ITJ 23-26/2023 – Busy bees make honey – with a sting in the tail
We like to think in images that nicely illustrate facts for us. At this year’s Spedlogswiss annual general assembly in Lucerne early in June, Martin Bütikofer, the director of the renowned Swiss Museum of Transport, presented us with one such beautiful metaphor. He held up a half-pound jar of honey and asked us to estimate the effort the bees had put in for the unprocessed end product. We all got it wrong – by miles. It requires approximately 30,000 flights from the hive covering 250,000 km and several million pollinated flowers for the end product.
He then compared the bees’ performance to that of the logisticians, who frequently remain invisible at the end of many a project, despite their crucial contribution. Of course we were pleased with this analogy. Requiems for our industry are more the rule, not praise. The transport and logistics sector, like so many other industries, has long been predicted to die a quick death at the hands of digitalisation, ambitious start-ups and experienced IT companies.
The impression is gaining ground that not all that glitters is gold, however. The online freight market Freightos, for example, handled 229,000 transactions in Q1 / 2023, double the figure from the same period last year. However, it made a loss of USD 58 million in the same period, (though that was largely due to it now being listed on the US technology exchange Nasdaq). Its bottom line is expected to be a profit of around USD 5 million in financial 2023 – not an outlook that has other market participants particularly worried.
For me, however, the relative ‘invisibility’ of our industry is only related to a small extent to the perspective from the outside. Rather, I maintain that all too often we ourselves indulge in behaviour that was already principle under Roman law. “They who are silent when they ought to have spoken and were able to speak, are taken to have agreed.” In this respect, logisticians’ much-vaunted modesty and restraint is also the reason why some other industries are perceived more positively by society, because they’re supposedly more attractive, elegant, progressive or – in modern parlance – sustainable.
That’s not our problem? Objection, your honour – even if only with regard to the next generation. Amongst the good bits of news I took with me from Lucerne was the fact that children are now already being made aware of our field in schools. That’s the right approach. Keep it up!
I hope you enjoy your read of this ITJ!