Several months ago, I came across a Hewlett Packard Enterprise advertisement that opened with the following statements. “Tomorrow belongs to the fast. Winners and losers will be decided by how quickly they move from what they are now to what they need to become.” The concept being advanced of course, was technology; but these phrases stuck with me. They reminded me of what we could have accomplished years ago if we had been blessed with the technological resources we have today. It also reminded me of how slowly some of us move when implementing new ideas or processes. Much of this is due to a lack of resources, particularly in smaller companies; but it is not uncommon to confront a multi – month approval process in larger firms that either have the necessary resources or the funds to acquire them.
Right after the passage of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which deregulated the trucking industry, there was a rush to gain operating authority that been hard to come by before the new legislation was enacted. While in this case, fast did not always spell success, today there are several very successful carriers that were not in existence in 1979. They moved fast and won. A review of supply chain history would yield other examples, but the concept is even more applicable in today’s environment. The obvious, and perhaps “over cited” example is Amazon. They have moved quickly with a number of techniques and processes that have impacted the industry. Same day deliveries, drones, truck fleets, and air cargo operations have caused many of us to sit up and take notice. Same day deliveries in particular, have disrupted the orderly, leisurely delivery systems that most retailers have maintained. Perhaps we are growing tired of reading about Amazon; but they move fast, and to ignore them would be a short sighted mistake.
Uber moved fast and introduced a new concept for moving people from place to place. Uber’s market cap has been estimated to be as much as $50 billion, and they now operate in over 70 cities around the world.
Another segment of the industry that is moving fast is the logistics service provider group. There are many smaller firms in this segment that have had excellent ideas and are now finding the resources to fund them. Larger firms are moving quickly, as well. One word of caution about this industry: While the ability to move quickly may be advantageous to the larger firms, it is important to remember that bigger is not always better. There will continue to be a niche for the smaller to medium sized innovative LSP’s.
For the users of supply chain services, it will be critical to remember that today’s environment is all about technology. Programs such as those of Amazon, Uber, and others would not work without it. Not all supply chain managers are “fast” when it comes to technological expertise; but the successful ones will make sure they get that way or surround themselves with those who are. In other words, “how quickly they can move from what they are to what they need to become.”