Transportation Logistics Management

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Don’t ship air” and “don’t ship water” are the foundation of some important supply chain strategies. What did these strategies mean for transportation and logistics in the past in global supply chains like the Silk Road? What do they mean for transportation and logistics today?  In the future?



In ancient supply chains such as the Silk Road, a heavy reliance on ground transportation was the natural starting point for shipment of basic commodities. In large part, this was because ground transportation is technologically the simplest, with horses and camels being the standard means on the Silk Road (About the Silk Road, n.d.). With ground transportation following natural lines of human drift, it follows that the Silk Road’s early market would consist substantially of those commodities produced and exchanged between people connected by land. Thus, in the formative years of the Silk Road trade routes, many entities had no need for anything other than a ground-based supply chain strategy.
As technology progressed however, seagoing trade with longer routes made maritime transportation a more practical option in supply chain strategies (About the Silk Road, n.d.). The integration of the Spice Routes into the Silk Road system, the discovery of sea routes between Europe and the Far East around the Cape of Good Hope, and the opening of a transatlantic trade with the discovery and colonization of the American continents, all demonstrate that maritime trade enhances the global market far beyond what is achievable through ground transportation alone.   
Today, supply strategies that include “don’t ship air” and “don’t ship water” isolate themselves significantly from the vast global market. Air is the costliest form of shipping, but it is also the fastest. In the current fast-paced market environment, refusing air shipment means either a firm must exist within relatively close proximity to its customer, or it must avoid the shipment of time sensitive commodities. Seaborne trade on the other hand, accounts for the transportation of approximately 90% of the world’s freight (Song, & Panayides, 2012). To refuse either air or sea shipments is essentially to refuse service to the majority of the world.
In the future, technology will continue to make air and sea transportation more efficient and affordable. Establishing ground transportation routes between continents is a far less practical concept. Therefore, maintaining a strict “don’t ship air” and “don’t ship water” strategy in the future will likely be an option only for local supply chains.
About the Silk Road (n.d.) Retrieved August 6, 2019 from
Song, D., & Panayides, P. (2012). Maritime logistics contemporary issues. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald.


The Silk Road is seen as the first global transportation supply chain. This is for good reason as the Silk Road was a network of disparate international trade routes that spanned more than across Eurasia. There were major hubs along the silk and spice roads that gave the silk roads its merit, as with Venice in the Middle Ages or the great city of Istanbul (Coates, 2014). These roads were hard travelled, mostly buy horse caravan, with technology and supply chain strategies being at the earliest inception. For this reason don’t ship air and don’t ship water were integral to the supply chain strategies. The supply chains traversed several miles either along the roads themselves or the sea routes that were referred to as the spice routes. The travelers had to traverse an almost 7,000 miles road, which they could not do as a single route. This means that items had to be delivered at some point along the silk roads, to make the supply chain successful. Shipping air means not packaging items that take up unneeded spaces. In a caravan there was only space for the goods traveled and the food needed to make the journey. Some of these things were even traded along the way as they went. The spice routes followed the same ideas, which saw that there seafaring ships only carried cargo and items needed to make the travel. The return leg of their journeys followed the same scenario, you would never see a caravan or a ship come back emptied because that was a waste of a shippable resources. Therefore they tried not to shipped air or water. 
In today’s global supply chain these strategies are still being used to help reduce cost and promote efficiency. The supply chain is thought of a way to save resources and “the don’t ship air, don’t ship water” strategy helps the supply chain manager to do that. Russell, Coyle, Ruamsook, Thomchick writes that this “don’t ship air, don’t ship water” approach to package and product design helps to reduce shipping weight, size, and materials while maintaining the products’ appeal and convenience for consumers (Russell, Coye, Ruamsook, Thomchick, 2014).  
Coates, Rosemary. (2014). The Silk Road – the First Global Supply Chain. Retrieved August 8, 
            2019 from
Russell, D., Coyle. J., Ruamsook, K., Thomchick, E. (2014). The real impact of high transportation 
            cost. Retrieved August 8, 2019 from

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