Well-being, as the modern logic goes is entwined with efficiency.
Healthy staff, driven like well-oiled machinery, should, in keeping with such wisdom, make for productive workers.
But what happens when the manic outbursts once synonymous with seasonal pressures become ongoing in the supply chain, leaving many on the frontlines to push the body and mind to extremes as a way of meeting the demands of production? How does one go about being more efficient or rather less inefficient amid an industry ageing at a rate more than 2.2 times faster than all other industries? German historian Oscar Spengler likely had an answer.
Spengler, among his claims, believed that humans thrived when their truth-seeking and action-seeking instincts were in a healthy balance.
Reaching a kind of parity, either in productivity, health or even when balancing books, is, without labouring the point, daunting when it means organising, given current circumstances, against something so superordinate.
It’s true supply channels and market exchange have only gotten more volatile as shipping fees continue to escalate. Up 500 per cent rise, in some cases. Just as the cash rate jumps a few more points, like a stove pot on high heat having simmered long enough.
Online employment service, Seek, indicated there were 21,270 truck driver related jobs available in July.
Were it only the case new recruits came with a two-year certificate III or IV in either driving operations, supply chain operations or business administration.
Turning this around is going to take time — the one commodity nobody can afford. The director of a freight forwarding firm, commenting on the condition of anonymity, told me this week, “There is a new normal and that new normal is chaos.”
That same director, despite scarce new trucks and scarcer drivers to operate them, was not, however, about to concede defeat.
His task, like that of his workers, was to avoid becoming a prisoner of enterprise. Spengler would have approved.
Resolve in the supply chain indeed runs deep. Among the most remarkable – and oddly, the least remarked upon new realities occasioned by war, weather and energy crises – is the embrace of temporary fixes that no sooner become permanent simply as part of the cost of doing business.
It’s a real conundrum that faces an industry obsessed, as it should be, with the conditions of health and culture.
Great cultures are resilient. They originate, observed Spengler, in adversity and stamp a character on a people that reveals their relation to the environment.
The mouse on the wheel must also draw from a “substantial measure of self-overcoming” to borrow a line from Thomas Haskell.
Given 90 per cent of food is transported in Australia using refrigerated trucks those in charge of doing so have scant opportunity for navel gazing.
In Man and Technics, Spengler concludes by suggesting we are born into a certain time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end.
“Our duty is to hold on to the lost position,” he notes, even if it means doing so without hope or rescue.
“Like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness.”
He might as well have been referring to the many thousands of operators, managers, drivers, co-ordinators, and responders who today, against all kinds of odds, are keeping our country and its economy afloat.
They, too, should not be neglected in our collective memory.