More on the Last Mile …

We have had a massive response to the Last Mile video. See below.

Clearly, this strikes a chord. Summing up the various comments made:

  • From the UK. “Don’t think that this is just a developing world issue. The Planning process in the UK is wrapped up so tightly with red tape that even the most logical infrastructure initiatives are not happening. There are many UK Ports with issues around last mile connectivity …
  • From a Financial Analyst specialising in Infrastructure matters . The current downturn has done quite a few Governments in developing countries a favour on Ports Policy. They can postpone the issues saying that the volume isn’t there. Wrong. This is the very time when investment in this type of infrastructure can release the economy. Just look at the Pearl River Delta or, Dubai. Start with capacity and demand will follow…
  • From India. What does all this do to the Export industry? What are the turnaround times in ports all over India? Has anyone done this for Mumbai? For Kolkotta? For Cochin? What does this all add up to in terms of lost opportunity? This is serious…
  • From India. Let’s look more closely at the Truck Drivers. Their lives are hell out there and it is no wonder that people don’t want to work like this on roads like that. Anyting happens along the road and you could get beaten up too… But the BIG issue is training. Most of the old Trucks have an Ustaad, a lead driver who takes responsibility for the truck and the cargo; then, a second driver, a karigar, learns on the job. And then, in some cases, there is a khallasi – who fetches and carries and, maybe, one day gets a chance to grab the wheel. How can this go on? Learning on the job with Hazardous cargoes; learning on the job with ever more expensive Trucks; learing on the job with more insurance risk. And to cap it all, this inexperience is burning fuel into the sky at an alarming rate. What can be done to make this work?  
  • From a commentator on African affairs. Africa has forty six nation states whose geometrically, rather than geographically, inspired borders cut through 177 ethnic tribal areas. There are 46,000 kms of border compared with 42,000 in the whole of Asia. There are few roads and railways that cross borders and, there are 15 States that are entirely landlocked – more than the rest of the world put together. This is all a logistics challenge that Politics has yet to come to grips with. Now, do as you have done in Chennai – stick a video camera on a few trucks that move goods between key places and, into key ports. Add some GPS systems into a few containers. Pretty quick you will grasp the realities on the ground. No good developing intricate policy. We have to deal with the infrastruuture and the movement that are the only ways in which Aid can reach the final destination and, trade can open opportunity up for all.
  • From Santos Port, Brasil. I watched the video and it could have been here! Congestion is a nightmare.
  • From India. Do people realise the lives these truck drivers actually lead. Trucks are involved in well over half of all roadside accidents; they are raided for their cargo; they are fleeced by officials as they cross State borders; many truck drivers have alcohol and food related issues – no wonder with the stress of the job and the health hazard that many of the roadside dhaba’s actually have become.  Between 4 and 7% of them are HIV positive – against a national average of 0.43% amongst adult males. No wonder there is a major shortage of truck drivers throughout India. And the roads they drive and the facilities available are making matters worse.Again, we should video more trucks driving more journeys to make sure that the Policy makers understand. These issues have to be dealt with. Or, India will not realise its potential.
  • From Gdansk, Poland. I work in the Retail industry and these problems are what we have to deal with. Connectivity causes massive delays and, affects all of us along the supply chain. And then, the Ports on the Baltic are congested and road and rail connectivity is just plain poor. I liked the idea of the video. It really forced the issue.
  • From Vietnam. We want to grow and without the infrastructure and the logistics skills we can’t do so fast enough…   
  • From a commentator on the Environment. Just think of the wasted fuel and the carbon footprint. Just think of the bad practice throughout the supply chain. This is a nightmare.
  • From India. Has anyone done a study of how efficient these trucks actually are – or, can be. How much time is lost because of roads – especially in the monsoon season? How much is lost at State borders in endless queues – and for what? [Note – The Economist ran an article quoting Vineet Agarwal of the Transport Corporation of India saying that the 2150 kms journey from Calutta to Mumbai takes almost eight days, at an average speed of 11 kms per hour, with 32 hours spent waiting at checkpoints along the way.  
  • More to follow …
  • From Morocco. These notes were offered by someone who has worked in several ports worldwide. Tangiers is an old city crammed with markets, alleyways, narrow streets full of people and noise. If we had developed the Port in the middle of this our Last Mile would have added even more chaos. So, the Eurogate Tangier project was put together to build a new port 35 kms from Tangiers. Over 145,000 new jobs will be created in the container port; the Economic Free Zones and the industrial sectors that will look to use the facilities. For example, there are major developments in the auto industry. Located 15 kms from Europe the potential is huge. Surely this type of project is the way to go where Ports are located in old city centre locations and the traffic flows cut through the types of built up areas that the video shows. You can’t have growth without the facilities and, you can’t have the facilities without dealing with a given region as a whole. You can’t ignore the people that you will need to work the ports, logistics hubs and factories that you are after. This means looking at the formal and informal economies at the same time.
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7 Responses to More on the Last Mile …

  1. Ben Dunn says:

    If this last mile is the big issue it seems to be across developed AND developing markets, and the solution could promote economic growth, could this be the ideal target for the fiscal stimulus that governments seem to be discussing ? In the thirties it was all about national highways. Maybe dealing with the last mile is the present day equivalent. It could be cheaper with a greater economic return.

  2. robjbell says:

    Useful insight. It does seem strange that more regions / port cities do not evaluate the opportunity cost of constraints on sustainable growth such as the quality of Last Mile connectivity. A couple of thoughts:

    1. Connectivity factor. There are many studies, the economist does one, that provide a measure of ease-of-doing business. Typically, this evaluates red tape and speed of processing business set ups; tax regimes etc. What about developing a Balanced Scorecard type approach that offers a similar benchmark and insight into multi modal connetivity? In this way, risk factors can be highlighted and it could become a feature of FDI decision making.

    2. Raising cash to transform the urban map. The example of Portland Oregan is instructive. The old down town port hugged the waterfront with a tangle of railways and warehousing blocking any straight route to the City centre.

    An innovative scheme created a Real Estate Bond which resulted in a sell off of the whole area. The proceeds allowed for a re build of the port a few miles away. And this enabled the City to recalim the waterfront and generate significant sustainable revenues from marinas, walkways etc.

    Maybe the answer to the Last mile is not just to carve a bigger highway into the down town port area but to start afresh.

    In both examples, the opportunity to use fiscal incentives to accelerate the transformation in the logistics framework is worth looking at more closely.

    There may even be a security premium to be generated by enabling a ground zero start on the Port layout.

  3. Byron Song says:

    Great idea about developing a Balanced Scorecard. Most Logistics performance measurement systems I come across in the literature are on the operational level within a particular firm. A few have been making the effort to measure the performance of a whole supply chain. Yet very little has been done on the Logistics capability measurement of a region.

    Several factors may influence a region’s logistical performance:
    1. Physical infrastructure (road, railway, port, airport)
    2. ICT infrastructure and the level of information sharing
    3. Competence and cost of local supportive service (transport, warehousing, financial)
    4. Skill of the logistics workforce (Language, professional)
    5. Institutional efficiency (customs and border, Red-tape processing, local regulations and policies)
    6. Sustainability (economic, environment)

    A robust measure toolbox should be established with detailed metrics for each dimension above to indicate a region’s logistics capabilities. This measurement should also be generalisable to allow benchmarking among regions.

    Any thoughts?

  4. robjbell says:

    I can see the value of some form of Balanced Scorecard or, Healthcheck for a Port and its hinterland. However,Goldrats Theory of Constraints might be another way to look at this. This would focus the bottlenecks and deal with them. Any views?

  5. njwyo says:

    It would depend on how you were looking to use the data. If this was for a regional government or regeneration body, then I think the Theory of Constraints is more likely to be useful. Governments and quangos love to collect statistics but I am rarely convinced that the data is actually used to the benefit of what is being measured. In this respect, applying Theory of Constraints to the logistics network could be very valuable. In essence, this would look to identify the bottleneck (and there is only one) in the logistics flow for a region and then focus all other activity to ensure that the bottle neck always flows as quickly as possible.

    This is not a simple project given the complex nature of the transport network once goods get onto land, but it should be achievable. The benefit of a good analysis is that infrastructure improvements can be targeted to the area where they will have the greatest impact, rather than being shared out among a number of areas where improvement will not actually increase the flow of goods.

  6. robjbell says:

    Yes – the Theory of Constraints looks like being a worthwhile link. I would disagree with you in one respect. There are several bottlenecks in this arena. yes, there may be infrastructure issues. However, there are many components of this: Public Policy; Planning; Budgets; Local skilled labour capacity; Equipment. To a greater or lesser degree, the informal economy has a part to play in ALL of these factors. In fact, in the recent past many infrastructure projects were grounded because … the waiting list for cranes was up to THREE years! In fact, this raises another issue – applying logistics and supply chain techniques to Infrastructure Projects. Another area to explore…

    Any other views on Goldrat and the Last Mile?

  7. njwyo says:

    There may be many issues, but it is not difficult to prove that there is one, and only one, bottleneck. That is the area that must be addressed. Other things can be, but the bottleneck has to be if you are to increase the flow.

    If money is tight, improving things that do not directly affect increase of flow through the bottleneck are a waste of money. One could suggest that that may be why when a lot of money is poured into a region, the full benefits are not always (ever?) achieved.

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