Conversation

Preliminary thinking, speculation, and hypotheses. Earnestly intended and honestly attempted, but almost always needing further consideration, clarification, correction, or not-yet-found confirmation. Conversation is derived from the Latin meaning to turn together.

  • Omicron’s pull signals
    As a supposed-to-be supply chain guy, I view the pandemic in terms of demand-pull and supply-push. I look at each covid case as a potential pull signal on health care services. Given this angle on reality, I want to see health care supply exceed covid’s demands. I want covid patients to have enough health care […]
  • Giving Thanks
    On the eve of Thanksgiving we were told that during the month of October US personal income increased 0.5 percent and the number of new unemployment claims had fallen to the lowest level since November 1969. Total unemployment is estimated at well under five percent (about 7.4 million people) with over 10 million jobs available. […]
  • Careful look at port operations
    I will stipulate again — as I have here and here and here — that the root cause of recent port congestion has been extraordinary consumer demand. There is also a pig-in-the-python effect associated with delays in East Asia. And… these two factors have been very effective stress-tests for the intricate work of every global […]
  • Comparisons over time and space
    At the start of Thanksgiving week 2020 about 80,000 Americans were hospitalized with covid. The only persons vaccinated were participants in laboratory trials. This week about 45,000 Americans are hospitalized with covid and about sixty percent of US residents are “fully” vaccinated. According to Reuters, the US vaccine consumption rate (doses administered/population) is about 69 […]
  • Anxiety as demand accelerant
    Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO) is a well-known demand creation technique. In recent years it has been profitably refined and deployed especially by so-called fast-fashion retailers (here and more). Throughout the pandemic US consumers have demonstrated unprecedented demand for groceries. In March and April 2020 nationwide grocery consumption surged one-third or higher Year-Over-Year for many product categories. Some […]
  • Talking Supply Chains
    On Tuesday, November 16 the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School convened Kathy Fulton, Jim Featherstone, Dave Kaufman and yours truly for an hour-long discussion. I need to get new glasses. My body-language can be distracting . But the others look and sound good. It was a meaningful conversation.
  • Forty days of flooding (until Christmas)
    Many perceive port congestion as a clog in a corroded pipe that needs replacing. I have argued port congestion is the outcome of flooding (more). Our pipes are delivering more flow than ever before. But a great flood has overwhelmed preexisting channels. Along the way, clogs have emerged, showing us where and how current flow […]
  • Stubborn demand for hospitalization
    In many places (where I live, for example) covid-related hospitalizations are declining. But this is not the case everywhere and big picture trends are concerning. Patterns outlined last week have persisted. While the US demand curve has declined from peak-Delta, it has remained quite high and in some places is beginning to once-again bend upward. […]
  • As noted, demand management is not yet done
    The World Health Organization has warned, “Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic.” (More) Germany appears to have a fourth wave starting. Despite widespread vaccinations, British hospitalizations have remained persistently high. The Guardian editorializes, “Mandatory masking on public transport and in places such as supermarkets should never have been dropped in England and […]
  • The supposed crisis in 550 words (and lots of links)
    In the week prior to Halloween (before Amazon with Apple dramatically highlighted supply chain constraints), Tom Keene on Bloomberg Surveillance offered the best concise summary of supply chain realities that I have heard. He said, “It’s microeconomics and there’s ambiguity and there’s give-and-take and, frankly, there is an unknown and we are learning as we […]
  • Demand management is not yet done
    My supply chain — or better: demand and supply network — angle on the pandemic emphasizes the need to effectively manage demand for hospitalization. From a network perspective, supply of hospital care is the bottleneck that most often requires mindful exploiting (ala Goldratt). When hospitals are overwhelmed the network experiences more disease and death. When […]
  • The Burdens of Abundance
    Here are just a few of a recent flood of related headlines: Port Gridlock Stretches Supply Lines Thin (Bloomberg) America is Running Out of Everything (The Atlantic) Global Supply Chain Problems Escalate (Wall Street Journal) The Supply Chain Crisis and US Ports (The Financial Times) The Global Supply Chain Nightmare is about to get Worse […]
  • More evidence of non-durable demand
    Here’s the final paragraph in a September 27 WSJ report: “Year to date, new orders for durable goods are up 24.7% compared with the same period a year earlier. Shipments, meanwhile, are up just 14.1%.” Buried lede? It is for me. Here’s the source report from the Census Bureau. Demand is up one-quarter. Supply is […]
  • Facilitating Flow
    Some of our problems begin with the label: supply chain. Chains are linked, which is helpful. But chains do not flow, rather they tend to tangle. For too many, mental images spawned by the term (supply chain) reinforce perceptions of linear links connecting origins with destinations. Replace weak links or untangle twisted links and problems […]
  • Seeking Transparency
    Yesterday — Friday, September 24 — the Department of Commerce published a Request for Public Comments in the Federal Register. This RPC (sometimes RFI) is focused on providing the government with information that might assist in efforts to mitigate the persisting disequilibrium of demand and supply for semiconductor chips. According to the RPC: With the […]
  • 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 […]

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