Mother Knows Best

Our mothers, our wives, our daughters … efficiency experts. Every one of ‘em. They wasted nothing. Not a minute of time, not an inch of space. They saw everything, they heard everything, and they could even read our minds. They ran the show. They got results. Who can deny it?

Now look at the way men manage an operation. Go back three, five, even ten years, and you’ll recall the authorities enthusiastically forecasting a highly profitable future for the intermodal industry. Everyone could see that growth was inevitable but no one seemed to be concerned about its unexpected rate or about managing it and providing for the day when we’d run out of coastal acreage. But that day of reckoning has been drawing closer and closer and those in the trenches are seeking relief from any source. A lot of money is being thrown around, but the ever-threatening Sword of Damocles is becoming nightmarish.

The periodicals are rife with critical commentaries, but the criticisms are always about the other guy. Nothing positive is being offered by spokesmen beyond the repetitious reminders that channels must be dredged deeper, productivity per acre must be increased, the railroads need to be improved, highway congestion must be addressed, terminal gate hours must be extended, rail shuttles are needed to move containers to inland yards, more manpower is needed in terminals, more technology is needed and less manpower, etc., etc. None of these recommendations have anything to do with what causes delays in the supply chain, and amidst all the hand-wringing Jean Godwin’s warning rings clearer than ever; “It’s like trying to fit a 16-inch pipe into a 4-inch opening”.

Are workable and affordable solutions being proposed by authorities? Well, no, because only two solutions were ever available, time and space, and they’ve already been used up. But aren’t efficiency experts supposed to be able to make more time and more space available when the need arises? In times past, when living quarters were not as spacious as they are today, our mothers, the epitomes of efficiency, never seemed to run out of space. And they’d find more than 24 hours in a day, too. Or so it seemed. This pickle of ours would be a perfect setup for them. If ever they caught sight of the recent comment that between $ 50 million and $ 60 million worth of technology was a worthwhile price to pay “to have the location of containers available at the click of a mouse”, couldn’t you just hear their reaction? “Open your eyes! If it got any closer it would bite you!”, they’d say. Losing track of anything was absolutely forbidden. It was their very nature to familiarize themselves with those methods that gained and preserved time and space, and if ever they had been exposed to the travails of a congested terminal operation, they would long since have recognized and utilized our patented storage, retrieval and delivery systems. If it meant a saving in time, a saving in space, and a saving in cost, it would get the immediate attention of these efficiency experts.

And when you couldn’t see the obvious, remember the put down? “College education! Humph!”