Societal Damnation 43: Rapid Urbanization & Mega-Cities

There are a lot of societal damnations converging upon your organization and threatening ruin. To date, we’ve covered the sharing economy, crime & piracy, fraud & corruption, (the lack of) education quality, the utter lack of math competency, (mega) project management, and Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Today we’re going to cover rapid urbanization and mega-cities.

You’re probably wondering why this isn’t a good thing. More people in less area means the organization can sell more goods in a smaller area and this means Logistics has less areas to ship to and Procurement fewer areas to buy for. This is true, but it doesn’t mean that Procurement’s or Logistic’s task is any easier. In fact, while rapid urbanization can often make Sales’ and Marketing’s job easier, it can make Logistics’s and Procurement’s job harder. Much harder.

Typically when a city starts to rapidly urbanize, it’s infrastructure is not ready for the rapid urbanization. It’s water plants are stressed (and may not be able to accommodate the introduction of factories that require large amounts of water). It’s energy grids are stressed (and it’s not unreasonable that rolling brown-outs or blackouts could be temporarily required at peak periods). It’s public transportation is stressed (and even getting a taxi can be a 45 minute ordeal). It’s roads are stressed (and there can be regular delays to pick up and drop off goods at cross-docks and warehouses). Plus, it’s core roads may only be 2 or 4 lanes in many places, with large trucks prohibited – meaning that Logistics will have to secure, and use, a number of smaller trucks for pickups and deliveries — which means a need for more drivers in an industry where the driver shortage is in the tens of thousands in some countries. And then there’s waste management. The sewer system could be taxed (with the end result that the rivers are used to handle the excess until they run full of waste like the Mithi river). The capacity to collect garbage might not be there (which leads to stringent limitations on how much trash a home or business can throw out unless they haul it out of town to dump by themselves). And process and recycling stations could be overloaded (leading to a stench, unhealthy buildup of noxious fumes in the air).

Then comes a rapid increase in pollution, which can see a rapid increase in hazardous airborne (smog-inducing) particles to the point where it is almost triple the national air quality average (as is the base in Beijing). This will, of course, eventually result in legislation to limit the amount of pollution an organization can produce, which will, if the organization hasn’t planned for it, result in costly production plant and fleet retrofits that could easily cost millions of dollars. However, this probably won’t equal the increase in taxes that will come if the city, state, or country tries to clean up its problem and decides to spend billions of dollars doing so (as China is about to in preparation for its bid to host the 2022 winter olympics, an effort that will cost about $7.7B using the exchange rate of August 16, 2015).

But the trials and tribulations don’t stop there. Rapid urbanization is also typically associated with a rapid increase in crime (though often temporary from a long-term perspective, this temporary increase can still last decades), pandemics (as nothing spreads airborne and waterborne bacteria and virii faster than density), taxation to pay for the necessary improvements to infrastructure and social programs, a quickly changing political and regulatory environment, and a greater potential for mass hysteria and riots. Rapid urbanization can bring with it dozens of damnations, each of which will directly and indirectly affect Procurement on a daily basis.

Sales and Marketing may do the dance of joy, but they really ought to be shot in the foot for doing so as the good can often be outweighed by the bad in the short term, and the amount of rapid adaption that Procurement might be forced to deal with may not be worth it.