By the time this column appears in print, our collective future for the next four years will have already been decided. I speak, of course, of the U.S. presidential election.
Rarely has our nation seen so wide a divide as was evident in this election cycle. Extreme opinions filled the airwaves and blogosphere in a way we've never seen before. For the most part, I tend to avoid waxing political in this column. However, there is one issue that was discussed widely during the campaign that I think deserves commentary, especially as it affects those of us working to grow our supply chains. That is the issue of promoting inclusiveness and diversity in our society—as well as our industry.
America was built on the backs of immigrants. Immigrant workers fueled the industrial revolution, allowing the U.S. economy to become the world powerhouse it is today. We needed those workers then, and we still need immigrant workers now.
Some politicians advocate for turning back the clock to simpler times or building walls to exclude immigrants. Others push for legislation that would repeal trade agreements and reduce our ability to expand supply chains abroad. Such policies are not sound.
Most of the distribution operations I've seen rely heavily on immigrant workers. Often, these distribution jobs serve as an entry point into a career in supply chain and other areas, helping these workers fulfill their dreams while serving as a crucial cog in our supply chain operations. Tools such as voice and pick-to-light systems have been developed to eliminate language barriers so that immigrant workers can succeed and flourish. In many facilities, it is not uncommon to have team members who speak half a dozen different languages working productively side by side.
As our population ages, good workers will be increasingly hard to find. Automation will help fill the gap, but automated equipment can't do every job. If we choke off our supply of immigrant labor, we greatly inhibit our ability to grow our supply chains.
Isolating ourselves from the world is also not wise. Supply chains thrive on world trade and the ability to unite people with products, ideas, and lifestyles. Call it "dollar diplomacy" if you wish, but helping other nations to develop their economies, thus creating new markets for America and our allies, may be the best defense and deterrent we have, and the greatest hope for peace. A vibrant supply chain is critical to maintaining structure and civility within the world. We can't turn back the clock. The world is different today. It's time to think about tomorrow.