Expect the unexpected

27.02.2015 We all like having surprises, don’t we? Isn’t that the icing on the cake for most of us? Only, it seems we now live in a society that’s doing its utmost to prevent us being surprised. That’s a shame because surprises are what makes the subject of logistics so interesting!

Last week I saw an item on the News about a test to couple lorries together on the A28 motorway, so the driver wouldn’t need to accelerate or brake. The system automatically anticipated what the first lorry would do. This is a forerunner of the self-driving lorry. This TV news item also revealed that this lorry is in fact already able to travel without a driver, but it will be some while before the law allows that to happen on the public highway. However, in future, a computer will ruin any surprises the vehicle in front may have in store for you. Isn’t that rather tedious?

Increasingly, you also read and hear about robots that can do almost anything. Some people are afraid that we soon won’t have to work; that robots will have taken over our jobs. Enormous strides are being made in increasing the calculating capacity of computers, so self-learning robots are becoming a definite possibility. Robots can do more and more, especially when it comes to repetitive chores. 

Two weeks ago I saw an interview with Ricardo Semler in the TV programme Tegenlicht. This radical entrepreneur, known for his ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, made the point that we all want things to be as predictable as possible. And that we prefer to have everything in its correct pigeon hole. But there is hope. At least, that’s the impression I got from his remark: “People possess intuition; computers don’t!” According to him, it will be several decades before computers can imitate our intuition. Thank goodness!

Our employees always do their best to prepare the next day’s work really well. Yet, the unexpected happens every single day. The term ‘logistics’ embraces the idea of being ‘logical’. So, common sense is extremely valuable in logistics, but it’s not enough. Things you can’t predict happen regularly. The boat – that normally always arrives on time – has been delayed. The customs officer insists on checking goods even though that’s never occurred before. If we make a list of everything that happens to us and causes our day to be quite different from expectations, we’ll have enough material to write a book! That’s why our profession (yes, it’s a profession!) is so appealing: we can’t always say how our day is going turn out.

Of course, if something unexpected does happen, we ‘re not happy just then. Our day isn’t going according to plan. However, deep down, we know that a surprise like that is actually the reason we’re now working in logistics. We want to be surprised. Every single day. Even under unfavourable circumstances, our aim is always to complete the job to the satisfaction of our customer. We enjoy surprises and that’s why we love logistics.

Watch Tegenlicht with Ricardo Semler: http://www.npo.nl/tegenlicht/04-02-2013/VPWON_1185916. [Mainly in Dutch]

Article on self-driving lorries: http://www.transport-online.nl/site/nl/55906/eerste-konvooi-zelfrijdende-vrachtwagens-over-de-a28fotos/. [in Dutch]

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