Today is my 11-year anniversary at ARC Advisory Group. A decade plus one working in an industry that I never knew existed back when I was in college, and as a kid it certainly wasn’t on my short list of “what I wanted to be when I grew up” (if you must know, on my morning walks to grade school, I would pretend to be an astronaut, jumping in zero gravity over the sidewalk cracks, my backpack filled with oxygen).
Before ARC, I worked in new product development and manufacturing at Motorola, Clare, and Polaroid. I enjoyed what I did, but I eventually reached the point where I needed a new challenge. So, I searched Monster.com and stumbled across this opportunity with ARC. The company was looking for someone with semiconductor experience and good analytical and communication skills. I fit the billing and got the job. The plan was for me to help ARC build its semiconductor industry practice, but for training purposes, I was assigned to update our transportation management systems (TMS) study. I knew nothing about transportation management at the time, but I was looking for a new challenge after all, so I executed the project, did a good job on it, and the rest is history.
So much has changed over the years, and so much has stayed the same.
The dotcom era was just beginning when I started at ARC. Placing an “e” in front of everything was all the rage: e-business, e-commerce, e-logistics, e-collaboration, e-procurement, e-fulfillment, and so on. In April of 2000, I came close to changing my name to e-Adrian.com and issuing an IPO on myself. Luckily, my wife talked me out of it, but I sometimes wonder what my stock would be worth today if I had gone public.
Of course, the dotcom bubble eventually burst. But it wasn’t all a total bust. The era served as a catalyst for companies to “think differently” about how they could leverage Internet technologies to transform their supply chain and logistics processes. It also ushered in the next evolution of software development, where client/server architectures gave way to web-based platforms. And in many ways, today’s software-as-a-service providers are this decade’s dotcoms, but with real business models and more mature and scalable technology.
Is today’s buzz about social media technologies, like Facebook and Twitter, a case of history repeating itself? I think so, both in terms of a potential bubble burst down the road and in how these technologies will lead to innovative changes in supply chain management processes and software (see “Facebook in Supply Chain Management” and “Supply Chain Twitter”).
What hasn’t changed?
- Data quality remains a huge problem in the industry, and it’s only getting worse. Garbage still flows in, and garbage still flows out. I highlighted this point in “My One Page Logistics Book” last year.
- Companies still want their 3PLs to be more proactive, and 3PLs still want their customers to view them as partners instead of suppliers.
- Everyone talks about collaboration, but when times get tough, as it did last year, it’s every company for itself.
- Forecasts are always wrong.
- It’s about people, processes, and technologies, but not necessarily in that order.
And the list goes on.
And today is Day One again, and so will every day after. I have no idea where the days ahead will lead me, or what the industry will look like a year or a decade from now. But in many ways, I don’t want to know. If I have to know something before I do it, I will only do what I’ve already done.
The heavy rains this past weekend flooded my basement, and despite the blue skies and sunshine, the water is still flowing in. My kids have been aching to go downstairs to jump in the puddles. I may join them, if I can find my moon boots and backpack.