Editor’s note: To mark the start of our 20th publishing year, we offer Group Editorial Director Emeritus Mitch Mac Donald’s inaugural “Outbound” column, which laid out the new magazine’s mission and unique approach to the market. Some 480 print editions later, the premise on which the brand was founded remains just as relevant today as it was in January 2003, when the column below appeared in our launch issue.
Nearly a decade ago, in the midst of an interview I was conducting, a high-profile supply chain consultant delivered a rather striking pronouncement. “Quality is dead,” he said. “Speed is king.”
The speaker was George Stalk, who was then a senior vice president with Boston Consulting Group. And his comment came at a time when the entire world seemed fixated on “quality” as the holy grail of business success. Whether it was product quality, process quality, systems execution quality, or any other type of quality, we were all convinced that paying attention to quality would ensure we’d come out on top.
Stalk, who offered his observation while discussing how companies would seek to differentiate themselves in the future, was among the first to realize that quality was not sustainable, in and of itself, as a long-term differentiator. Though his 1993 comment certainly elicited more than a few gasps, it’s clear in hindsight that he was right.
Going back to the 1970s, you can trace the ways in which companies sought to separate themselves from the pack. First it was price, which we thought was synonymous with value. But as our economy began to expand globally, American businesses learned some hard lessons. Japanese automakers, for instance, took big bites out of Detroit’s market share with a religion-like passion for quality initiatives.
Probably in reaction to that, many companies made quality their focus in the early 1980s. Ford Motor Co. is perhaps the most memorable example, but it wasn’t the only U.S. company that made quality “Job One.” On the upside, we experienced quantum leaps in product and process quality. On the downside, companies were left with a familiar and perplexing question: If everybody offered low prices and high quality, how could they stand out from the crowd?
Stalk saw the answer before many others: speed. His comment hit me the moment I heard it. And it has stuck with me in the years since. Working at the time for magazines that had a great deal vested in “Annual Quality Reports,” I was never able to convince my superiors that the time had come to shift some editorial emphasis away from quality in favor of speed.
Well, it took starting a new magazine, but it’s finally happened. You hold in your hands the culmination of a thought process that began during that fateful interview with George Stalk, although I don’t think I realized it at the time. Over the past 15 years covering the logistics/material handling/supply chain field as a business journalist, I’ve been struck by what a well-designed and -implemented supply chain strategy can do for a company. It can, without question, put a company at a clear competitive advantage.
It’s not hard to see why. To succeed in business today, you need to build on all those value propositions we learned about in the ’70s and ’80s. Your price must be very competitive. Your product or service quality must, at a minimum, match your competitors’. Without those two components, you have no foundation for success.
But that’s no longer enough. To rise above the crowd, you must also serve the customer in ways that clearly differentiate you from the others. More and more, providing truly impressive customer service comes down to one thing: speed.
Everything about DC Velocity, from the name of the magazine itself, to the topics covered, to the way we’ve written and designed the stories, centers on the theme of speed. In addition to being the first publication created to serve the distinct informational needs of people managing logistics operations, DC Velocity is intended to be the magazine that delivers must-have business intelligence quickly so that you can grab the information you need and move on to the other challenges of your work day.
In essence, we hope you’ll quickly come to realize that this is the magazine you need to make sure you are up to speed.