Stars and Stripes. For now, or forever?

By Steve Geary | 03/16/2020 | 2:29 PM

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget request released by the Pentagon in February eliminates all government funding for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.

Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, as reported by many outlets, including The Hill, said at a press conference that that the department "essentially decided coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way we communicate any longer.”

According to Ms. McCusker, as reported by Stew Magnuson in the March issue of National Defense, newspapers aren’t necessarily the best way to deliver information in the modern age.

I’ve run into the same kind of inside the beltway myopia myself.   I deployed as a contractor.  When I got home, an auditor tried to bust my chops because I wasn’t logging in and reporting my hours every day. 

I kept track of them in an Excel spreadsheet.  I was in the desert.  A place called Iraq.  There were no internet cafés.  The auditor didn’t understand and insisted on writing me up.

Even though I was far from a newsstand, or the internet, I still got my hands on a Stars and Stripes regularly.  Perhaps Elaine should reconsider her position.

Curb your dogma

By Steve Geary | 03/01/2020 | 11:32 AM

Supply chain practitioners have fallen into the trap of tunnel vision.  Lean manufacturing.  Offshoring.  Outsourcing.  These tactics do not necessarily lead to best value decisions.

The coronavirus is a good example.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to prevent logistics damage in many supply chains due to the coronavirus has passed.  It isn’t just Apple with business challenges erupting at lower levels of the supply chain.

Placing all the sourcing bets with China did not reduce risk; it compounded it. 

Logisticians are now in containment mode.  The US military provides a relevant frame of reference.  According to the Military Times, the DoD is moving out with “Containment, cancellations and quarantines — the Pentagon’s latest plans for dealing with coronavirus.”

What is your containment strategy to deal with the close-in logistics risk?  Beyond immediate containment actions, have you started moving to evaluate the tiers of your supply chain and manage risk across the portfolio?

For too long, many logisticians have thought that best value and low cost are the same thing.  Best value decisions in supply chain and logistics demand a balanced perspective.

Define what best value – not low cost – logistics means for your network.

The allegory of the rail.

By Steve Geary | 02/21/2020 | 8:21 AM

In February, subzero temperatures in Canada can cause logistics disruptions.  This year, in addition to the weather, there is a massive rail blockage triggered by the Wet'suwet'en, an indigenous nation in British Columbia.

“Rail lines across Canada have been paralysed for almost two weeks after being blockaded by indigenous protesters and their supporters,” reported the BBC on February 20.

Though the specific issue triggering the response across Canada is specific to British Columbia, the blockade actions have spread to other locations across Canada.

According to the Los Angeles times, “protesters created a rail roadblock in Ontario, and sympathy protests popped up as far away as the Maritime Provinces, more than 2,800 miles from the site where Coastal GasLink plans a $5-billion project.”

Is the Canadian situation a government challenge?  A private sector challenge?  Or is it just another example of the risks associated with the government and private sector interface?

Think about rail choke points in the United States, and consider your risk profile with the Canadian situation in mind.  Supply Chain Risk Management matters 

The coronavirus and China. The logistics threat is closer than you think.

By Steve Geary | 02/12/2020 | 10:54 AM

Dun and Bradstreet looked into the coronavirus and found, “At least 51,000 (163 Fortune 1000) companies around the world have one or more direct or Tier 1 suppliers in the impacted region, and at least five million companies (938 Fortune 1000) around the world have one or more Tier 2 suppliers in the impacted region.”

Have you activated your contingency plan to shift to sources away from the affected region?  Contingency plans matter, especially for internationally sourced components.

Do you have a risk adjusted process to manage threats across your portfolio that addresses events like the corona virus?  Oversight matters.

Do have any way of assessing the impact of risk propagating through lower level of your distribution network?  Tier 2 matters.

Have you identified alternative sources of supply, especially for you internationally source components?  Order from a location in the United States doesn’t mean your product is coming from the United States.

In the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, these are some issues every logistics practitioner in the United States should be considering.  There are more.  Get to work.

How big will the coronaviras disrupt logistics flows?

By Steve Geary | 02/08/2020 | 4:33 PM

According to the Washington Post, "China is paralyzed by the coronavirus, which has infected more than 28,000 people in the mainland and killed more than 560. It has also brought China’s powerful manufacturing industry to a standstill as travel restrictions freeze the country’s workforce and major companies such as Boeing, Apple and Nike have been forced to close factories until at least mid-February."

If you rely on China to keep your warehouse stocked, it is time to dust off your Plan B.

The President now has a logistician in his cabinet.

By Steve Geary | 01/23/2020 | 4:15 PM

With all the distractions going on in Washington these days, it’s easy to forget that there is still a government infrastructure that keeps on cranking.  And something of interest to logisticians took place earlier this month.

The Senate confirmed Jovita Carranza to lead the Small Business Administration, the first permanent head of the agency since Linda McMahon left a year ago.  Ms. Carranza took her oath earlier this month.

According to Forbes.com, “Early in her career, Carranza worked at UPS, where she started as a part-time, night-shift box handler and worked her way up to become the company’s President of Latin America and Caribbean operations.”

The SBA became a cabinet level position in 2012.  Connect the dots, and you will realize that there is now a proven, successful, and experience logistician who is one of the most senior positions in the federal government.

There is a Cabinet Secretary that understands the world of the logistician. 

Bezos may not love the President, but he loves his country.

By Steve Geary | 01/19/2020 | 3:40 PM

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos knows a thing about logistics.  He has taken Amazon a long way from roots as an on-line bookstore.  In remarks last month at the Reagan National Defense Forum, at the Ronald Reagan National Library in Simi Valley, CA, Fox New quotes Bezos,

“… if Big Tech is going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, this country is in trouble. That's just can't happen.  It's the senior leadership team to say to people, ‘Look, I understand these are emotional issues. That's OK. And we don't have to agree on everything. But this is how we're going to do it. We are going to support the Department of Defense.’"

According to a report from Morgan Stanley released in December of 2019, Amazon Logistics volume is expected to pass UPS by 2022 and FedEx sooner than that.  His opinion matters.

DoD overhauling key policies and instructions with significant implications for industry

By Steve Geary | 12/23/2019 | 12:09 PM

As the Department of Defense embarks on an update to the core logistics policies that govern interaction with the private sector, let’s hope that DoD addresses both the strategic context for the military and operating imperatives of the private sector.

Government leaders have understood the challenge for years.  “We will prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation and frequent modular upgrades,”  said Jim Mattis at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in January of 2018.

Defense analysts understand the nature of the challenge.  Earlier this year, Andrew Philip Hunter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) built on the Mattis theme.  “Deploying systems that are adaptable and agile is not just a technology strategy but a security imperative. Success will ultimately depend on DoD’s ability to rapidly adjust to uncertainty in threats—nimble adversaries, new domains, and unanticipated applications of technology utilization.”

Let’s hope that Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord and the DoD infrastructure deliver.  Ms. Lord promises revisions in fiscal year 2020, with significant implications for the private sector.

We are living in a brave new world.

By Steve Geary | 12/06/2019 | 10:09 AM

“During recent years, the escalating cost burden of managing global supply chains has led many companies to reconsider their approach. The latest protectionist tendencies from governments further exacerbate the complications and challenges, increasing the appeal of near-shoring and on-shoring strategies,’’ according to industry analyst Mark Millar.

Once upon a time logisiticians were able to rely on governments to deliver an environment of stability.  Those days are over.  The risk/cost trade space has realigned.

I had a professor who once advised, "If you can't solve the problem, change the problem."  In the current global environment it makes sense to listen to that advice.


Is the US winning the trade war with China?

By Steve Geary | 11/02/2019 | 7:44 AM

The data is compelling.

According to Reuters, “Despite more than a year of growth boosting measures, China’s domestic demand has remained stubbornly weak as economic uncertainty weighs on business and consumer confidence and discourages fresh investment.” 

Reuters goes on to point out that U.S. imports—according to customs data—dropped 26.4% during that period.  Perhaps a fundamental structural shift is underway.  Even is a trade deal is reached, we may never return to the heyday of Sino-American trade.

Time to start thinking about locking into the new reality.

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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