When we started this magazine three years ago— this is our 36th issue—we did so in the belief we would find a ready audience for a publication that focused on the tactical and strategic issues surrounding distribution. We had seen the unrelenting pressures to improve inventory velocity, cash-to-cash cycle times and service reliability. We believed that the businesses that would thrive in the 21st century would be those that could construct bridges across functions and enterprises, keeping goods flowing smoothly through that sprawling network we call the supply chain.
What we've learned in the last three years was that we were right about the challenges facing our readers, but that we underestimated how much tougher their jobs would soon become. In the past 36 months, for example, we've seen seismic shifts in the relationships between shippers and carriers, particularly in the motor carrier industry where freight capacity has become increasingly scarce. We've been forced to confront evidence that our supply chains are more vulnerable than we thought to disruptions ranging from hurricanes to dock, rail and highway congestion. We've heard increasingly strident warnings about the state of the U.S. transportation infrastructure, which appears to be creaking under the strain of rising freight volumes. And back at the DC, we've watched the struggle to find and retain a productive labor force intensify. It's no longer enough to find willing workers with strong backs. Today's RFID-enabled DCs also need associates who are trained to work in an environment in which intelligence has become more important than muscle.
But the news hasn't been all bad. At the same time, we've reported on continuing innovation and smart and imaginative solutions devised both by readers and by their equipment, service and technology suppliers. We believe both conceptual thinking and pragmatism are important—thus our report in this issue on the project under way at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to identify the forces that will likely shape the future of supply chains.
All of this has affirmed our original vision, while at the same time leading us to adjust to the rapid changes we see and write about (agility pays off in our business, too). In 2006, we intend to bring you more stories that keep you abreast of what's changing and give you ideas on how to meet the demands.
In the meantime, we continue to value your readership, and as always, welcome your comments, criticisms and suggestions. And, by the way, Happy New Year.