Archives for January 2017

Dionna understands logistics, transportation, and markets. Why can’t the bureaucrats?

By Steve Geary | 01/25/2017 | 5:48 AM

I’m a fan of the ride service UBER, and my friends tell me that Lyft is just as impressive.  Whip out a smart phone, punch a couple of buttons, and pick a destination.  It’s actually faster than using your phone to call for a cab.  Usually in less than ten minutes you’re sitting in the back of a clean and well maintained vehicle, with a polite and well-dressed driver at the wheel, heading for your destination.  

This emergent transportation alternative to traditional taxis provides cleaner cars, more professional drivers, a faster response time, and in my experience it costs about half of what a traditional cab ride costs.  It is a demonstrably better product at a significantly lower price.  No wonder that traditional cabbies are feeling some heat. 

This morning my UBER driver was Dionna.  Dionna drives for Lyft, as well.  I was actually impressed with Dionna more than the UBER service, which says something, because I really like UBER.

Dionna understands logistics far better than your typical thirty-something, and more deeply than most government bureaucrats.  Each day she looks at the promotions that UBER has running for drivers, and what promotions that Lyft has running.  Somehow she also factors in an estimate of call volume on each of the services, and checks out the number of cars running.  Based on what she sees, she decides on which company she’ll drive for that day. 

I think they call that market research.  Dionna is doing real-time assessments of supply, demand and pricing.  I teach business at the collegiate and graduate school level, and I wish I had more like Dionna in my classes.  She gets it.

As for the customer experience, UBER costs about half of what a cab ride costs, the drivers like Dionna are more professional and the vehicles are cleaner.  It’s no wonder the market for taxi medallions is collapsing in places like New York City.

So why do we still have the antiquated infrastructure and regulations for cab licenses in our metropolitan areas?  Why are the regulators trying to impose restrictions and licensing requirements on UBER and Lyft, to make them more like cab companies?  Why aren’t the bureaucrats loosening restrictions on traditional cab companies to make them more competitive, rewarding innovation, not stifling it?  Instead, in many places government regulators are trying to add restrictions to UBER and Lyft to make them more like traditional cab companies.

Using UBER as a starting point, let your mind run free, and imagine rethinking transportation services – that is to say LTL trucking – or air transportation.  If it can work for taxis, why not rethink logistics infrastructure and capabilities on a broader scale?  If you think it is far-fetched, think again.  They already have test markets up and running.  And hey, are you ready for autonomous delivery vehicles – Amazon is talking about them. 

Internet-based logistics services are a shining example of how markets themselves can effectively self-regulate transportation and logistics value, and spur innovation more effectively than government bureaucrats.  Keep an eye on how things start shaping up with the new administration in Washington.  Experienced business leaders will be moving into senior roles.   And that means that innovative options in logistics markets might be coming from Washington for a change, and regulatory overkill that disrupts markets – like taxi medallions – will be on the chopping block.

Hedge your bets and watch for opportunity.

By Steve Geary | 01/08/2017 | 5:40 AM

Adapt, improvise, and overcome.

It has been interesting political theater, watching president elect Donald Trump at work during the run-up to taking office.  Is he a bull in the china shop, a fox in the hen house, or a creative opportunist trying to create negotiating space for innovation and transformation?

With the Department of Defense, he has taken shots at a Boeing development contract for preliminary designs on a preplacement for Air Force One.  Just after stirring things up over Air Force One, he lit a match under the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program at Lockheed Martin by asking Boeing to provide pricing for an updated F/A-18 as an alternative to the JSF.

Mr. Trump isn’t just taking aim at defense.  At various times he has threatened to eliminate entire federal cabinet level organizations, including both the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.  The New York Times published a nifty list of targets in Mr. Trump’s sight picture.

Negotiators love to introduce uncertainty.  Entrepreneurs try to leverage it.  Mr. Trump is both and he is doing both in ways we’ve never seen in our Government before.

Logisticians make a living understanding, managing and eliminating uncertainty.  From trade to borders to tariffs to defense to international trade agreements, Mr. Trump – the negotiator and the entrepreneur – is already bringing a truckload of uncertainty into our world.  From his perspective, it is the right thing to do but it looks very different from where we sit.

Much like a logistician introducing disruptive technology, Mr. Trump’s challenges to the status quo could be leveraged to advantage.

It’s time to hedge our bets.  Get nimble if you’re not already.  Re-establish parallel capability options in the United States, if you shipped it overseas.  If you have remained firmly entrenched in the US, relying on exports to reach overseas markets, it might be time to think about connecting with some partners offshore and establishing a ground game.

It looks like we’re in for an interesting four years.  Are you ready to improvise, adapt, and overcome?

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Steve Geary

Steve Geary

Steve Geary is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tennessee's College of Business Administration, and is on the faculty at The Gordon Institute at Tufts University, where he teaches supply chain management. He is the President of the Supply Chain Visions family of companies, and Chief Operating Officer at ROSE Solutions, consultancies that work across the government sector. Steve is a contributing editor at DC Velocity, and editor-at-large for CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and Who's Who in Executives and Professionals. In November of 2007, Steve was recognized for "Selfless Service to Our Nation and the People of Iraq" by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.


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