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Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation summary

John Manners-Bell, Ken Lyon

A Practical Guide to Disruptive Technologies and New Business Models

4.1 (122 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation is a book that delves into the dynamic world of logistics, offering insights into how businesses can adapt and innovate in order to stay competitive in rapidly changing markets.

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    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation
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    The lessons of shipping containers

    The adoption of shipping containers profoundly changed global supply chains and commerce. By dramatically reducing transport costs, they enabled access to inexpensive manufacturing and products worldwide, revolutionizing how supply chains worked.

    Many assume this transition was swift and straightforward. The reality was anything but. In fact, companies had tried unitizing freight for decades before containerization finally took hold in the 1950s. The fact is, shipping containers’ industry transformation faced several systemic hurdles. And studying this period of innovation offers important lessons for current supply-chain disruptors seeking large-scale change.

    So what were those hurdles? Well, prior to containerization, loading and unloading cargo from ships was incredibly labor-intensive, time-consuming, inefficient, and dangerous. Despite recognizing these inefficiencies, the various sectors involved, including ports, rail, trucking, shipping lines, stevedores, and unions, benefited from maintaining the status quo. Shippers bore the brunt of the costs, but their fragmentation prevented unified action.

    It didn’t help that early container systems seemed likely to increase costs compared to breakbulk shipping –  that is, goods stowed on board ships in individually counted units like barrels. That’s because containers required systemic changes across all transport modes and infrastructure, not just ships. Getting all parties to adopt this new method was an enormous challenge. In hindsight, containerization forced the industry to take a total supply-chain view for the first time.

    Powerful social and political barriers also stood in the way of adoption. Politicians depended on support from dock workers' unions and opposed any automation that threatened jobs. Unions resisted changes to traditional work practices. As a result, regulators tightly controlled competition and rates across shipping and transport modes. Similar dynamics still affect today's disruptive innovations like Uber and delivery drones.

    Most established shipping lines opposed containerization, although they acknowledged highly inefficient processes. Existing ships were cheap surplus naval vessels and ports relied on casual labor, requiring little capital investment from incumbents. They were reluctant to make the financial commitment.

    Shippers wanted lower costs but their fragmented cargo volumes made the economics of containers unclear initially. The full benefits only emerged as volumes consolidated around newly efficient hub ports serving massive container ships through dedicated onshore infrastructure.

    Perfecting the design of containers, ships, port infrastructure, and handling equipment took years of trial and error. History shows that groundbreaking innovations often have false starts before winning designs emerge from many competing options. Today, this unpredictability still affects current supply-chain technologies like autonomous vehicles and robotics.

    Today's logistics platforms aim to better connect capacity with demand but have not yet sparked transformation like containerization. Unlike shipping, other transport sectors lack room for scale economies, and asset utilization has declined due to just-in-time delivery needs.

    But innovators must recognize underlying issues, not just symptoms. Lasting solutions require support from all parties, not just a few winners. Technological potential alone is insufficient; social, political, and economic barriers must also be dismantled. The shipping container story shows that innovations require widespread benefit across stakeholders to drive revolutionary change.

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    What is Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation about?

    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation (2021) maps the current pain points and inefficiencies in global supply chains while charting the innovations and new technologies poised to transform the system. It provides an insider's perspective on the practical challenges facing warehouses, ports, and logistics networks, along with realistic ideas for how leaders can leverage emerging tools like Internet of Things sensors and AI to make supply chains sustainable, resilient, and responsive. 

    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation Review

    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation (2017) is a comprehensive exploration of innovative practices in the logistics and supply chain industry. Here is why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a practical roadmap for organizations to navigate the complex world of logistics and supply chain management, helping them stay competitive in today's market.
    • With its in-depth analysis of emerging technologies and trends, the book equips readers with the knowledge and insights to stay ahead of the curve.
    • It sheds light on real-world case studies showcasing successful implementations of innovative strategies, making the content relatable and inspiring.

    Who should read Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation?

    • Supply chain professionals
    • Logistics company leaders
    • Tech innovators

    About the Author

    John Manners-Bell is the CEO of Transport Intelligence, a major provider of market solutions for the logistics industry, and a visiting professor at London Metropolitan University's business school. He began his career in logistics operations at a UK freight-forwarding and road-haulage company before working as an analyst at consultancies focused on international trade and transport. Manners-Bell also spent several years as European marketing manager for UPS Supply Chain Solutions, overseeing locations across Europe.

    Ken Lyon has over 30 years of experience in the transportation industry. He specializes in the use of advanced information systems to manage logistical operations. He was previously director and vice president of information services at UPS, helping to establish its logistics and supply-chain services group. Lyon was recently appointed chairman of the board for an international logistics software group and also sits on the board of Ti.

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    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation FAQs 

    What is the main message of Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation?

    The main message of Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation is to embrace innovation and its impact on logistics and supply chain management.

    How long does it take to read Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation?

    The reading time for Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation can vary, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation is a valuable read for anyone in the industry. It provides insights and strategies for enhancing supply chain operations and staying ahead of the curve.

    Who is the author of Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation?

    The authors of Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation are John Manners-Bell and Ken Lyon.

    What to read after Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom
    • Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
    • 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson
    • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
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