Category Archives: History

Seventy Years Ago Today …

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invent the point-contact transistor (when they first observed the effects) and pretty much paved the way for the modern electronics revolution as the transistor is the fundamental building block of modern electronics technology.

As defined by Wikipedia, a transistor is a semiconductor device (with at least three terminals) used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. A voltage or current applied to one pair of terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. When they are combined in integrated circuits, as they normally are today, they can create logic gates, and that’s the fundamental building block of modern computers. (The other primary components of an integrated circuit are diodes, resistors, and capacitors.)

Without transistors, we’d still be computing using vacuum tubes using machines that take up entire rooms and only using computers for mathematical calculations. The inventors were truly deserving of their nobel prize.

At least Twenty Two Hundred and Sixty Five Years Ago Today …

The Pharos of Alexandria was constructed. Estimated to be over 100 meters in height, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was built on the island of Pharos opposite the isthmus on which Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria. The lighthouse was commissioned by the Ptolemy I after the death of Alexander, and due to its location, it not only guided ships by day and night but secured safe access to the city of Alexandria.

We bring this up to show the long history of lighthouses, which to this day are important in the prevention of ships hitting the rocks and wrecking off the coast (like the Stephen Whitney did One Hundred and Seventy Years ago today off the southern coast of Ireland (killing 92 of 110 on board). And while the wreck resulted in the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, an early example of an oil burning lighthouse (replacing the previous wood or coal lighthouses). And while it didn’t have the brightness of the kerosene burning lighthouse that would replace it, it was a great start.

Because the ability to see in the dark is valued, especially at sea. And this is an extremely relevant metaphor to procurement often lost in a sea of data with no ability to see where the rocks are. This is important because without sight, not only will your organization not realize the Procurement Innovation that is to come we have been discussing all week, but it won’t even realize the opportunities available it today.

Stay tuned.

Fifty Years Ago Today …

Great Britain gets one heck of an endorsement when the territory of Gibraltar, a 6.7 km2 region on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula which shares its (only) northern border with Spain votes 12,138 to 44 to remain British (and not revert to Spain).

Gibraltar, which has a constitution that allows it to govern its own affairs on a day to day basis (while ceding power such as defence and foreign relations to the British Government), is strategically important as it essentially controls the entrance and exit to the Mediterranean sea (which is only 13 km wide at this naval “choke point”), where half of the world’s seaborne trade passes.

Gibraltar serves as a reminder that it’s not always who you share a border with that matters, but who you share a cultural bond with. That’s why sometimes your best trading partner is half a world away and you need to effectively manage your global supply chain to make it happen.

Fifty Five Years Ago Today …

Evsei Grigorievich Liberman published “Plan, benefit, and prisms” in Pravda, a dissertation which proposed new methods of economic planning based on democratic centralism.

Democratic centralism is a method of leadership in which political decisions reached by the party (through democratically elected bodies) are binding upon all members of the party. His main proposal was that profits should be made the index of performance for Soviet planning, as well as the basis for bonuses to the personnel and directors of Soviet enterprises. This article stimulated a large debate and two years later, the Supreme Economic Council of the USSR converted some of the resulting conclusions into law, after some enterprises began to functionally experiment “on the basis of profit”. (Source: International Socialist Review, Vol. 26, No. 3, Summer 1965, pp 75 to 82 as transcribed by Einde O’Callaghan and found on the Ernest Mandel Internet Archive)

How is this relevant? It seems that no matter what the political climate, or what the governing structure, in the world of business, profit always seems to be top of mind for at least one party, especially when that party believes it’s their key to personal profit.

This means that there’s always going to be a stakeholder interested only in the bottom line and what it means to him, and that if you don’t keep this in the back of your mind, and come up with a decision that increased profit at least slightly, you’ll have a hard time getting it accepted, even if it is the most sustainable decision, the most corporately responsible decision, or the best long term decision from a value, and cost, perspective.

If profit can rear its ugly head in an environment governed by communism mindset, it can rear its head anywhere. Even in procurement which is supposed to focus on value creation and cost reduction. Keep this in mind when trying to ascertain, and balance, the desires of multiple stakeholders.

Fifty Years Ago Today …

Sweden entered the modern age of transportation when Dagen H occurred and traffic changed from driving on the left to driving on the right … literally overnight! (Those Swedes are masters of efficiency.)

Now if only the UK (and it’s former colony now known as Australia) could get with the times and join the rest of the world. However, given how long it took them to accept the modern calendar, it will probably be another hundred years. But it would make the creation of true global routing software so much easier …