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From World Trade to Me Trade

Tags: Globalisation   Economy   Cargo industry

Oliver Evans on Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:20 AM


A dramatic shift is happening right now in the way we manufacture, buy and, as a result, transport goods around the globe. This shift is so fundamental, it will change, make that: it is already changing supply chains and the composition of air cargo.
Yet sometimes dramatic shifts happen without direct reference to them, only to their many, seemingly disconnected symptoms, until…

So, here is what I believe is happening:

Back in the old days, commerce was rather straight-forward. A producer, well, produced goods, and these were ferried in large quantities (aka big shipments) to logistics centres everywhere, from where they made their way to shops and stores, in which we would have our first chance to evaluate and eventually buy them.

How quaint and old-fashioned.

Additive manufacturing makes production of almost any goods possible in the most unlikely places. Smart phones and micro-finance make entrepreneurship flourish far from the so-called developed, industrialised world. And the internet puts all of us in immediate touch with all of us. Today we, as individual customers very often kick-start our own private supply chain by ordering something or other directly via the internet, which then is sent directly to us as a single item.

The consequences for the producers are mind-boggling.

Yet, although some manufacturing giants already see their shares tumble, and some venerable high-street retailers are biting the dust, most companies continue to behave as they have always done, and adapt sufficiently to the now apparent small cracks in the familiar business model. But these cracks will soon become yawning gaps and we will see companies raise and others fall on the single factor of their ability to adapt to a fundamentally new set of rules.

And our tried and trusted airline-forwarder model?

The integrators or postal organisations with their ability to serve “the last mile” should be the natural beneficiaries of supply chains evolving from B-to-B (manufacturer-to-dealer or retailer) into a I-to-I (individual-to-individual) or at least a b-to-C (small business-to-consumer) sort of relationship. And indeed, they already feel a surge in demand.
But before we allow ourselves us to be scared by – or slow to adapt to – the emerging Me Trade that is substituting parts of the familiar World Trade, we should remember the one fundamental truth about change: for every business pattern that dies away, two new opportunities are born. At least.

The volume of air cargo will not shrink.

On the contrary, it should increase exponentially as manufacture spreads to far-flung places and splinters, and millions of new consumers demand their share of the cornucopia of invention. And I am certain that the Me Trade generation will be no less demanding in terms of speed, reliability and security of delivery. So the unique skills and knowledge that we have today will serve us even better tomorrow.

Last Christmas, when time to buy presents for my family was even shorter than usual and for the first time I had to resort to Amazon & others big time, I turned into a very big fan of Me Trade. It made my (Christmas) day and I am sure it will make the industry’s day as well – if we only embrace the opportunities.

Thank you for tuning in.

Oliver


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