[FoRK] The World Is Not Flat

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Tue Jan 19 12:47:12 PST 2010

J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
> On Jan 19, 2010, at 12:11 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> Actual distance is a red herring now because of hyper-efficient shipping.  Intermediaries in many cases are only there when they are more efficient than the alternatives.  Commercial distance is a metric of time and money which is only loosely connected to actual distance.
> There are "quant" logistics companies that do not own any shipping assets. They make vast quantities of money by finding and exploiting inefficiencies in the global supply chains operated by "real" logistics companies and reshuffling the assets to (hopefully) create a profit. Bloody speculators...

And there are other (or the same?) companies that increase efficiency by 
matching shippers (people needing to ship something) with transporters 
(those with big rigs, a boat, etc.) so as to make the best use of fuel, 
location (of a truck for instance), etc.  I did a little work for one of 
those in the backwoods of Ohio long ago.

As a result, you can easily find and contract for a pallet on a semi 
from any 2 points in the US on a day or so notice.  Frequently, everyone 
involved is an independent contractor.  And there are multiple 
alternatives for most jobs, some often drastically cheaper and/or better 
than others.  For instance, DoD contracts with thousands of independent 
shippers, many just mom and pop operations, just to move service members 
personal effects and vehicles around the US and the world.  Free market 
like the shipping industry in the 70's and before could never have 
imagined.  The brokers are pretty much like airline travel reservation 
services, and getting computerized about as much.  They compete, but 
they are scheduling based on market rates asked by available 
transporters that fluctuate based on season, load on the system, etc.

Day to day "box packing" and match making, not much more than craigslist 
postings or airline reservations in effect, doesn't seem like 
speculation to me.  How do these other "quant" logistics companies 
operate?  What is their leverage?


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