There are certain epochs that change everything.
In communications, it was the printing press, telegraphs, radio, T.V., the Internet…
In transportation, it was the steamship, the railroad, the truck, and THE BOX (1956).
From 1972 to 2002 the variety of imported goods increased by 4x. At the core of this meteoric rise in globalization is the network effect of a standardized shipping container (aforementioned “box”). The container changed docks from high-friction & injury-ridden places to a, relatively, automated system connecting economies.
In “Undaunted Courage” we learn that it took the president of the US (Thomas Jefferson), nearly a month to travel from his home in VA to Philadelphia. Today a container can make it from Malaysia to Ohio in 28 days. This is remarkable. As transportation cost drop, manufacturers can be further from customers. Though, as we learned 2 years ago (& I will explore further), this is not without its trappings.
As part of my personal study into retail, I’m doing a short series over the next month into how we get our goods with a focus on the shipping container. It’s history and impact on docks, truckers, and us.
You’re going to love it.
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Source material: The Box