The baby formula shortage is deplorable. And it’s nice that the government is trying to figure out how to help get more product into the supply chain. And it’s good to rethink restrictions on imports and get them moving.
But let’s not forget the real cause of the problem. It’s the fact that Abbott Labs would not agree to implement process changes required to reopen the plant that was shut down by the FDA for failing to meet standards for production.
So this is a case when industry and business failed to look out for the welfare of babies.
They failed to monitor the production properly to prevent contamination. And then they argued about how to fix it rather than jumping in to do the job fast. Was he cost the reason?
There are some times when firms just have to step up, admit a problem, and fix it fast. That did not happen here.
We should be glaring at Abbott for failing to prevent this mess we have to fix for them.
And I’m sure there are many other cases in other fields, most not so inconvenient and harmful as a shortage of baby formula.
Hapag is making a big investment in dry container tracking for its containers. It hopes that knowing where containers are will enable quick turnaround. The sensors also provide data on temperature and environmental conditions if desired, and store the data for a prolonged period. They are solar-powered and can operate and store data for more than 5 years. They communicate via Bluetooth.
The belief is that knowing where the containers are in real-time will save travel time and also reduce pollution. No one really knows if this is feasible, but with real data, Hapag can start to find out what gains can be made from real-time location data.
Some shippers will be pleased as well to know where their cargo is at any time.
It’s an expensive program to equip the containers with this little device. It’s riveted to the door of the container. Hapag has something like 1.6 million containers to fit out.
The device must operate a lot like the HOBO devices used by archeologists and environmental scientists. Those units collect data like temperature and humidity, unattended, for long periods, and have enough storage so they don’t have to be queried and the data unloaded for months. The one I have is queried with a mobile phone app, and can run for six months before the data wraps around. A bit larger battery and a bit more memory and a bit more compression, and you have a proper device for a container.
It is interesting and useful to set these inland ports in agricultural areas, where the empty containers can be filled with ag products. The easy proximity will induce a lot more loads.
Locating inland ports with prescribed connections to ports and to rail and truck should aid in reducing congestion at ports. Being able to move containers to an inland port reduces the congestion at the port itself. Many of the functions performed at the port can be carried out at the inland port.
The EU has been pioneering this approach. In the US it has been less common, though. It has been suggested for 10 years by various commentators, including me and my partner Chris Clott. Inland ports increase the flexibility of a port system as well as increasing capacity and improving service.