A lot of my more formative years were spent in logistics in both the automotive aftermarket and later in office products. We called it distribution when I started.
I was interested in how this industry closed the gap between suppliers and consumers. You cannot sell anything unless you can get it to market. I am still interested and see logistical opportunities in almost everything we do.
In logistics there has always been a tension between having a centralised and distributed model. Supposed cost reduction always leads to a more centralised model where the talents of the organisation are concentrated into fewer and larger warehouses. A more customer centric model leads to more product being held closer to the customer.
I have always favoured the latter. My view is that real demand needs to be expressed as close to the consumer as possible. I’ll not go into the difference between the consumer and the customer but for the sake of argument can we assume they are the same thing, at least for this blog?
You can see this with supermarkets now. The fashion used to be for bigger and bigger out of town stores but now the trend has reversed and it seems that every local pub has now been turned into a convenience store.
I see the same tension in the way that we work. Most organisations I have worked in have a centralised management model. The management is concentrated in a small number of places and the workers come to them for information and decision making.
Once again I prefer a more distributed model, where management goes to where the work is done. Real work should be done with the customer and the best place to find this is where, hopefully, your workers are. Management shouldn’t be in an ivory tower, or a head office, instead it should be out there getting a better understanding of the business and adding value where it is most needed. They can always come together when they need to.
If the mountain won’t come…