Goodbye to the joys of abundance
To this day I get excited when a package arrives the day after my order. Besides that, my job (and maybe yours too) has little to do with the physical move of goods and I often get distracted from our original task: Making sure that people have convenient access to products, when and where needed. My recent trip got me back on track.
Logistics determines personal well-being
While I was walking through Nepal, I could not help but notice a few things that were oddly connected to being in logistics. In particular, two things were striking to me. Those thoughts took so much space in my head that I want to share some of it here. First, I knew that logistics was going to be one factor when hiking for two weeks, but I had underestimated how much of an impact it had on personal well-being. Second, I also noticed the absence of proper supply all around the country.
Getting it up on the mountain
Nepal itself is not a place of riches but the mountains are even more limited. Naturally, resources are incredibly scarce as you cannot simply load them on a pallet. Getting them up means to carry them yourself, have someone else carry them, load them on a mule or — in very rare exceptions — put them in a lift or helicopter.
After a few days of hiking, you realize that you have ignored one advice too many („Don’t pack more than 12kg!“). A perfect packing list appears in your head, while 15kg remain sitting on your back. After all, that third battery pack for the camera was important — after all, we only had three smartphones with us.
Despite all efforts (and cursing), some goods still will not be in the available when you want them. Water, food, internet, energy, second pen, earplugs, dry clothes… All those have to wait until someone can offer them to you, which may not happen until you are back on flat lands again. And that can be a tough realization, depending on where you are, how you packed, how the weather plays (in our case: against us), what happens along the way.
This made me not only physically experience the weight of a kilo but, more importantly, my dependence on steady, abundant and reliable supply of goods. It is not only a luxury to further fuel our impatience but also a luxury we take for granted in order to go fulfill our daily needs. When you pack for minimum weight, it becomes evident how little comfort and safety margin it provides, how dependent you become all of a sudden if you don’t have access to certain belongings (think just-in-time production systems!) — all while feeling that you are pulling a car up the mountain.
A determinant of a country’s wealth
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and thus falls short of conveniences that most of us have grown used to. Traveling there feels like going back in time, the time before there was industrialization and — along with it — professional logistics.
We would not have considered it any further, had we not seen thousands of trucks and even hand-pulled carts all over the place. No matter where you look, something was related to logistics in some way. This stood in severe contrast against availability, variety and conditions we found (or failed to find) products even at the heart of large cities. And I will not go into detail on the storage of raw meat, or really food in general.
To reach prosperity, professionally logistics is certainly not the only thing that a country like Nepal needs. Proper education, healthcare, and infrastructure are keeping the country behind. But the lack of reliable supply certainly plays its part, too. Product availability does not happen through good intentions alone. It requires effective processes, the right assets and proper coordination to accomplish all these.
Logistics creates choice, safety and abundance
This is what those two stories were supposed to be about. Every now and then I get the chance to experience how a company is serving an important purpose. I too often reduce it to our own processes, systems and organization, meeting SLAs and KPIs, and of course, the effect on NP2.
Traveling through Nepal has been a good reminder for why logistics matters and how limited our lives would be without. I find it truly remarkable how different parties in logistics are being coordinated in such a way that we can enjoy our lives without thinking about whether and how we are going to get what we want — but simply hit „Add to basket“ or go around the corner and be bombarded with dozens of options to choose from.