Finding Our Way around the Mountain: Adaptability in Logistics

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January 10, 2014

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Jumaa Kareem to all folks on Kanzu today, we say Friday is the Eid of the week; others call it Furahi-day! What a better way to welcome the second weekend of a new year? OK, now lets talk logistics as usual 🙂

It was the sci-fi tech story heard around the world: when a leading supply chain management firm announced plans to make deliveries using drones, the idea of the logistics industry as a preserve of tech advancements and multi-vehicle fleets was soundly driven home. The notion that our industry subsists solely on big companies with deep pockets is a common one, but flawed nonetheless.

To those outside the sector looking in, participation is perceived as far out of reach. This idea could not be further from the truth: the back bone of our industry is and always will be adaptability. Supported by innovation, a sizable chunk of logistics occurs without the need for traditional delivery vehicles and methods. The fluid nature of logistics as a concept guarantees that financial or structural handicaps have no influence over the process that is the delivery of cargo to its intended destination.

Innovation has many motivators such as cost cutting or the availability of technology to support such advancements. The most common and by far most influential reason, if you’ll excuse the cliché, is necessity.

Most cases where outside the box delivery methods are employed, it is usually because supply chain managers have no other option: where we cannot drive through the mountain, we must find a way around it. Innovative delivery measures are set into motion in places with little or no road networks to support traditional delivery vehicles, or climates that create a unique travel hazard of vehicles getting stuck or internal mechanisms succumbing to the elements, a good example of which would be areas with extremely low temperatures like the Poles. Research personnel, medical crews and essential supplies still very much need to reach such destinations, even in the face of circumstances such as foliage too thick to safely land delivery aircraft.

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The logistics industry has therefore had to find ways to overcome by adapting to our circumstances. Past supply chain managers during the World Wars circumvented delivery barriers by attaching goods and messages to carrier pigeons, trained dogs, cats and even mice. At present, our fine furry friends remain a major option for deliveries in areas where common avenues are restricted by technological advancement.

Areas with limited road networks can still be served deliveries on horseback, donkey carts or even dog sleds, depending on which of our four legged companions happens to be most popular in a given area. Less refined versions of our preferred vehicles are also viable for use, such as basic row boats and canoes used to reach destinations via water-bodies too small to be navigated by conventional engine-powered crafts. Where financial resources are limited and delivery is within a smaller zone, one-person delivery gives the option of freighting smaller packages using public transportation, bicycles, skateboards or any other means to get from one point to the next.

The logistics industry, like any other sector, relies on the innovation of that one person with a dream, and their ability to adapt to the logistical needs around them. Supply chain management comes in all shapes and sizes, from the quintessential fleet of trucks to that young man armed only with an entrepreneurial spirit and a handcart. If it gets goods from one place to another, it can be termed as “logistics”: the journey to a large scale supply chain management firm usually starts with just one vehicle. So, you there with your wheelbarrow and determination to succeed, I have but one question: what are you waiting for?


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