Last week was one with rather disturbing reminders. These reminders have caused us to pause beyond our usual Supply Chain Matters commentaries..
Last week began with the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday which inflicted horrendous injuries and the subsequent tragic loss of life of four individuals. A sporting event of huge traditions and broad community spirit was shattered by the acts of cowardly terrorists. Supply Chain Matters originates from the Boston area and thus, the tragedy and the subsequent days of terror and suspects on the loose was very real and very visual. Our hearts go out to all of the victims. We also echo the praise of all law enforcement, first responders and all other medical support professionals who risk their own lives in their efforts to aid all victims in their time of grave need.
Then there was the massive explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas on Wednesday that nearly wiped-out a small town. The devastating explosion could be felt 50 miles away and the video images were disturbing to watch. As we pen this posting, 14 bodies have been found, the majority of those that perished being firefighters and first responders who sacrificed their lives to save others. Many, perhaps up to 60 more, remain missing, and many more have been severely and emotionally injured. Much effort will be required to rebuild. Our hearts go out to these victims as well.
Saturday morning, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck residents in the steep hills of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. Thus far, 160 have been reported killed with over 6000 injured. The earthquake was shallow, estimated to be about 13 kilometers, causing additional amplification. Numerous aftershocks continue. The government of China has dispatched over 7000 military and other rescue personnel to assist in the rescue effort. The impacted area is quite close to the earthquake that struck in 2008 which claimed the lives of 70,000 people, but fortunately, reports from seismologists indicate that the current quake was not as severe as in 2008. Regardless, more lives have been lost and many have been again injured. Our hearts go out to earthquake victims in China.
More than likely, there were many other unreported, yet personal tragedies. We had one in our extended family.
Last week was a brutal reminder of the fragility of human existence and that resiliency is not just a word, but an expression and state of purposefulness.
We have written many commentaries reflecting on business and supply chain risk. Sometimes, the human side of these events gets blurred in the news and commentary cycle. Not so, last week.
Last week was a stark reminder of what is really important and of personal priorities. We all need to take accounting of the blessing of friends, family, colleagues and life.
The 24 hour news cycle, convenient memory and the next priority sometimes numb us all to the fragility of our surroundings and to the bonds we have as a global community. Violence, accidents, disaster and who knows what else, surrounds us each day. Insuring what is important in one’s life transcends events, and bonds us as a human society.
Last week, Aberdeen Group announced a change in the availability of its research reports, one that reflects some of the realities of today’s extraordinary reach facilitated by the Internet. Readers however, should exercise caution.
Effective April 20th, Aberdeen will opt for an open research model, eliminating its previous paid Research Vault memberships. This so termed AberdeenAccess business model is described as allowing access to Aberdeen research published within the past three years. We would speculate that Aberdeen had not experienced significant revenues from its previous user paid research business model, opting instead for this revised strategy. The move is also a reflection of the changing fortunes of today’s industry analyst business model where sites such as ours have made their impact.
There is a catch however, one that we advise our Supply Chain Matters readers to carefully heed.
Readers should understand that Aberdeen is actually an operating group of Harte Hanks. On its web site that company describes itself as the following:
“Harte-Hanks today is a worldwide direct and targeted marketing company that provides insight-driven direct marketing services and shopper advertising opportunities to local, regional, national, and international consumer and business-to-business marketers.”
We again remind our Supply Chain Matters readers that since our founding, we have always subscribed to an open research model , Further, Supply Chain Matters has a stated policy that we will never share any of your specific personal information with third parties.
In November of 2009, Supply Chain posted a commentary in the wake of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway $26 billion acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. At the time, Wall Street was really puzzled why Buffet would invest so much money in a railroad.
In our commentary, Supply Chain Matters viewed the supply chain headline of this acquisition as Buffet’s huge bet on the economic future of the United States and consequent needs for more efficient transportation infrastructure. In the case of a major U.S. railroad, it was the reality that the compelling forces leading to the eventual return of high fossil-fuel prices, coupled with alternative energy realities, will make rail the most efficient alternative for moving goods across the country, and that BNSF is in a great position to leverage these economic forces. BNSF was also strategically positioned to leverage west to east transportation needs in inter-modal ocean containers as well as other commodities.
Over three years later, the motivations and business results from that acquisition are becoming ever more visible. This week, an article published by Bloomberg News indicates that the BNSF will boost crude-oil shipments by 40 percent in 2013, by investing “a couple hundred million dollars” on capital improvements. The BNSF is positioning to take advantage of the booming new reserves of crude oil being harvested from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana. That formation along with other newly discovered sources are positioning the U.S. to be the biggest global producer of crude by 2020. In the Bloomberg article, BNSF CEO Matt Rose is quoted: “We’re the 1,000-pound gorilla in the oil markets”. From a business perspective, taking maximum advantage of the void in moving crude by rail from the Bakken to Gulf coast refineries also offsets BNSF business decline in previously moving coal, which fell 6.2 percent in 2012. BNSF has also experienced a 26 percent increase in moving chemical carloads, which is another byproduct of the new crude oil discoveries. According to Bloomberg, the railroad is in talks with other railroads Norfolk Southern and CSX to move crude to east coast customers, including the Trainer Pennsylvania oil refinery owned by Delta Airlines.
Once more, there is more unfolding regarding Buffet’s investment strategies in U.S. transportation infrastructure. Union Tank Car Co. is Another Berkshire investment and that firm is operating at full capacity to produce the needed tank cars to transport this crude. We read recently that the tank car industry in the U.S. has order backlog in the thousands.
This author does not own Berkshire Hathaway stock but we sure do wish we could have afforded to do so back in 2009. A strategic investment in the U.S. transportation infrastructure is paying enormous business dividends for years to come.
Supply Chain Matters readers will note that we are experiencing some temporary technical difficulties related to the Menu structures appearing on the Blog’s top panel. A recent WordPress upgrade over the weekend caused these difficulties and we are working to resolve these issues.
Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor
On behalf of myself and our Supply Chain Matters team, I would like to extend our sincere best wishes for a joyous upcoming Holiday Season and happy and rewarding New Year. May you enjoy the warmth, peace and love of family and friends.
We share for your enjoyment, a holiday commentary from U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) that reports on what supply chain resources Santa Claus would need to deliver his holiday presents.
While we will be spending time with family and friends, Supply Chain Matters will be publishing live commentaries during the week from the Christmas holiday through New Year’s Day. There are lots of supply chain developments underway including the threat of an U.S. East coast dock strike. We will also complete our deep-dives into our various 2013 Predictions for Global Supply Chains.
Best Wishes to All.
The months of November and December involve our sales cycle for 2013 named sponsors for this blog. Loyal readers please bear with us as we take care of business. We are able to share and publish the quality content that we provide through the support of our sponsors. For our sponsors we provide highly experienced product strategy, marketing and market research services that are individually tailored for sponsors and their brands.
We remind providers of supply chain related technology and services that opportunities for being a named sponsor of the Supply Chain Matters blog in 2013 are open for both the Lead and Sustaining Sponsorship levels. Social media and especially Blogs have come to be very influential sources of opinion, market knowledge and thought leadership, with this site being cited as among the top ten blogs commenting on global supply chain business process and information technology developments. We again thank our existing Lead Sponsors, Kinaxis and Infosys Limited, and our Sustaining Sponsors, E2open and Progress Software for their recognition and continued support throughout 2012.
As a sponsor of Supply Chain Matters, your company will be recognized for its products and services and as a supporter of quality thought leadership. Our sponsorships include services in spring boarding your brand recognition, enlisting social media and search engine optimized product marketing strategies, and raising educational awareness to innovative technologies and services. An investment as a Supply Chain Matters sponsor extends way beyond a single event or campaign, offering a continuous daily impression across a global, highly targeted supply chain audience. Existing sponsors have incurred web based impressions exceeding one million views annually.
What sets our sponsorship opportunities apart from other web properties is the unique personal and tailored services we can provide for your brand, with a highly affordable and competitive investment.
In 2012, we simplified our blog sponsorship opportunities into two levels of sponsorships, a Lead level and a Sustaining level, each with different levels of benefits, competitively priced. Picture your brand logo and recognition of capabilities appearing on every Supply Chain Matters content page in the designated sponsorship panel.
Further detailed information can be obtained by utilizing our Sponsorship Information Request drop-down menu located on the top menu bar, or by sending an inquiry email to info <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com.
Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor