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Logistics at the speed of thought (almost)

This article appears in the issue May 2014, [Volume 23, Issue 5]
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For example, Zara often has to quickly ship mohair and wool, both plentiful in South Africa, to respond to a celebrity “tweet,” “like” or other instant trigger that puts the next rapid-turnaround fashion into motion. It’s not coincidental that both Caladero and Zara have major facilities at the 747’s final destination: a massive logistics complex in Zaragoza, a city of about 800,000 inhabitants in the somewhat remote region of Aragón, Spain.

Knowledge and the ever-expanding supply web

In a world in which manufacturing is outsourced to countries with the cheapest labor, Zara keeps its manufacturing operations local. To remain competitive, Zara relies on the rapid creation, transfer and application of knowledge. From knowing its customer and always staying one step ahead of emerging trends, to optimizing millions of lines of code that control robots, conveyors, sorting and packaging machinery, Zara moves 1 million items of clothing each day, drawing from an inventory of about 34 million. That’s a monthly turnover of slightly less than 90 percent, an extremely enviable metric for that industry.

Together, Zara and Caladero occupy a mere two percent of the 140 million square feet of available space ultimately planned for the Zaragoza complex. Mentally extend that operation out to the remaining 137 million square feet, and you will begin to appreciate the scale of 21st-century logistics.

No matter what industry you’re in, if you find yourself complaining about how long it takes to get something done, think about the amazing things happening in Zaragoza. If they can move fresh fish across thousands of miles of roads, desert and ocean in less than 48 hours, there is no reason why your organization can’t reduce the clockspeed of its decision-making or other key processes by 50 percent or more. The rules are simple. Continually enhance your capacity to quickly sense, respond and, yes, that magical word think

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