We are living in volatile times: fast changes in economic cycles, extreme exchange rate and oil price fluctuations, sudden crises in previously stable economic sectors and two wars in one year. And then, just to cap it all off, the economic and psychological impact of the SARS panic.
A common denominator, and one pertaining to logistics, is that these days, even short-term planning is becoming difficult. We are living in a period of stunted growth in which it is more and more difficult to forecast anything. Industry now feels it necessary to proceed with ever-shorter lead times to exploit all available opportunities and/or to safeguard itself from surprises during the processes of innovation, procurement, manufacturing and distribution. Appropriate technology will, of course, be part of the solution, but never forget that paying attention to – and the aptitude to cut – lead times is built into the logistician’s very DNA! In fact, this need to short-term manage is pushing companies’ logistics departments into the spotlight once more (whereas not long ago, the trend was to regard the function as ‘limited’ to the development of outsourcing, ERP models and inter-company SCM improvements).
Time-to-market is taking centre-stage. Europe, in general, has too long a time-to-market in the development of new products as compared with the US and Japan; it is estimated that 40 per cent of new product flops are due solely to a delay in reaching the market. (Take a look at my speech on the application of logistics in time-reduction when launching a new product, given at the Barcelona Eurolog for more on this subject.)
Of more general significance, another subject rising up the agenda is the concept of sustainable logistics: citizens of developed countries seem to be less and less tolerant of traffic jams and restrictions and more and more sensitive to aspects regarding the environment, especially in large urban areas. ‘Success’ here, must mean a tradeoff between the conflicting interests of service level, costs, territory and the optimum use of logistics infrastructures. And here again it is appropriate to remember that the skill of trading-off is in the DNA of logisticians (as we all know, Logistics was invented to manage the trade-offs between the conflicting interests of the Manufacturing, Marketing and Finance Departments).
AILOG, the Italian Association of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and the ELA looked hard at all these subjects and more during the Eurolog conference in Rome.
Giulio Aguiari has been logistics director for a number of international groups and currently lectures at two private universities. He is a cofounder of AILOG (the Italian Logistics Association) and has been its vice-president for nine years. Author of over 100 articles, in 1999 he published a book on logistics that is now in its fourth edition.
ELA track: the enlargement challenge
A major theme of the ‘ELA track’ during the Rome conference was ‘The challenge of the European Enlargement Process’. Interesting lessons were drawn from EU projects in which the ELA is involved, as well as surveys concerning freight integration.
Several of the ‘new’ EU countries presented their views on the subject, with Peter Kiss, president of HALPIM (Hungarian ELA-member) and Theodor Stolojan, former Prime Minister of Romania giving clear presentations on the problems their countries are facing, how they are moving forward and what lessons they have learned during this preparation process.
It is notable that presidents and vice-presidents from ABCAL (Belgium), AILOG (Italy), ARILOG (Romania), ASLOG (France), BVL (Germany), HALPIM (Hungary), HILME (Greece), PTL (Poland) were in attendance during this session.
Another part of the ELA track dealt with ELA certification and we will bring you more news on this in our next issue.
European Award for Logistics Excellence 2003
Entry dates brought forward
In recent years, the format of the ceremony for the European Award for Logistics Excellence has changed.
The ceremony used to be a fixed part of the ELA Forum, held every November in Brussels but in 2002 we were guests of ASLOG in France and this year, we will be the guests of BVL in Germany, the ceremony being embedded within the BVL congress in Berlin which takes place from 22 to 24 October 2003. Please note that this means that the entry date for projects has had to be moved forward to 24 September rather than October, as stated in the brochure. You can get more information on the ELA website or by contacting the ELA Tel: +32 2 2300211.