If you are inclined to answer in the negative, perhaps you feel that all which comes before and after can be solved by means of optimising supply, purchasing, and vendor management routines.
However, if network design and holistic network optimisation is “not my section”, then whose is it?
There may be few logistics professionals today found reading of the affairs of a 19th century German trading house. There might, however, be more if they found it useful to reflect upon the then prevailing logistical complexity, risk, and the elasticity in the logistical solutions that sought to bring product to market at the most opportune moment in those times. It was an era when logisticians were merchants; and warehousemen were warehousemen.
We do not mean to be gratuitous, there are many clever people in our industry today, some bullet proof networks that prove the 80/20 rule, and some Chinese walls that improve supervision and tolerances.
The principal issue in respect of the lack of progress, as I see it, lies in the displacement effect brought on by regulatory agency activism and their responses to fears expressed in the political sphere.
In the surveillance and information age, regulatory agencies desire everything. Yet such agencies can usually only effectively physically control and intervene at hub points where shipments are often already consolidated with others or else submersed in sortation process. So we see here yet another form of hop scotch, and regulatory agencies supervising the international trade and transport industry having eventually become committed to making international carrier manifest the determinant point of intervention from which to affirm regulatory compliance.
In a week where we have seen publicity surrounding Japan and China’s adoption of inbound (in-advance-of-arrival) cargo manifest filing regulatory procedures, it is worth the pause to get a fuller understanding of the direction in which cargo manifest surveillance & regulation is heading. The jurisdiction that has sourced the funding and political inertia to lead such security related initiatives, describes their work here:
Scanning the details and noting the complexity of the US system may be sufficient for your purpose today. It may suffice here for us to note the 48 separate agencies involved, and the grand impression and carefully expressed hopes sold to the US Congress - but we will also provide the link to the latest report released this January:
The US Congress may proudly declare that they are overseeing the implementation of the world's most interventionist export port controlled cargo manifest approval system. But what is really up for grabs here?
Well, there is the prospect of fluidity being promoted by some players in the transportation industry– if there is an agency red flag on a component subject to agency control – it should not, under an integrated system, make it to a cargo manifest, right? Well regulators and industry may say “perhaps”, or “well, sometimes” – and “we reserve the right to change our minds” – and perhaps they may change their minds for some, while recognising the “practicalities” of not decisively changing it for others…
Moreover the reality is that it is not unusual for merchandise to already be in motion and consolidating with other orders, or shipments, prior to a conceivable flag related process intervention – which in turn may have other consequences.
On the sunny side, however, we see before us the long desired (for some) prospect of a system of legislated export & import permission requirements finally coming into force at the time of cargo manifesting the exporting vessel from the port, airport, or land vehicle terminal.
Congress may believe they are getting something that may, on one day in the future prove to have prevented a brown bomb being loaded onto a ship sailing to a US port, and “domestic” minded international transport operators who believe that time lost (and the lack of certainty for planning purposes) arising at import ports is the overarching issue of merit,will best see their interests prioritised by means of the US government being more absolute and resolute, in the first instance, “over there”.
Of course, the supply chain process might be tracked all the way back to the material components incorporated prior to, or after, manufacture; and before packing and consolidating those packages for export. And such components or accessories could, perhaps, be absolutely material in an ultimate security & surveillance sense and less than well identified.
Ultimately, unless all componentry and materials are tracked from supply chain source by regulatory authorities, we will usually have relied upon general intelligence, the faithfulness of what is declared at shipment dispatch, and the faithfulness of the party that chooses and processes what is to be loaded or packed in the shipment.
We occasionally wonder how many that have either prodded or designed regulatory solutions for Congress might be saying “not my section” when it comes to the more meaningful matters related to trade compliance.
And, as for the impetus for the universal adoption by carriers and shippers of electronic commerce? Calling Congress is a complicated process.