April 10th, 2014 is Supply Chain Day. And to celebrate, Eye for Transport is posting a daily quote on what supply chain means to individuals within the industry. Given my primary research focus is applying operations research methodologies to logistic challenges, I thought I would offer my opinion on what supply chain means to me.
Supply chain and logistics enables us to experience the things that make us happy and healthy. Here are three personal, tangible reasons why I think supply chain and logistics play an important role in our day-to-day lives and our economy.
The picture above is a screen shot of my mother-in-law’s Facebook post around her birthday. Logistics is THE modern marvel that enables her to enjoy beautiful tulips in frigid Wyoming in February.
My family is in the beef business. They produce a great product that they believe should be consumed around the world. Great supply chains and logistics are what enable me to enjoy Pazour Beef in Florida. On the flipside, logistics is also what enables my Dad to enjoy Lobster in South Dakota. Without logistics, we would be confined to experiencing only the products that we could produce in front of us.
- Given that in the U.S. almost 40 percent of the drugs we take are made somewhere else, logistics plays a vital role in getting the medications that save lives to the patients that need them.
To understand what supply chains have done for others, follow the twitter hashtag #SC4ME.
Today I stumbled upon the following press release announcing the winners of the 2013 Material Handling Institutes’ Material Handling and Logistics Research Grants. Hector Vergara and I are recipients of the Start Up Grant. Dean Jensen and Adam Piper are recipients of a Spark Grant. I am honored to be in such good company, especially because I was an undergraduate student in Dean’s statistical quality control course at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and went to graduate school at the University of Arkansas with Hector. What a Small World!
One of the joys of an academic career is the many “excuses” to see old friends at conferences (as well as the chance to meet new ones). I am excited that I will get to reconnect with Hector and Dean at the 2014 International Material Handling Research Colloquium (IMHRC) in Ohio this summer.
A Random Aside:
Based on Ugander, et al. and Backstrom et al. , I guess it really is a small world — any two people are separated by only four degrees of friendship on average.
There has been a lot of buzz about logistics lately — more specifically, the future of logistics. Two big stories from two big tech companies hit this week.
The first is about Amazon testing a drone delivery system they call “Prime Air” for last-mile delivery. The technology is still under development and has some regulation hurdles to overcome, but it is a solution to a difficult logistics feat — same hour delivery. The idea of being able to order something one minute and a half hour later being able to enjoy that something is pretty exciting. Of course this service wouldn’t be for all items or all customers — instead it would be focused on delivering products less than 5 pounds in urban areas in close proximity of distribution centers. But, that would still cover my household and we order everything from Amazon. I really mean everything: in the last month alone, we have had cases of soup, cases of cereal bars, a bobble-head doll of Walter White, toothbrush heads, hair gel, numerous CD’s, a few video games, a handful of books, printer toner, plus other essential items delivered to our door. Just think what we would order if it would arrive in a half hour!
The second story comes from Google — who has been acquiring companies with a focus on automation and many of the applications are in supply chain and logistics. The recent New York Times article, “Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android” makes me think that Google thinks logistics is an exciting field with lots of opportunities — I do too!
Some quotes from the article:
“A realistic case, according to several specialists, would be automating portions of an existing supply chain that stretches from a factory floor to the companies that ship and deliver goods to a consumer’s doorstep.”
“The opportunity is massive,” said Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”
Logistics is pretty cool, huh!