Modex 2012: Global trade awareness important to businesses of all sizes

H. Donald Ratliffe, executive director of the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, illustrated the global relationships between logistics and trade at his keynote address Wednesday morning.

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H. Donald Ratliffe, executive director of the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, illustrated the global relationships between logistics and trade at his Modex 2012 keynote address Wednesday morning.

Ratliffe outlined the change over the past 40 years from a focus on materials handling within the four walls to logistics on a larger scale. The ongoing paradigm shift, he said, is the individual organization’s need to understand global trade dynamics.

Ratliffe presented global trade data indicating a marked trend toward regionalization over the past decade, driven by the relationship between capital, inventory and time in transit.

“In some cases we’ve been too smart,” said Ratliffe. “The focus on ‘lean’ has become near-zero inventory, which is alright until you have any kind of hiccup, at which point you’ve actually increased you risk.”

And because each government throughout the world is both an essential trade partner and potential paperwork nightmare, Ratliffe emphasized he need for the public sector to become more educated about and more invested in improving the realities of logistics.

“You listen to any politician talk about logistics and it doesn’t take long to realize they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about,” said Ratliffe. “The US does not have the government infrastructure to support export in the way that most other big exporting countries do. We’ve relied on the private sector to handle it.”

Ratliffe also echoed Alberto Alemán Zubieta, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority and Tuesday’s keynote presenter, in highlighting the shortcomings of United States port capacity. That said, he added, port capacity improvements will require additional focus upstream and downstream to avoid a conflict between bigger ships and better service.

“We’ve got a big built-in disadvantage that is based mostly in logistics,” said Ratliffe. “We have the capability to export more stuff, but we’re just not focused on doing it.”

Modex 2012 is scheduled to be held February 6-9, 2012 in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center. The tradeshow will showcase the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply chain solutions in the material handling and logistics industry. Modern’s complete Modex 2012 coverage.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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