Conversation

  • Improving Flow Prognosis?
    The foreground of our picture is crowded. Too much demand for too much stuff. Too few containers for too much stuff. Too many ships waiting for too few cranes. Too many containers for too few chassis’ (truck or rail). Too much throughput for too few workers. Contemporary supply chains are organized around demand. Fulfilling demand […]
  • Slowly (we) turn, step by step, inch by inch
    US consumer demand remains strong. Despite the Delta variant’s determined discouragement, July retail sales were 0.5 percent higher than June. The Wall Street Journal explains, “With many schools, college campuses and offices reopening, consumers shelled out more for groceries and merchandise at big-box stores. Those purchases—along with higher spending on furniture and hardware—offset another big […]
  • Covid Hospitalizations Update
    Since about August 27 I have been spending 14 to 16 hours per day with a very demanding Hurricane Ida and her consequences. Except for related hospitalizations in southeast Louisiana I did not pay attention to the pandemic until September 9 and 10. What I then found was that US hospitalizations had peaked during the […]
  • Post-Ida
    Two weeks after landfall, grid power has not been restored to more than 160,000 electrical customers in Louisiana.  Local water systems are down for about 20,000 residents.  Boil orders are in place for another 320,000 plus. By the end of the first week after landfall, over 90 percent of cell sites in southeast Louisiana had been restored. Most grocery stores are operating at close to their pre-Ida levels. Yesterday (September […]
  • Update: Delta’s Demand Curve
    At the end of May when the UK — mostly England — began to experience increasing Delta-driven hospitalizations, both the USA and Israel still had a month more of declining covid-related hospital admissions. After about eight weeks of sharply increased hospitalizations, England plateaued. Seven weeks into their own surge, the USA and Israel are seeing […]
  • Inventory to Sales Ratio steadies (?)
    We have known for awhile that retail sales increased in June. We have wondered — worried — if inventories could get even worse. Well, worse is certainly possible, but we hoped it might be avoided. According to the US Census Bureau, hope has, just barely, hung on with the inventory to sales ratio increasing 0.8 […]
  • Chokepoints
    The Financial Times helpfully quantifies and maps this global challenge. These great ports were designed as bottlenecks, benign or better. They have become complicated chokepoints, incremental delays accumulating into self-amplifying congestion. To manage the problems, options mostly involve expanding time or space. For many ports, time is more elastic than space. Mario Cordero, executive director […]
  • The power of reticence?
    Since mid-July the number of new confirmed cases of covid in the United Kingdom has fallen from above 50,000 per day to about 20,000 per day. According to The Financial Times: In the week before the government lifted most remaining coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19, the average person was in close contact with […]
  • 宁波 no longer serene
    My favorite headline from earlier this seek is “Oh no, not Ningbo!” (thank you Freightwaves). Dark humor can be helpful, especially given recent — recurring — events. Early Sunday, August 8, operations were suspended at the Meishan Island International Container Terminal (MSICT) at the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan. The Meishan Terminal usually handles about one-quarter of […]
  • Delta’s demand curve?
    The Delta variant of the coronavirus is ferociously contagious. In India more than 2.4 million deaths have been credibly attributed to Delta’s rapid spread in the subcontinent’s so-called “second wave”, extending from April to June 2021. Delta was also the principal culprit in the United Kingdom’s — well, England’s — pandemic surge between early June […]
  • Recovering Flow
    In February 2020 we could have preserved flow. Pre-pandemic global demand had been strong. Processing, manufacturing, and transportation slightly lagged demand, but just enough to keep everyone busy. By late February last year, flows inside China were recovering from a drastic, but brief hiatus. If North American, East Asian, and European demand had kept pulling, […]
  • Re-balancing?
    Last week Bloomberg interviewed the CEO of Sysco, who claims, “Restaurants are busy. They’re booming. They’re bouncing back in a strong way. They’re not up just over 2020, they’re up versus 2019 as well.” USDA statisticians agree, finding substantial increases in demand for food away from home since March 2021. Expanded food away from home […]
  • Increase in the inventory to sales ratio
    According to the US Census Bureau, for the first time since February inventories showed a slight improvement compared to sales. The ratio increased to 1.09 in May from 1.07 in April. Moderating May demand helped. But much tighter-than-normal inventories reflect several impediments to upstream capacity achieving pre-pandemic velocity (especially spatial/temporal accuracy). Dwell times and other […]
  • Preexisting Pull Patterns
    In most mature networks, especially those with higher volumes and greater velocity, population demand tends to persist. Sharp, sudden deviations are unusual and almost always result from externalities. Even in these atypical circumstances, it is often not so much that demand itself has changed as the ability to express continued demand has somehow been displaced. […]
  • Consolidation’s impact on price discovery
    The Fed and some others perceive that over-heated physical friction in supply chains is being gradually worked out. Demand has been seriously disrupted and diverted. As — if? — demand settles — sources, channels, and modes of supply will catch up. From this angle, recent price hikes help demand determine what is really needed/wanted, when […]
  • Volatility: from Latin volātilis (flying, swift, temporary): volō (I fly)
    Supply of lumber has increased. Even more important, demand has decreased. Increasing prices have, as usual, diminished demand. Alternative spending opportunities displaced lumber. On June 16 Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said, “Inflation has come in above expectations over the last few months. But if you look behind the headline […]
  • Proving the benefits of diversity
    I apply a self-conscious heuristic — let’s go with the Anglo-Saxon and call it a rule-of-thumb — that more diversity breeds more resilience. In most disaster contexts I do NOT have data or really much evidence that this assumption or principle or guess accurately fits the immediate problem-context. But I have seen enough data and […]
  • A narcissism of small differences?
    Friday’s Executive Order includes, “over the last several decades, as industries have consolidated, competition has weakened in too many markets, denying Americans the benefits of an open economy and widening racial, income, and wealth inequality.” Maybe this is just another way of saying: “A more diverse set of economic players will be more responsive to […]
  • The actual Executive Order
    Here’s the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. I have not yet read it, but consistent with my early morning, immediately prior comments, I have done a word search for “demand” and “diversity” — neither of which appear. After a careful read — and perhaps receiving your impressions — I will be […]
  • Consolidation, competition, and unintended consequences
    Later today the President will sign a new Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (according to the early morning fact sheet). I have not yet seen a final draft of the actual order. But be forewarned, the “facts” require fourteen sheets of 12 point type, more than 3600 words. I did see […]
  • Demand is up. Supply is not keeping up.
    This is not news. But the duration and depth of the disequilibrium is cause for concern. Above is what the US Census reports for April and prior. The May report will be released next week. Any bets on turning up or continuing down? Despite Census bureau statistics, grocery distributors are stockpiling. Many manufacturers, facing longer […]
  • 2021 State of Logistics
    For thirty-two years the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals has sponsored an annual comprehensive review of the field. This year’s report was released on June 24. According to CSCMP, key findings include: The K-shaped recovery of 2021 reflects changed consumer habits. Hospitality, restaurants and airlines struggled. Grocery retail, home improvement and e-commerce prospered. E-commerce […]
  • Supply chain thinking at Cornwall
    The Group of Seven joint communique gives significant attention to the vaccine supply chain then extends several anti-pandemic principles toward achieving greater economic resilience. Here is a long-quote that makes the pivot: The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the risk to economic resilience posed by global crises and shocks. These can manifest from acute shocks, for […]
  • Supply chain thinking at the White House
    The 100 Day Supply Chain Review delivered on June 8 is aimed at solving four big problems. Six much more comprehensive supply chain reports are due to be delivered in February 2022. The Executive Order framing these reports emphasizes, “The United States needs resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains to ensure our economic prosperity and […]

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