This story is from the 2014 Access 25. Explore more from this issue

Change in the Value of Reliability versus Speed

Why “slow and steady” is the new supply chain standard in many industries.

January 2014

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Container ships are now taking longer to cross the Atlantic and Pacific than the British Cutty Sark did more than 100 years ago. This time, however, the slow speeds are being driven by choice, not wind and sail cloth.

A combination of rising fuel costs, more sophisticated just-in-time supply chain management, and improved shipment-monitoring technology has inspired many shipping providers to adopt “slow steaming” to optimize fuel economy while providing customers greater economy and delivery precision. The standard speed of an international container ship has dropped from 24 knots to 20 knots — with many companies even shipping at 12 knots (14 mph).

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