Relationships around the world are shifting, which means that the logistician’s world is becoming more uncertain. Some people make money from uncertainty, but in our world we earn profits by making uncertainty go away. That’s getting harder to do.
Consider trade relations. Where are things going to end up with China? What is going to happen with NAFTA? The United Kingdom is leaving the EU, and it is entirely possible after their next national election France will follow. The President is endeavoring to suspend immigration from a list of countries, and that is bound to have some impact on trade.
These may seem like big picture issues that are only of interest on the Sunday morning talk shows, but what if your company moves things back and forth to border plants just south of Texas for ultimate sale in the United States?
Those sorts of concerns run both ways. “ ‘We’ve invested a lot into the US and it would be a pity if some protectionism did come up,’ said Robert Saller, managing director [Delo, a company of little more than 500 people], referring to fears that the US president will increase trade barriers and jettison trade talks.”
There are more dimensions to what’s going on in Washington DC than trade policy. Other policy areas have direct impacts on logistics. What about OSHA regulations? How will shifts at the EPA impact coal mining, or pipeline construction? What about foreign aid through the Department of State? Is the logistics operating environment going to become easier or harder . . . and when? Crystal balls are more essential than ever when constructing a logistics forecast.
We will leave the debate over the possible benefits or detriments of these policy shifts to others. There has always been uncertainty in what we do, but somehow over the last 12 months it has started to seem like arbitrage instead of risk mitigation. We’re logisticians, and we just need to know what the rules are going to be.
We can deal with uncertainty, but are we descending into chaos or simply witnessing a global realignment? Either way, it’s going to be interesting.