, it can look outside the logistics sector. Can a logistics machine, or any machine, function without workers? Were global supply chains disrupted by supply chain managers? Were missed truck deliveries the carriers' failure? The drivers' fault? Were warehouse operators and workers driving the pandemic pain? Were port operations stalled just because? Were cargo planes to take off and land without pilots and crew?

So what happened to the Great American Logistics Machine? It may be obvious to the monumentally misinformed that the failure lies in the logistics sector, but it is not obvious to me. This country and its skilled and dedicated women and men did not flunk at a "logistics curriculum it basically wrote."

You will overcome all the impediments others put in front of you and continue writing the future of logistics. That's why I wrote this editorial in defense of you.






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