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Transportation Infrastructure Needs

July 10, 2015

In the 1950’s president Dwight D. Eisenhower looked into the future and understood that if the United States was to modernize and stay a nation of innovation and technological excellence it would need a strong federal transportation infrastructure. Under his leadership, $10 billion had been invested in interstates and 10,440 miles or 25 percent of the Interstate System had been opened to traffic.[1]

Sixty years later, there is a general agreement that America’s infrastructure once again needs significant investment and improvement. Yet infrastructure investments on a national level are at a 70-year low. The current surface transportation law (MAP-21) must be reauthorized to see these infrastructural maintenance and new improvements be undertaken.

According to Speaker John A. Boehner, fixing U.S. infrastructure is “critically important”[2]. According to the department of transportation freight bottlenecks and aviation delays alone have cost the economy $232.9 billion dollars a year[3]. This is equivalent to over 1% of the gross domestic product[4]. Furthermore a majority of bridges and highways in America are decades past their original designed life expectancy.

The lack of investment in infrastructure poses the threat of decreased safety, exorbitant inefficiency, and even displacing our economic viability for foreign investment and focus as a leader in international business.

Solutions like the Main Street Partnership offer a road map for Republicans and Democrats to work together to tackle the most pressing transportation and infrastructure needs. From investing in roads and bridges, modernizing our energy infrastructure, to addressing growing broadband and cybersecurity issues, Congress should not allow partisan politics to prevent them from addressing the important issues at hand[5]. Yet many wonder, among all the issues at stake vying for attention, whether or not this is of high priority in the battle for allocation of federal funds. It can be argued that other initiatives and avenues of development are more worthy of such intensive investment. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for American infrastructure as competing viewpoints come to the table to find the most viable solution. 

 

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The ABCs of DCs

June 25, 2015

The ABCs of DCs

University of Tennessee Global Supply Chain Institute recently published a report about best practices within warehouses. This report is entitled “The ABCs of DCs: Distribution Center Management: A Best Practices Overview”.

This research identifies the best practices for modern distribution centers across 11 key functions:

  1. Receiving
  2. Picking/Order  Fulfillment/Shipping
  3. Lean Warehousing
  4. Cross-Docking
  5. Metrics and Planning
  6. Warehouse Information Systems
  7. Warehouse Layout and Space Optimization
  8. Warehouse Network Optimization
  9. Safety and Security
  10. People
  11. Sustainability[1]

This research concludes that

  1. Distribution centers must be dynamic to meet customer expectations as internet orders increase
  2. Cost can no longer be the sole motivator for warehouse management
  3. Distribution centers must adopt modern tools like advanced shipping notices and warehouse information systems to maximize accuracy and efficiency
  4. Distribution centers should routinely seek to optimize their network[2]

This framework, when fully utilized, is a key recipe to successful distribution center management and enables businesses to become more competitive in the traditional retail and online business sectors. As distribution managers, renewed focus on each of these 11 functions and plans to improve each in accordance with this research will strengthen your hold on the marketplace and enable new efficiencies to be realized.

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Google's Self-Driving Cars to Hit Roads

June 18, 2015

Google’s Self-Driving Cars to Hit Roads

Google will be begin testing its self-driving cars of its own design on public roads this summer. Contrary to previous projections and speculations these vehicles will have both steering wheels and brakes. Yet these are only to “take over driving if needed”[1].

Google described these pod-like prototypes, which seat two people, as the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle. The company mentioned that it would test new passenger and pedestrian protection technologies including foam front ends and a flexible windshield. These prototypes are limited; however, to 25 mph in order to decrease the likelihood of severe injury should collision occur.

Testing continues as the prototypes are pushed into more circumstances to test even the rarest and strangest of situations in order to ensure the all-around safety and utility of these vehicles. Urmost mentioned “not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident”[2]. The fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the road since the project was started, and recently has elevated to about 10,000 miles a week. This is equivalent to roughly 75 years of the typical American adult driving experience.

Throughout upcoming years it is anticipated that new pilot programs will be run to learn how applicable these prototypes could be to individual consumer as well as business life. With their limited speed capabilities and self-driving functions it will be fascinating to watch them evolve in both the private and business sectors alike.

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