Logistics, Technological Change, And Productivity

I second Virginia Postrel’s recommendation on reading David Brooks’ column on FedEx and productivity. I think he is correct. I especially like the way he says

Over the next seven months, the politicos are going to argue about the economic merits of the Republican years versus the Democratic years. That’s a crime against intelligence.

The reality is that since about 1977, administrations from both parties have undertaken a series of policies, starting with deregulation, that have leveled the playing field and hence led to the period of intense business competition we enjoy today. That’s the environment that fosters innovation.

The Eric Brynjolfsson Technology Review column that Virginia also links to is a good and important read too. Brynjolfsson’s work on measuring productivity gains and their relation to the technological changes of the past two decades has fascinated me for years. I respect and admire Brynjolfsson’s work for a lot of reasons, including the fact that he actually goes to factories, warehouses, logistics centers, and so on, to see how real decision makers are implementing and adapting technological changes in their own ways.

3 thoughts on “Logistics, Technological Change, And Productivity

  1. Why is it that, whenever something good is said about Walmart, it has to be balanced with a comment about the “uglification” of America?

  2. Shorter David Brooks: Mr Bush is not actually bungling anything – and if he is it is not something that MATTERS…

    That’s a big relief.

    In the 90’s we the had productivity surge AND the jobs AND the surpluses. And now two of the three are MIA.

    But no matter.

  3. As a manager of a group of programmers for a financial services business one of my responsibilities is to constantly try to find ways to use technology more effectively then at present. That could mean automating manual processes so my users spend less time performing those manual processes and more time adding value, getting products to customers faster to consume less computing resources, getting programs to run faster for the same reason, improving processes so that they operate more reliably and require less manual intervention, or transferring some our of responsibilities to another group that specializes in those tasks to take advantage of that group’s economies of scale. I’m always trying to do things to reduce costs or create something the product people could use to increase revenue.

    If you’re thinking that this causes people to be automated out of jobs, think again. My users have added staff in the past year because they have more work to do as a result of their need to improve the product.

    Is that contributing to this situation?

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