Friday, September 28, 2007

Locative Solutions and a brief history of Logistics

I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Charles Brown’s Marketing Club here at Exel’s Americas Support Center this morning. Yes, this group is from West Virginia University’s Business and Economics School. Since these soon-to-be executives were here to experience the real world, it got me to thinking about the history of logistics and the supply chain…damn! Am I starting to sound like an old man, or what?

Logistics has always been a critical part as one of the 4 P’s in Marketing: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. (Hey, someone tell me…do they still use the four P’s? That’s what I remember from my days at WVU’s B&E School). The “Place” component ensures the product is at the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity and the right quality. So, let’s take a stroll back in time to read about how the logistics discipline started and where it may be headed.

Military Roots
Logistics received recognition in military operations during World War II. It gained its momentum as it contributed to the effective distribution of machinery and supplies to troops. A service delivery failure here may mean an increase in unnecessary fatalities. Peter Drucker (a business guru in the 1960’s, who’s business acumen never seems to get old) identified logistics as a growing concern within business.

This generated more prominence towards the practice of logistics in the late 60’s.

DeregulationAs the economies in North America evolved in the 1970’s and 1980’s, transportation deregulation changed the competitive landscape of business. Carriers were free to charge their customers (Shippers) a competitive rate for their shipments. Warehousing companies that typically acted as surplus inventory storage locations, married up with transportation companies to offer customers full-service solution capabilities. This formed the beginning of the 3rd party logistics (3PL) business and paved the way for outsourcing logistical activities.

This was also a time when companies started to loose a ton money sourcing domestically…hence the boom to the economies of the BRIC markets…Brazil, Russia, India, and China…

GlobalizationWith the advent of globalization, firms began to seek ways of cutting their production costs. Thus, multi-national corporations re-located their factors of production to low-wage countries to gain a competitive advantage. Increasingly, more and more countries are joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and opening their country to foreign capital investment. Retail giants like Wal*Mart exploit these new efficiencies and increase their imports from new emerging economies to reduce product prices in their stores. Thus, the new challenge is how to manage the product and information flows around the world. The increased pressure on managing these operations further underscored the importance of logistics as an area for optimization.

Ha! The advent of 3pl’s…organizations like Exel…and a drive to create PO to POP visibility in the supply chain. You know, Purchase Order to Point of Purchase.

Information Technology
Another contributor that led to an increased presence for logistics was the explosion in information technology and use of computers throughout the 1980’s and onwards. The cost of computing has decreased year after year since then and computing power rose exponentially. The use of the Internet and increased bandwidth capacity further enhanced and enabled quick connectivity and collaborative relationships that reduced inventories and created a Just-In-Time operating opportunity for organizations. These efficiencies reduced errors, increased fill-rates and cut overall operating costs for organizations. The 90’s created the need for fast info, and faster supply chains.

So, where do we go from here? Well, this is when the Balance Sheet shell game became popular. You know, the Dell model of production, and VMI. Oh yeah, and Enron…SarBox…etc.

Supply Chain ManagementAs the above factors fuelled efficiencies, logistics gained more prominence in organizations. A natural extension was to link the logistical operations from each firm to the entire supply chain. The new paradigm became known as the ‘systems approach’ to supply chain management and introduced the concept of trade-offs. In order to achieve least total supply chain cost, operational integration of the five main areas of logistics must be simultaneously optimized: Warehousing, Transportation, Inventory, Order Processing and Lot Quantities. Optimizing any one of these areas individually will sub-optimize the system as a whole. For example, a single warehouse in a network would achieve the lowest warehousing cost. This would create high transportation costs as suppliers ship over greater distances to ship products into the warehouse and conversely, outbound to its market distribution area. The addition of a second warehouse in the network would reduce transportation costs more than the marginal cost of operating the second warehouse, which would reduce total supply chain costs.

Flow Centers, Origin management, Control Tower over-site, and yes PO to POP fiscal visibility run rampant…who is leading the charge to create further supply evolution?

Future ChallengesAs the business landscape constantly changes with mergers & acquisitions and as globalization grows, there are corresponding changes in the supply chain that need to continuously be optimized to ensure least total supply chain costs. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and other technologies will continue to drive down inventories as better information is made available in a timely manner. Since supply chain activities cross over all functional areas in an organization (such as Marketing, Finance and Human Resources), new metrics must be developed to track true supply chain costs and identify the impact on new costs as corporate strategies change. Organizations that measure and benchmark these costs will have a sustainable competitive advantage going forward.

Yes, RFID, GPS, Smart Boxes, RF / Scan technologies are all evolving. Check this one idea into the back of your mind though…they will all blend into a new science supporting LOCATIVE Logistics or Solutions. What does locative mean?

Definition of LOCATIVE
Locative (also called the seventh case) is a case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by". The locative case belongs to the general local cases together with the lative and separative case.

Further, there is a new usage of the word in Locative media….the Wikipedia definitions is:

The term 'locative media' was coined by Karlis Kalnins. Locative media is closely related to augmented reality (reality overlaid with virtual reality) and pervasive computing (computers everywhere, as in ubiquitous computing).

The technology used in locative media projects is e.g. Global Positioning System (GPS), laptop computers, the mobile phone, Geographic Information System (GIS), Google Maps. Whereas GPS allows for the accurate detection of a specific location, mobile computers allow interactive media to be linked to this place. The GIS supplies arbitrary information about the geological, strategic or economic situation of a location. Google Maps give a visual representation of a specific place. Another important new technology that links digital data to a specific place is RFID(Radio Frequency IDentification), a successor to Barcode (like Semacode).

William Gibson used this locative media angle in his latest book, Spook Country.

My suggestion to you though is this…the same basics (building blocks) of technology will not only drive the media, but our need to know where products are in the supply chain. Locative logistics will be born very soon…and we will need to create locative solutions/platforms to support the client’s needs.

Wow, even my head is hurting from this thought…any insight to share?

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Logistics M&A Still Going Strong, According to LT...

Looking to build a foundation for further growth in both the US and international freight markets, New Zealand’s global logistics supplier, Mainfreight Ltd., will spend $53.7 million to acquire US-based Target Logistics. Ranked as one of New Zealand’s top 20 companies, Mainfreight has 3,000 employees based in that country, Australia, Asia and the US. Target Logistics offers domestic and international time-definite freight forwarding and logistics services. It has 335 offices within the US as well as a worldwide network of agents that cover more than 70 countries. The deal is expected to close in November.

Adding drivers and equipment and extending the reach of its flatbed business, West Motor Freight has acquired Sanger Trucking LLC. "Adding capacity allows us to be more responsive to our customers who recognize the value in this expansion," says Bob Petruzzi, West president. "We will continue to grow our fleet organically, and, when the right opportunities exist, through acquisition. Sanger Trucking brings a professional team of drivers and customers, both of which merge well with our flatbed business." West focuses on the Middle Atlantic, New England and Atlantic states with its van and flatbed services.

Hub Group’s subsidiary, Comtrak Logistics, Inc., is acquiring DNJ Transportation, Inc. for $12.1 million. DNJ is a trucking company with primary focus on international drayage in the intermodal market. Approximately 70 of DNJ’s 116 drivers are owner-operators. With headquarters in Cicero, the company has four terminals located in Illinois and Indiana. In commenting on the acquisition, David P. Yeager, Hub's CEO, said, "We are excited about adding DNJ to our Comtrak drayage business. DNJ's international intermodal business will provide us with immediate growth in this key market. The acquisition is consistent with our strategic plan to increase the amount of drayage we perform."

Looking to grow its domestic air and expedited capabilities C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., one of the world’s largest non-asset based third party logistics suppliers, has acquired the operations of and certain assets of LXSI Services, a provider of domestic air and expedited services. Not only does the acquisition deepen Robinson’s core capabilities, it adds customers in key vertical markets, including finance, entertainment, medicine and print manufacturing. “LXSI Services is a great fit for our expansion plans. Our customers have shown a growing demand for air and expedited services,” says Mark Walker, C.H. Robinson vice president, “and LXSI brings management depth, skilled employees, and domestic air and expedited knowledge, all of which will be necessary for us to expand this service into a core offering.”

China’s COSCO is buying the world’s largest dry bulk fleet for $RMB 35.6 billion (US $4.7 billion). The integrated shipping provider will acquire total equity in the bulk shipping assets of COSCO Group (COSCO Bulk Carrier Co., Qungdao Ocean Shipping Co., Golden View Investment and Shenzhen Ocean Shipping Co.). With the acquisition, the carrier’s fleet will grow from 144 vessels to 556 with capacity growth from 5.68 DWT (Deadweight Tonnage) to 37.7 DWT. With the additional assets China COSCO will broaden its offerings as an integrated shipping company with container and dry bulk shipping, logistics, port terminal operations and container leasing.

The acquisition of UK-based GF-X (Global Freight Exchange Ltd.) by Descartes Systems Group adds electronic air freight booking capability that creates a global network for managing the entire air cargo shipment lifecycle. The combined company will provide shippers with the ability to electronically manage bookings, air waybills, house waybills, status messages and customs fillings. Descartes offerings include the ability to manage shipping rates from initial booking trough invoice presentation, bill of lading rating and audits. “In combining with GF-X,” claims Art Mesher, Descartes CEO, ‘we now have a customer-endorsed, comprehensive shipment management service that standardizes and automates the entire shipment management process and can improve efficiencies for the air freight community.”

This was posted on Logistics Today...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

SafMarine "Containerizes" Education in Zambia

I think this is really cool on behalf of SafMarine...more organizations should take a lead by using their older container fleets this way...nice work Saf!

Zambia’s Amano Christian School today (Tuesday, September 18, 2007) celebrated the official opening of new school facilities constructed entirely from shipping containers donated by multi-trade shipping line, Safmarine. Twenty-five (25) containers were used to build 10 modern classrooms, one science laboratory and one assembly hall. Safmarine also funded the conversion of the containers, which was done by skilled Zambian artisans.

According to Philip Grove, Chairman of the Amano School’s Board of Trustees, construction of the Amano container school - which takes its name from the Bemba word for ‘wisdom’’ – first began in 2003 and was completed in 2007. Thanking Safmarine for its support, Grove said: “You have invested in the lives of the many children who will pass through Amano School in the years ahead.”

The school currently has 78 students in Grades one to 12 and aims to have 350 learners upon completion of its facilities.

According to Safmarine Africa Region Executive, Alan Jones, “Seafreight containers play an important role in growing trade between Zambia and the rest of the world, and it is therefore appropriate that shipping containers no longer required at sea are able to add value to the Zambian community by providing its children with safe, secure premises in which to further their education.” Jones said it was an honour for Safmarine to partner its customer, the Christian Mission in Many Lands (CMML), in this project. Sunny Brook Christian Trust (a joint venture of CMML and Liebenzell Mission International) coordinated the building project and also provided books and stationery for the school’s learners. The ‘recycling’ of seafreight containers no longer required at sea into permanent, land-based infrastructure is considered an important part of Safmarine’s activities, said Jones. “As global trade grows, so too does the world’s container fleet, which makes it important to find permanent, innovative and sustainable uses for retired shipping containers.” Jones says an estimated 90% of the world’s goods are currently transported in seafreight containers.

The Amano Christian School is situated in Chingola, a mining town in the heart of Zambia’s copper belt and home to a community of around 2.5 million and the world’s largest open-cast copper mine. The school - which provides an education for mainly Aids orphans, children of Zambian Christian workers, missionaries’ children and other Zambian children – has plans to extend its activities beyond childhood education.

Philip Grove says the school is hoping, as part of its future community outreach programme, to provide job opportunities for unemployed people from the local community. “Future plans include building a medical health centre with the emphasis on the care and support of AIDS sufferers, a Christian Conference Centre and youth camp facilities.”

The container-based Amano Christian School is one of several container schools built in Africa by Safmarine as part of its renowned ‘Containers in the Community’ programme, which was established in South Africa in 1991.

Friday, September 14, 2007

China Leads RFID Utilization

A massive national identification card program will allow China to leap forward this year as the world’s largest market for radio frequency identification devices, or RFID, by value, according to a new industry study.

The study, compiled by IDTechEx, found that China would account for the largest single portion, $1.96 billion or 38 percent, of the $4.96 billion to be spent globally on RFID in 2007. The study also found that East Asia, including China, would account for more than half of the world total of RFID spending, with $2.7 billion projected for all of this year.

The Chinese surge in the global RFID market, according to the study, is due to a peak in delivery of national identification cards in the country prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The study cites statistics showing that about $1.65 billion of the 2007 Chinese total is being spent on 300 million of these cards plus their associated systems. The 2007 card deliveries are part of a larger multiyear $6 billion national project, by far the largest RFID project in the world. An additional $250 million in other RFID tags and their systems, most related to transport, cash replacement and secure access cards, rounds out the Chinese totals.

The study noted that as the Chinese national ID cards system concludes, China will again drop below the United States and probably Japan in value of its RFID market, though its market share will continue to grow rapidly. IDTEchEx analysts found that within 10 years this rapid growth will more than compensate for the RFID market share drop expected when the national card program wraps up. RFID sectors expected to see large increases in China include animal tagging, transport, cash replacement cards, secure access, manufacturing, military and supply chain applications.

The top dozen RFID firms in China will account for $722 million, or nearly 37 percent, of the nation’s entire $1.96 billion RFID market for 2007. IDTechEx found that the top eight RFID firms in China were all contractors of the national ID card program. Two hundred other local and foreign suppliers share the remaining $1.3 billion slice of the Chinese RFID market value.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Suggested Reading continued...what to avoid, unless you are stuck in O'hare!

If you’re like most professionals, you’ve got a stack of business books sitting somewhere near your desk — many of the so-called classics that every smart manager supposedly needs to read. Ha! To be honest, however, most of them are just BS...and I think that some of these classics became popular not because they were particularly insightful, but because they reinforced conventional business wisdom. Boring...same old, same old, drival. Here is a list of overrated classics. As an alternative to these over-hyped tomes, I’ve included a suggested reading list that might provide some insights you may not have realized, but should.

Good luck...

1. “Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution” by Michael Hammer and James Champy (Collins, 2003)

Publisher’s blurb: “This book leads readers through the radical redesign of a company’s processes, organization, and culture to achieve a quantum leap in performance.”

Excerpt: “Corporations do not perform badly because, as some critics have claimed, workers are lazy and managements are inept. Our record of industrial and technological accomplishment in the last century is proof enough that managements are not inept and workers do work. Ironically, the explanation for why companies perform badly is the identical explanation for why they used to perform so well.”

Why it’s overrated: The tautological reasoning (see excerpt) inherent in the reengineering concept immediately became weasel-speak for the downsizing craze, eviscerating companies while producing no lasting value.

Read this instead: “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam” by Barbara Tuchman (Knopf, 1984)

Why: It gives a great explanation of “cognitive dissonance” — the reason that management fads always fail.

Excerpt: “For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered a policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better, for the sake of his position, not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept.”

2. “In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies” by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman (Harpercollins, 1982)

Publisher’s blurb: “Based on a study of forty-three of America's best-run companies from a diverse array of business sectors, describes eight basic principles of management — action-stimulating, people-oriented, profit-maximizing practices — that made these organizations successful.”

Excerpt: “But primarily the ferment is around another stream of thoughts that follows from some startling ideas about the limited capacity of decision makers to handle information and reach what we usually think of as ‘rational’ decisions, and the even lesser likelihood that large collectives (i.e. organizations) will automatically execute the complex strategic design of the rationalists.”

Why it’s overrated: The “excellent” companies mostly went smack down the toilet.

Read this instead: “The Dilbert Principle” by Scott Adams (Harper Business, 1996)

Why: You’ll know exactly why “excellent” companies go smack down the toilet.

Excerpt: “Employees like to feel that their contributions are being valued. That’s why managers try to avoid that sort of thing. With value comes self-esteem and with self-esteem comes unreasonable requests for money.”

Or, maybe "Designing Organizations - An Executive Guide to Strategy, Structure, and Process" by Jay R. Galbraith

3. “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” by Wess Roberts (Grand Central Publishing, 1989)

Publisher’s blurb: “In a uniquely creative and entertaining approach to a most serious task, ‘Attila’ reveals his principles for successful morale building, decision making, delegating and negotiating, and gives advice on overcoming setbacks and achieving goals.”

Excerpt: “The mere presence of the horde often instilled sufficient terror in the people of a region that they abandoned their villages without either resistance or subsequent reprisal. Out of this perplexing and barbaric past rose one of the most formidable leaders the world has known: Attila, King of Huns.”

Why it’s overrated: While most managers would love to behead disobedient employees, such behavior reads poorly in the annual report.

Read this instead: “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (various editions)

Why: If you’re going to bloviate about business and warfare, you may as well quote the classic source.

Excerpt: “There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor, which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.”

Besides...Sun Tzu would kick Attila's ass in a real fight...

4. “Jack Welch & the G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO” by Robert Slater (McGraw-Hill, 1998)

Publisher’s blurb: “The legendary maverick discusses the traits that led BusinessWeek to anoint Welch, ‘ the gold standard against which other CEOs are measured.’”

Excerpt: “In order to make General Electric truly competitive, he would have to put it through more dramatic and far-reaching changes that any major American business enterprise had ever undertaken.”

Why it’s overrated: GE is an entirely unique organization and Jack Welch was an idiosyncratic leader. What worked for him (there) won’t likely work for you (here). In addition, Jack's personal life is a bit of a how can you trust or support him if you know what we know now?

Read this instead: “Crazy Bosses” by Stanley Bing (Collins, 2007)

Why: These are the managers that you’re actually going to run into, so you’d better be prepared for them.

Excerpt: “There are two ways to look at it. Either (a) the business world is a sane place dominated by a couple of crazy people who ruin everything or (b) the organizations we serve are basically crazy, and you need to be crazy to manage them. After years of studying the subject, I’m weighing in on (b).”

5. “Jesus CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones (Hyperion, 1995)

Publisher’s blurb: “By harnessing three categories of strength behind Jesus’ leadership techniques (the strength of self-mastery, the strength of action, and the strength of relationships), each of us can become the empowered leaders that the next millennium will require.”

Excerpt: “I believe that Jesus had to go into the wilderness to find out who he was — that a wilderness experience was as much a part of his shaping and destiny as it is yours and mine.”

Why it’s overrated: While many managers think they’re God and manage accordingly, the historical Jesus espoused a communal lifestyle in direct opposition to (Roman) capitalism.

Read this instead: “The Book of Proverbs” (in the Bible)

Why: A collection of wisdom that completely transcends religion.

Excerpt: “Better a dry crust and with it peace than a house where feast and dispute go together.”

6. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey (Free Press, 1989)

Publisher’s blurb: “Presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems.”

Excerpt: “The Character Ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.”

Why it’s overrated: Insufferably sanctimonious. makes me want to barf as well...

Read this instead: “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli (various editions)

Why: It will provide you with the precise moral foundation you’ll need to be successful on the corporate ladder.

Excerpt: “Upon this a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.”

You simply have to think of Cartman when you read that line...

7. “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (HarperCollins, 1981)

Publisher’s blurb: “For more than 20 years, millions of managers in Fortune 500 companies and small businesses nationwide have followed The One Minute Manager's techniques, thus increasing their productivity, job satisfaction, and personal prosperity.”

Excerpt: “‘Effective managers’ he thought, ‘manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.’”

Why it’s overrated: A collection of feel-good bromides and obvious anecdotes that’s main benefit is its brevity.

Read this instead: “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White (various editions)

Why: Spend a half-hour reading this tiny book, and you’ll learn how to write good business prose.

Excerpt: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

This has been a required primer for me for years...

8. “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson (Putnam Adult, 1998)

Publisher’s blurb: “An amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a ‘Maze’ and look for ‘Cheese’ to nourish them and keep them happy.”

Excerpt: “Two were mice named ‘Sniff’ and ‘Scurry’ and two were Littlepeople — beings who were as small as mice but who looked and acted a lot like people today. Their names were ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw.’”

Why it’s overrated: Gives the term “cheesy” new meaning. And it really smells!

Read this instead: “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff (W.W. Norton, 1954)

Why: If you want to read a short book, this one will open your eyes. You’ll never look at a corporate presentation — or the evening news — exactly the same way again.

Excerpt: “No conclusion that ‘67 percent of the American people are against’ something or other should be read without the lingering question, 67 percent of which American people?”

9. “Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work” by Jack Canfield, etc. (HCI, 1996)

Publisher’s blurb: “A special collection of inspiring tales that share the daily courage, compassion, and creativity that take place in workplaces everywhere.”

Excerpt: “The thoughtfulness, empathy, and love of this convenience store manager demonstrates vividly that people remember more how much an employer cares than how much the employer pays.”

Why it’s overrated: Sentimental treacle has its place, but work is work, not some touchy-feely seminar.

Read this instead: “The Complete ‘Yes Minister’” by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay (BBC Worldwide Americas, 1989)

Why: Based on the popular British TV show, it explains exactly how and why bureaucracies work, whether in governments or corporations. Plus you’ll finally understand why the Brits now hate Blair.

Excerpt: “It is the Law of Inverse Relevance: the less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it.”

Maybe the original BBC TV series "The Office" would be a good compliment...

10. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids — That You Can Learn Too” by Robert T. Kiyosaki (Time Warner Paperbacks, 2002)

Publisher’s blurb: “Will explode the myth that you need to earn a high income to become rich, challenge the belief that your house is an asset [and] teach you what to teach your kids about money for their future financial success.”

Excerpt: “What greatly disturbed me was how little these people [a banker, a business owner, and a computer programmer] knew about either accounting or investing, subjects so important in their lives. I wondered how they managed their own financial affairs in real life.”

Why it’s overrated: Own your own business, invest in real estate, don’t buy stock and useless crap, and drive a junker car. There, we just saved you $10.

Read this instead: “A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing” by Burton G. Malkiel (W.W. Norton, 2007)

Why: Since you’re probably not going to start your own business and you’ve already got money in the stock market, you’d best know how to invest wisely.

Excerpt: “All investment returns — whether from common stocks or exceptional diamonds — are dependent, to varying degrees, on future events. That's what makes the fascination of investing: It's a gamble whose success depends on an ability to predict the future.”

These insights are from Geoffrey James of

What do you think? Any further suggestions?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Samskip Doubles ScanBalt Presence

Samskip has doubled the frequency of its ScanBalt service, which links the United Kingdom and Benelux ports with Sweden, Russia and the Baltic.

The 366-TEU Ute S has been added to the service calling only at the Swedish port of Helsingborg (Friday), Hull (Sunday) in the United Kingdom and Rotterdam (Tuesday) in the Netherlands. The 803-TEU Samskip Explorer maintains its regular weekly schedule linking Helsingborg (Monday), Varberg (Tuesday), Hull (Thursday), Zeebrugge (Friday) and Rotterdam (Saturday).

In Rotterdam, Samskip offers connections to its European multimodal network while over Helsingborg, it has established links to the Baltic states and Russia Swedish shipping line Transatlantic European Services AB, which previously had the Ute S on charter, has entered into a space charter agreement with Samskip on the ScanBalt.

“We are now able to offer end of the week sailings from both Helsingborg and Rotterdam, allowing deliveries to customers in the U.K. and Sweden on Mondays. This makes us highly competitive with road trailer transit times," said Jens Holger Nielsen, chief executive officer of Samskip Multimodal Container Logistics.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Some reading suggestions, while you wait in the airport!

A lot of business books get popular, but the most useful don’t always stay on the corporate radar. Sometimes this is because the contents, if put into practice, would force you (and often your firm) to make major changes in day-to-day behavior. It’s far easier to just skim these “challenging” books on the cross-country flight. These eight books might not tell you want you want to hear, but they will give you information you need to significantly revise your personal and business strategies.

1. “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books, 2002)

Publisher’s Blurb: “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

Excerpt: “The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes.”

Why it’s underrated: Most business books are about how managers and employees should think and behave. This book explains how people (managers and employees alike) actually do think, and how those thoughts govern their personal and organizational behavior.

2. “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, 2006)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, [the authors] show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives — how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.”

Excerpt: “How any given expert treats you will depend on how that expert’s incentives are set up.... In a medical study, it turned out that obstetricians in areas with declining birth rates are much more likely to perform cesarean-section deliveries than obstetricians in growing areas — suggesting that, when business is tough, doctors try to ring up more expensive procedures.”

Why it’s underrated: The subject matter is sociological rather than organizational, but the book teaches people to differentiate between valid statistical analysis and public relations b.s. — and consequently make better-informed decisions.

3. “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich (Holt Paperbacks, 2002)

Publisher’s Blurb: “How can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aid, and Wal-Mart salesperson.”

Excerpt: “It’s not easy to go from being a consumer, thoughtlessly throwing money around in exchange for groceries and movies and gas, to being a worker in the very same place. I am terrified of being recognized. Happily, though, my fears turn out to be entirely unwarranted: during a month of poverty and toil, no one recognizes my face or my name, which goes unnoticed and for the most part unuttered.”

Why it’s underrated: You’ve got a good job (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading business books). After reading this eye-opener, you’ll be incredibly grateful that you do.

4. “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson (Hyperion, 2006)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Our world is being transformed by the Internet and the near limitless choice that it provides to consumers; tomorrow’s markets belong to those who can take advantage of this.”

Excerpt: “For too long we’ve been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching — a market response to inefficient distribution.”

Why it’s underrated: Entire industry sectors are collapsing under the pressure of the Internet; this explains how to survive by catering to niche markets.

5. “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly” by David Meerman Scott (Wiley, 2007)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Shows you how to leverage the potential that Web-based communication offers large and small companies, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, political organizations, consultants, even rock bands and churches.”

Excerpt: “Forced to compete with new marketing on the Web that is centered on interaction, information, education, and choice, advertisers can no longer break through with dumbed-down broadcasts about their wonderful products. With the average person now seeing hundreds of seller-spun commercial messages per day, people just don’t trust advertising.”

Why it’s underrated: Most professional marketers — and the groups in which they work — are on the edge of becoming obsolete, so they’d better learn how marketing is really going to work in the futur

6. “Managers Not MBAs: A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development” by Henry Mintzberg (Berrett-Koehler, 2005)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Calls for a more engaging approach to managing and more reflective approach to management education [and] outlines how business schools can become true schools of management.”

Excerpt: “It is time to recognize conventional MBA programs for what they are — or else to close them down. They are specialized training in the functions of business, not general educating in the practice of managing. Using the classroom to help develop people already practicing management is a fine idea, but pretending to create managers out of people who have never managed is a sham.”

Why it’s underrated: The cult of the MBA thrives within the corporation, frequently putting degree-holders into positions for which they aren’t qualified. This book is the antidote that they don’t want you to read.

7. “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber (Collins, 1995)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running your business.”

Excerpt: “In the throes of your Entrepreneurial Seizure, you fell victim to the most disastrous assumption anyone can make about going into business. That Fatal Assumption is: if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.”

Why it’s underrated: This is the antidote to 20 years of relentless hype about the value of “entrepreneurism” in a world where most “entrepreneurs” fall flat on their face.

8. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini (Collins, 2006)

Publisher’s Blurb: “Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say ‘yes.’“

Excerpt: “There are many situations in which human behavior does not work in a mechanical, tape-activated way. What is astonishing is how often it does. For instance, consider the strange behavior of those jewelry-store customers who swooped down on an allotment of turquoise pieces only after the items had been mistakenly offered at double their original price.”

Why it’s underrated: Books about selling tend to be long on anecdotes and short on science. “Influence” is the opposite, because it’s based on decades of Cialdini’s research.

Also, a few more I'm reading, or have read:

"The Three Signes of a Miserable Job" by Patrick Lencioni
"The No Asshole Rule" by Dr. Robert I Sutton
"The Box - How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller" by Marc Levinson
"Mavericks at Work" by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre
"The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman
"It's Alive - The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business" by Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis

Oh yeah...William Gibson's new book..."Spook Country" is awesome! Yeah, its a fiction book, but you can learn quite a bit from his unique perspective.

The observations on this post are from Geoffrey James of additions notwithstanding.

Enjoy the reading...I pity us all for the waiting in the airports though!