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The Silk Road – the First Global Supply Chain

Supply Chain Management Review blog has a post by Rosemary Coates called The Silk Road – the First Global Supply Chain.

I spent the holidays on vacation in Venice and Istanbul on a mission to understand more about these two important end points on the Silk Road. Starting around 200 BC and extending 4,000 miles, the Silk Road got its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade and tea trade in exchange for spices, nuts and jewels from Europe and the Middle East.  In addition, various science and technology innovations were traded along with religious ideas and the bubonic plague.  The Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great modern civilizations.

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Very few people actually traversed the entire Silk Road.  Mostly it was made up of agents and merchants who bought and sold goods along the way.  At major points, great bazaars opened to facilitate a meeting place for traders, such as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, which still thrives today.

Our modern supply chain story – the global supply chain story is not a new story. Rather it is an incarnation of an older story. The Silk Road (and I’ve explored its rich history along the different paths for my nascent book on the Supply Chain frontiers) is a recurrent theme because it fills a human aspiration – the social aspects of what it means to be human.

But take note, there was a heyday of the Silk Road and eventually it fell into ruin before it was reincarnated. Nothing in our Global Supply Chain story is permanent and this too shall pass when it comes under undue strain but the enormous benefits gained by individuals (rather than kingdom and the elites in the story of the Silk Road) this time round would be a profound loss.

Which brings me to my blog point – When Americans rue the loss of jobs to China, I doubt that what they’re really saying is that they’d like those jobs to come back as much as they’re wishing for the days of simplicity. Or in another sense, the days of yore and for questions for which we have ready answers. Those questions have been answered – it’s time to ask new questions which open up new frontiers.

Lastly, don’t buy the idea for a second that the ideas of tomorrow are those which only college education and college educated folks are only equipped to answer. There’s more under Heaven and Earth than can be found in the enclaves of academia.

Revisiting the Baltic Dry Index

Periodically, I revisit the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) from time to time to get a read on economic activity as read from the volume of shipping contracted across the world. The following is a 3-year chart from 2009 onwards.

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As you can see, the stimulus lead spurt of activity also reflected in the economy starting in early 2009 that began to peter out at the beginning of 2011. Then starting from August 2011, the index records a slight improvement in activity but nothing to write home about. While it is early to rule in an oncoming recession, it would take only the slightest worsening of the crisis in Europe to send all the economies of the world reeling once again.

No good news here. But as long as there’s no terrible news either, we slink on.

About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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