On Christmas Eve, 1968, while Apollo 8 orbited the moon, the astronauts read from Genesis and wished us peace on Earth. As a boy, I marveled at the accomplishment of sending men beyond the moon. Upon the astronauts safe return, NASA released a picture that remains etched in my mind today. Earthrise depicts a fragile jewel rising above the lunar surface within the cold, dark expanse of space. That photograph appeared on the cover of several magazines and has been discussed countless times since. More than anything, it seems to leave all those who view it feeling very small. Fast forward 33 years, shift into shipping and distribution mode and look around.


Where No Man Has Gone Before

Our industry can learn something from the Apollo program and the NASA teams that eventually stretched the envelope so much that they created a whole new package. If we work independently within a team structure, then combine individual teams and manage them toward an end game, we have effectively leveraged the knowledge gained. NASA learned early on that rocketry, guidance, mission control, life support and communications could not be developed under one roof simultaneously. Additionally, they had to address the small problem of how to land a small rocket on the moon and to later blast that rocket from the moon to safely rejoin the mother ship. Failing in this last pursuit meant stranding two men on the moon forever. John F. Kennedys challenge of putting a man on the moon in the 1960s was far too big to expect one group of people to succeed. When NASA divided the mission proposal into areas of responsibility, it made a huge leap forward, but that was only the first stage in mission planning.


The leveraging element I spoke of happened when the core group began to envision the hand-off of Von Brauns Saturn 5 rocket from earth orbit to lunar orbit by means of propulsion and guidance control. Utilizing team leverage, the Apollo 8 mission eventually led to the Apollo 11 mission in July of 1969. That was the summer Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Lander, raising a cloud of moondust and causing most of mankind to wonder just what might be out there. If all this moon talk has made you think that Im about to propose a rocket-powered truck loader well, not yet.


Sharing Globally

We are shipping parcels and sharing product development at an earth-shrinking rate. People send parcels from Bakersfield to Barcelona without a second thought. They expect them to be delivered on time, with state-of-the-art equipment that tracks these packages continuously and handles them without damage. Postal services worldwide may one day work together to share information and to develop platforms of communication. I would not put it past the European community to finish a seamless parcel delivery management strategy by 2008. Supplying the hardware for these systems will require a similar sharing of software, albeit within a smaller domain. Global equipment manufacturers have a distinct advantage within the arena of mechanical and electrical design they share engineering resources and research. These companies often share marketing resources as well, although Ill be the first to admit that I balk at trade names like Le Petit Mulet. Somehow the trade name Little Mule just doesnt conjure up the right image for a new belt loader here in the States.


Caljan America is a good example of a North American manu-facturing company that often shares research with overseas branches in the design of new equipment. Even though Caljans North American operations are centered in Denver, Colorado, the domestic engineering and production teams work closely with their counterparts in Denmark, Germany, France and Great Britain. This sharing of resources manifests itself in the form of speedy, accurate material handling solutions. Caljans Scandinavian facility supplied the German Postal service with 1,600 belt loaders, so there may be some design or construction ideas that would apply to the U.S. Postal Service. Caljan America has over 800 belt loaders here in the United States. As the USPS continues to retrofit the Bulk Mail Centers over the next few years, we will likely see designs and production techniques from all over the world being applied here in the United States.


The advent of e-mail and the ability of engineers to use America as the standard as well as the metric system accommodates this sharing of information, although now is a good time to ask you not to mention the Mars Lander. Many large manufacturers now share computer-aided design programs or are in the process of learning how to do so. The challenge of meeting specific engineering and safety standards worldwide is currently being addressed on a local basis for the most part, although it would not be surprising to see some commonality in this arena very soon. It benefits American companies to have overseas partners, as is the case between Caljan America and Caljan A/S. Caljan A/S builds equipment for the European market to meet European standards and requirements. These requirements are often different than those here in the US. Similarly, Caljan America is UL approved, which serves to strengthen every branch office since it is an equipment specification that could be listed for a foreign-owned company with a project in the United States.


The Skys the Limit

What I would propose for both parcel-handling entities and global manufacturers is this: Form the core management team that drives information derived from research and development into a cohesive package of new offerings. The goal is to enable anyone anywhere in the world to ship to anyone else anywhere in the world without delay. If shippers work on logistics and manufacturers work on equipment, who knows where we might go? To the moon Alice, to the moon.


Its interesting to me that Armstrong was able to pull the moon landing off safely. It turns out that there was not a smooth spot on which to land the vehicle, and the Lunar Lander was quickly running out of fuel. This forced Armstrong to revert to his basic pilot skills those of the stick-and-rudder man. Billions of dollars and the best scientific minds on the planet had worked the challenge for nearly a decade, yet the whole mission came down to one guy using the same skills the Wright brothers discovered at Kitty Hawk.


Bill Zinninger is director of Sales and Marketing at Caljan American, Inc. For more information, please visit the Web site at www.caljan.com.