YEAR OF THE MONKEY

February 8 marked the beginning of the Chinese lunar Year of the Monkey – a year during which we will probably see more supply chain changes than we have in any of the last fifty. Monkeys are by nature intellectual and creative, but often have trouble exhibiting these qualities. When that happens, monkeys seem confused. Nothing could be further from the truth however, as they thrive on being challenged. As Amazon seems to be entering so many logistics businesses, they are behaving much like the monkey – appearing to be confused about their business model, but whatever it is, pursuing it with a vengeance.

But let’s not forget that Amazon is not the only game in town. If you are like me, you are growing a little tired of reading about Amazon, quadcopters, etc. If you are in the retail business, you have more than a passing interest. If not, maybe not so much.

The Superbowl set the tone for change this year when it morphed from Superbowl XLIX to Superbowl 50, abandoning the Roman numeral designations.

The long awaited Panama Canal expansion opens in May of this year. Although the traffic flow consequences of the enlarged canal are still a little unclear, it most certainly will result in significant changes in international shipping patterns, particularly to and from East Coast ports. Already ships are going from large to huge, requiring extensive modifications to port facilities. One German shipbuilder has found a way to widen Panamax ships, increasing their capacity by 30%.

With the price of oil declining as it has, supply chain managers should be able to control their costs a little better. While the economy seems to have softened somewhat, monkey years are considered to be optimistic. (Actually, the U.S. jobless rate in January was the lowest in eight years, at 4.9 %.)

While legislative changes are possible, they are not too likely in this election year. Drivers’ hours of service, CSA 2010, and other legislation affecting the motor carrier industry are still a little confused; and will pretty much stay that way until 2017.

E-Commerce will continue to grow and I am optimistic that logistics service providers will find ways to participate more fully in this growth, Amazon notwithstanding.

No discussion of monkeys should be complete without some mention of the election process we are experiencing currently; but alas, this is not a political column, and I will refrain from doing so. 2016 actually is a fire monkey year, and we should keep our heads down and follow the lead of the fire monkeys who excel at both setting goals and meeting them.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch