Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time-Sensitive Products, Cost, and Cargo Security

Freight as the Weakest Link in the Chain was the title of my blogpost the other day and I see that today's New York Times has an article: In Air Cargo Business, It's Speed vs. Screening, Creating a Wink Link in Security.

The article focuses on time-sensitive products, a topic that we have conducted a lot of research on from fashion supply chains (not a life or death application but clothing is a basic right) to blood supply chains (another fascinating topic of research that we are completing a study on).

The Times article has several quotes from Professor Yossi Sheffi, a colleague of mine in transportation and logistics at MIT, whose center I visited when I held an NSF Faculty Award for Women.

Sheffi says: “You cannot stop the flow of time-sensitive air freight,” and “It is simply not realistic.” Professor Sheffi is the author of the book, Urban Transportation Networks, which is one of the books that I recommend to my students in the Transportation & Logistics course that I am instructing with help from my two wonderful Teaching Assistants, Nathan Kollett and Min Yu, who are doctoral students in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management. Sheffi is also the author of The Resilient Enterprise.

Freight is a critical link in our global supply chains that produce and distribute products around the world. Hence, their security and viability are essential to our connected enterprises.

The air cargo system is built into the way many companies do business. However, the way that cargo is packed also makes it difficult to inspect, from special packaging, such as shrink-wrapping, which may provide exemption from inspections.

We are in an era of Fragile Networks in which multicriteria decision-making needs to be the norm for decision-making coupled with the identification of vulnerabilities and potential synergies in business.