Transportation Paradigm Changes
Changes in technology have led to the need for a new paradigm when it comes to transportation on several levels, and the existing transportation and logistical infrastructure has also been heavily affected by the recent economic turbulence facing the nation and the world (PSBJ 2009). Specifically, fuel costs, reduced demand of many goods and products, and resulting reductions in capital available for human resources spending have all wielded a large effect on the logistical capabilities of transport systems (PBSJ 2009). Though there are some signs that economic recovery is beginning to take hold in the transportation sector and in the world at large, there is still a definite and discernible need to address the situations both created by the growth in technology and highlighted by the economic downturn, which did not create new issues so much as it brought others more prominently to the foreground of logistical and transportation practicalities.
The world’s consumers, especially in first world countries, still expect to receive goods on a near-constant basis, even if they do not consciously realize this expectation. The ability to go to a market or shopping center and purchase pretty much whatever has been taken for granted in much of the developed world for the past several decades, but the economic downturn made providing this level of logistical transportation very difficult for many distributors and retailer (PSBJ 2009). In order to address these difficulties, a new paradigm of smaller, more responsive, and more numerous distribution centers is called for, and communication between these centers, suppliers, and retailers must also be improved.
Technology can go a long way in providing the additional logistical infrastructure needed to achieve these goals. Satellite communications have, of course, allowed for near-instant worldwide communication for nearly half a century, and over the past twenty years cell phones have improved communication abilities and localities even more. It is the most current Internet technology, however, that shows the most promise in achieving a true paradigm shift when it comes to transportation and logistics. Such technology allows for the same near-instant communication between retailers, distributors, and suppliers without even requiring any human intervention, for the most part, allowing logistical planning and resource allocation to take place at a much faster and more efficient level. The physical transportation infrastructure, other than an increased frequency of product distribution centers, does not truly need to be altered (although faster and more fuel-efficient transportation vehicles of all types are also being produced on a constant basis) to take advantage of the benefits that computer and Internet technology provides to logistical planning in the realm of transportation and transshipping.
The existing transportation paradigm is already shifting to a more demand-side controlled entity due to the availability of online shopping and direct shipping. This change is already occurring and will inevitably continue along it’s current path. Adjusting the logistical infrastructure and practices in the transportation and transshipping industries will help to keep large distributors and transportation companies viable entities as the twenty-first century progresses and greater efficiency is continually demanded.
Information Management and Technology
The issues of logistics and information management and technology are completely intertwined, to the point that it is difficult to discuss one without an accompanying discussion of/commentary on the other. Logistics forms the practical and physical side of information management, allowing information to be properly utilized in order to deliver people, goods, and products to desired destinations with the greatest efficiency. Proper information management, including an efficient and effective utilization of technology in order to manage information, is what allows these logistical maneuvers to be carried out. Without information management, that is, logistical planning and action would be impossible; without logistics, information management is pointless.
With this in mind, it should not be surprising that many of the changes occurring in today’s world that affect the are of transportation logistics also play an important part in information management. Technological advances have made information management in the transportation (as well as in other industries) far more efficient and effective; computers allow for modeling and simulations that greatly increase the efficacy of information management in highly complex systems (Intergraph 2009). Information management used to require a large amount of human resources and a great deal of coordination between various team members, departments, but now computers are able to communicate and cross-reference information automatically and instantaneously (Intergraph 2009).
Human resources will always be needed in a large capacity in the realm of information management, of course, but computer technology greatly reduces the number of man-hours (and the amount of real time) needed for proper and effective information management. This allows the human resources in an information management department to take on a role that is more in the shape of an overseer than a data analyst; as computers analyze and collate data in near real-time, information managers can make more effective and up-to-the-minute logistical decisions, allocating resources based on the efficiency models produced by the computers (Intergraph 2009). Technology has quite simply and obviously surpassed human capabilities when it comes to the storage, retrieval, and comparison (in an objective and numerical sense, at the very least) of information, so though true decision-making capabilities are still left primarily to human resources, the true management — i.e. The storage, retrieval, comparison, and presentation — of information has shifted away from human thought processes and to the language of computers.
Equally essential — and arguably more so — in the realm of transportation information management is the communication of information. This is another issue that computers and other technologies have changed drastically in the recent past. The interconnectivity of computer systems ensures that all necessary departments, offices, and other entities remain informed with the most current information available. As computer systems relay information automatically to whatever other entities require this information, information management becomes more cohesive amongst the various disparate parts of a project.
Another major change in the modern world of transportation is that of security. Several interrelated issues and effects of increased globalization have influenced security concerns, procedures, and practices in large ways since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and truly effective security solutions are still being worked out by various legislative bodies around the world and many of the large companies engaged in transportation and transshipping (Lake 2004). Essentially, there is a conflict between the need to increase the efficiency of delivery and transportation while at the same time limiting the potential for security breaches through theft and the trade and transportation of illegal and/or potentially dangerous people and products, or through efforts of sabotage and terrorism that could be carried out through transportation and/or transshipping entities (Lake 2004).
The new paradigm in transportation security must find a balance between stringent control of transportation and transshipping vessels, as well as the materials and persons being transported and transshipped, while at the same time maximizing the speed and efficiency with which these materials and persons are delivered to their various destinations. These two components are, unfortunately, largely mutually exclusive; it is impossible to increase security measures without reducing efficiency simply because it takes time to provide adequate security (Lake 2004). Technology can provide a partial solution to the issue, but even improved methods of scanning and detecting security problems can only go so far.
Each individual transportation/transshipping company must tackle these issues independently, but at the same time all must deal with the same ever-changing and adapting governmental regulations (Lake 2004). Border control, especially, has become a major obstacle to efficiency and a major boon to security in the transportation and transshipping industries, and each company — each vessel, too, when it comes right down to it — must find ways to adhere to these controls without losing inordinate amounts of time to security procedures and concerns (Lake 2004). Such security used to be in the hands of the various governments of the world almost entirely; customs officials and procedures at seaports, airports, and other points of entry were responsible — and still are — for maintaining security. Private companies, however, must begin to take more of this burden on themselves in order to streamline procedures at these points of entry; the more prepared and well-documented each vessel is, the less time (and therefore money) they will have to spend at the various points of entry proving their compliance and security reliability (Lake 2004).
In the ever-changing world of the twenty-first century, corporations and other business entities must begin to shoulder more of the burden of both world and personal security, as their resources far outstrip those of even some of the largest governments, especially when it comes to the ability to deal with their own specific products, vessels, and issues. This new security paradigm does not eliminate the need for government intervention in security — far from it, in fact — but it does require a greater deal of planning and cooperation with business entities.
Intergraph (2009). “Transportation: Secure, manage, and maintain your transportation network.” Accessed 24 October 2009. http://www.intergraph.com/transportation/default.aspx
Lake, J. (2004). ‘Border and Transportation Security: Overview of Congressional Issues.” Congressional research service. Accessed 24 October 2009. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/RL32705.pdf
Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) (2009). “Logistics & transportation news.” Accessed 24 October 2009. http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/industries/logistics_transportation/general
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