“May you live in interesting times” is not the expression of goodwill it seems to be on the surface, but rather a curse. Well, take a look at the news lately and you’ll see that we live in interesting times indeed. Between the Covid-19 pandemic which is now raging through its third year and the more recent exacerbation of the war in Ukraine, it seems as if our times are growing more interesting each and every day. One of the most crushing effects of this perfect storm of global events has been the rapid deterioration of the global supply chain, leading to runaway inflation and shortages on a worldwide basis. This is having a measurable effect on families, businesses, and anyone just trying to make a living right now.
None of this has escaped the White House’s notice. As of March of 2022, Whitehouse.gov has released two articles detailing the Biden-Harris administration’s release of the FLOW program. FLOW, which stands for Freight Logistics Optimization Works, is an information-sharing initiative between eighteen initial participants representing diverse voices from across the supply chain. Private businesses, logistics companies, ports, and more are all included. The goal of this initiative is to increase resiliency- as it is, a lack of digital infrastructure makes the entire chain incredibly brittle towards any measurable shock. Fulfillment as a whole is so often stuck in the 90s, when paper forms and phone trees were the order of the day. And despite rampant inefficiency, a lack of oversight and media attention has meant that the industry has been able to get away with doing the same old, same old- until now.
The pilot program, which includes such giants as UPS and FedEx alongside various port authorities, ocean carriers, and businesses, is by no means limited to these initial eighteen participants. The Biden-Harris administration has launched a webpage to gauge interest from additional stakeholders in supporting American freight infrastructure as well as outline the specifics of their plan, which are as follows:
First, the Biden administration seeks to reduce dwell times in California ports. This effectively initiates a partnership with the government of California, which is also undertaking a separate endeavor to ease data supply chain burdens. The Port Authorities of Los Angeles and Long Beach have already proposed hitting carriers who allow cargo to sit on the docks for nine days or more with a fee, which has already resulted in a 60% decrease in long-dwelling cargo and key flow improvements.
Secondly, congestion in the Port of Savannah has come under scrutiny. Pop-up container yards received both federal and Georgia state funding, making sure that over 5,000 containers could be relieved over an 8 week period. This has had a monumental effect on the Port of Savannah, making sure that blockages could be cleared and that containers could be pushed through the process at an increased rate.
Thirdly, the Biden-Harris administration has urged parties and organizations at all levels of the supply chain improvement process to begin making strong moves towards 24/7 operations. Care must be taken to ensure that workers aren’t pushed too far in order to meet these mounting goals, but so long as labor rights are respected, moving to a round-the-clock model would no doubt speed things up considerably.
We here at P2Pseller, however, pose the following question: is it enough?
In our opinion, the lack of digital infrastructure and the inefficiency of everyday supply chain operations are only symptoms of a wider problem: that of overcentralization. When fulfillment companies become too big, they lose the motivation to compete with one another for quicker, more efficient service. They begin overstressing their employees because there’s few other places for them to go. They become complacent. It stops being about performing a valuable service that the world needs and becomes more about doing as little as possible for the most amount of money.
We’re pretty sure we have the solution. We want to bring about the ecommerce revolution and allow anyone with spare space to offer up that space on an open market for light warehousing. We want to eliminate long phone calls, upselling, and complicated forms by allowing merchants to book with providers online for only as long as they need. And we want to eliminate confusing hidden fees and uncertain pricing by offering all numbers up front, so our customers can make the best choices for them and their business.
One of the fundamental laws of the world is that things are always changing. Nothing that’s true today will be exactly the same yesterday. For too long, the ecommerce and fulfillment industry has gotten away with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality, allowing themselves to stagnate. Well, here we are. It’s broke. Now it’s time to band together, brainstorm, and do our best to fix it. The new FLOW plan is an excellent start towards freight optimization, but the world is counting on us to make lasting change for the better.