Military logisticians think about networks.
Where to site a distribution center? Maybe place it at the confluence of interstate highways, or rail hubs? Perhaps we should think about the power grid, too. Do the grid collapses across Texas or in Jackson, Mississippi ring a bell? Weather risk? How many times have FedEx and UPS air been shut down by ice storms at hubs?
No location is exempt from risk, even if it is optimal in other ways.
Coastal ocean nodes are often taken as a given by corporate planners. Buying organizations often relegate in and outbound port selection to ocean carriers who are much more savvy than the shipper or receiver. Could the corporate logisticians effectively take control, even if they wanted to? Does the typical corporate logistician have the skill set to pull it off? And what are the secondary and nth-level considerations, like drayage and other throughput factors at alternative nodes?
Who “owns” those issues? If port selection is taken away from the ocean carrier, does the typical organization even have the skill set? In the wake of the Suez Canal many companies in the United States and Europe are waking up.
Decision-tree analysis — what military planners call branches and sequels – is a powerful tool. Simple time, distance, and logistics risk considerations can escape the operators’ focus on the immediacy of effect. Operators often don’t like logisticians who are whispering over their shoulders, “but did you consider ...?”
Did you consider?
Note: Earl Boyanton, a good friend of mine, wrote this piece. He is also a retired Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Before that Earl served decades in uniform with the United States Air Force. Some say Earl is the finest logistician the Air Force ever produced.