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Morgan News: Beyond the So-Called 'Supply Chain View from 50,000 Feet'

An astronaut shares problem solving strategies from his vantage point over a million feet above the supply lines

Next time you think your day has been brutal, consider Chris Hadfield’s office. An experienced astronaut aboard the International Space Station, he’s written An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything. It turns out that supply chain professionals could learn a few things from his celestial training.

Space is a place where humans don’t really belong. Everything there is trying to kill you, from micro-asteroids, to vital equipment malfunctions, to your own body’s maladaptation to its environment. Sound just a little like trying to manage a global network of shippers and logistics partners?

Here’s Hadfield’s big takeaway: He says optimism is fatal in space. “We’re trained to look on the dark side and to imagine the worst things that could possibly happen,” he writes. “In fact, in our simulators, one of the most common questions we learn to ask ourselves is ‘Okay, what’s the next thing that will kill me?’ 

“Rehearsing for catastrophe has made me positive that I have the problem solving skills to deal with tough situations and come out the other side smiling.” 

Simulations are a vital tool to help to develop calm, rational thinking. Author Erik Barker describes the sim experience in his “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” newsletter: An instructor “is throwing error messages to your [computer] screen saying it’s 100 degrees inside part of the ship. And Chris has to figure out: is the engine overheating or is the thermometer just busted? Where is the malfunction? And is this minor enough to ignore while he deals with the other error messages the instructor just threw at him because now the pressure is dropping in the crew cabin and thrusters are inexplicably failing. Eventually they’re throwing every problem imaginable at him.… It’s one of the most stressful and exhausting things astronauts deal with—and it’s just sitting in front of a laptop.”

So, how much time does your team spend imagining disasters and drilling to solve them in real-time? This is so more than just having a list of supplemental carriers. At Morgan, we test our operations staff annually with the most creative emergencies we can imagine: An earthquake knocks out all transit and communications in our San Francisco Bay Area office; a driver vanishes with a full truckload of high-value cargo (turns out to be a highjacking); you get the idea.

These are all multi-day exercises that involve all parts of the company, including a post-mortem debrief outlining what we did well and how we can improve. So, when a threat emerges—political upheaval, global pandemics—we know how to work together quickly and efficiently as a team.

We can attest that these business continuity exercises strengthen our ability to adapt to unexpected challenges. But, they also reinforce team collaboration, communication and strategic thinking skills for the day-to-day business of executing and optimizing transportation for our manufacturing clients. 

If you’re looking for a partner to help you see the big picture and sweat the small stuff, let’s talk. Morgan has the supply chain control tower, customized ground transportation and inventory management services to take your supply chain to a higher place.

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