Tag Archives: supply chain

In America, This is Nothing to Worry About.

2 Jun

By Lanny Morgnanesi

The produce store was between a customer rush and a delivery.

It was highly unusual, but the shelves were mostly bare. I walked in disappointed. Then, a slightly eerie feeling descended and there was a momentary panic on my part; a millisecond of fear; an adrenalin rush that ended before it was even noticed.

Quickly sober again, a cranial recess asked: Suppose something happened and the supply lines to food were cut. What would you do? Where would you go?

Then the delivery truck arrived.

Americans are used to seeing food on store shelves. We have a remarkable way of bringing things to market in steady, dependable, bountiful streams; on highways, by rail, air, sea and through pipelines. It just gets there; always; no matter where.

Not so in many countries.

Ipod components aside, are we immune from supply disruption or shortages? Will we always be? A few eccentrics don’t think so and stockpile. Good Mormons do, following biblical warnings about famine. I know I always feel better when the bottled water guy delivers an extra jug by accident.

Overall, however, I have great faith in supply chains because of the profit motive that drives them. Profit is like an all-powerful, invisible force that pushes things along and knocks down barriers with ease. It’s something we should appreciate but don’t. It’s something we should be conscious of but aren’t. It’s the fish’s water we don’t see or feel.

I’ve been in places where food supplies ebb and flow; been in spots where one has to adjust with less. In a jungle stopover in Asia, guests were expected to take care of morning hygiene with only a large pitcher of water and a basin. I did fine.

So I try to see the benefits we have in the states and enjoy them for the delight they bring.

During the Cold War, someone suggested we could defeat Communism simply by dropping thousands of Sears catalogs over Moscow. At home we all loved Sears catalogs but considered it a right rather than a privilege to freely purchase all those things, unlike the Russians back then who were lucky to get a cheap pair of ugly shoes that were either two sizes too big or too small.

I guess that playful panic in the produce store was just my way of remembering how good a fresh salad really is. I’m not sure who deserves credit for that salad, but it must be a cast of thousands. Prosperity, civilization and stocked shelves, after all, are joint efforts, with everyone playing a part. Therefore, everyone should reap the reward.

When we forget that, then we truly will have a problem.

The hidden scope of war

3 Jan

The horrors of war are easily depicted in photographs of violence and inhumanity. Recently I saw another kind of war photo. In some respects, its relative tranquility was more unsettling than battlefield scenes.

The aerial picture was of trucks, perhaps hundreds of them, all carrying fuel. They were not moving. Rather, they were creating a monumental traffic jam on an expansive thoroughfare through Karachi, Pakistan. They owned the road. Only two or three other cars can be seen.

Their fuel was going to feed our war in Afghanistan. With so many trucks about, it was difficult to believe this part of the city could be concerned with anything else.

I found it startling to see that much fuel assembled in a single moment, in a single day, for a single purpose. It reminded me of Herodotus’ report on the massive Persian army that invaded Greece. In his account, he relates how the camping soldiers would routinely drink three or four rivers dry.

An exaggeration for sure, but, like the truck photo, a telling description of war’s magnitude.

The photo I saw was in the Dec. 19 Bloomberg Businessweek.  It sent three thoughts coursing through my mind:

What incredible resolve, determination and expense it takes to wage war.

  1. Americans can never know or measure the effects, good and bad, that the non-violent side of war has on a primitive economy and its culture, or what happens when it suddenly goes away.
  2. If the U.S. didn’t have to move all those fuel trucks across the world, how many more roads, bridges and schools could be built at home, and would Social Security and Medicare even be a problem?

One photo did this to me. I suggest you take a look and maybe read the accompanying article, “Convoy of Chaos.” Please comment and criticize.

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