Trucking is a cool industry in my book, the coolest of the cool. It is just that not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to observe this for him or herself, and so misconceptions about trucking persist among the general population (or at least that is my theory).
So when I read an essay by Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway about what may be the hottest emerging business trend (“The Next Little Thing,” from The Economist's “The World in 2006”), I was intrigued by what it might mean for the covertly hip trucking industry.
What if we could catch this new business wave first, just as it was breaking? “All eyes would be on the trucking industry at long last,” I fantasized. “Trucking would become the darling of analysts, the bellwether business, a beacon to struggling airlines and retailers and such.” You get my drift.
Anyhow, according to Kellaway, the smart new concept that will shape thinking on management and business in 2006 is detail — “breaking large things down into small parts.” However, dull old detail will first be renamed “granularity,” she predicts. Then with-it managers will embrace the new granularity movement as the way to build more responsive and more productive companies by focusing on efficiency and exploiting local markets.
To get our own industry's granularity trend off to a nice fast start, I thought about suggesting tracking each and every vehicle to maximize asset utilization and improve service, but carriers are already doing that. I mean, how could you manage these days if you didn't do that?
So, then I thought about staying in constant contact with every single driver all the time in order to improve flexibility and accountability and handle changes on the fly. Good fleets are already doing that, too, however, so as a possible new granularity measure that is so over.
Well, how about keeping track of operating costs in minute detail then? You know, developing sophisticated computer programs that track the cost of doing business mile by mile, including every tire, every oil change, every out-of-route mile, every invoicing error, every delay at a dock or loss of a driver. Alas, the best fleets do all that and much more now, though. No amount of media spin can make it seem like a new and excitingly granular idea for trucking in 2006. So it is out.
While other industries may have been busy simplifying and outsourcing, many carriers have been adding services to bring more value to their customers, such as logistics and inventory management for instance, so that is not an area where new opportunities to go granular abound either.
Neither is sharing details about freight location and status with customers; they get that already — online no less. In fact, as near as I can tell, fleet owners and managers have been pushing the pursuit of details to the limits for years, so it is probably hopeless to try to cast the daily routine as new and granular.
Or is it? After all, who knows how well carriers take care of the critical details everyday except industry insiders? The trucking industry's amazing efficiency is a secret nobody else has been much interested in discovering — perhaps until now.
So here's the plan: When the buzz about granularity reaches a steady drone and it is the topic of every conference keynote address, raise your hand and tell the story of the trucking industry loud and clear — here the latest trend has already been incorporated into every aspect of the business, which is so remarkable, so granular, so cool.