Recrafting Scenario Practice to Achieve Robust Long-Term Decisions

Published in: Delivering Tomorrow, Logistics 2050: A Scenario Study / edited by Frank Appel (Bonn, Germany : Deutsche Post AG, Feb. 2012), Ch. 5, p. 166-172

Posted on RAND.org on February 01, 2012

by Robert J. Lempert, Johanna Zmud

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Freight transport is a rapidly expanding and changing economic sector. Its efficiency has a direct impact on product prices and security of supply. Globalization and the concomitant intensification of competition have created longer and more complex (i.e., inefficient) supply chains at a time when heavier demand on the system (both passenger and freight) increases the risks of congestion. Such congestion comes with an economic price tag, such as higher product prices, as well as social and environmental manifestations, such as energy supply and emissions repercussions. Thus, industry and policy leaders face one big challenge: keeping freight moving today while, at the same time, reducing or even totally avoiding its negative manifestations or repercussions for the future. Long-term decisions in this area are multi-layered and complex. They also depend to a large degree on expectations about the future: How might changing customer expectations impact transport modes or supply chains of the future? How might bottlenecks in supply chains be overcome? How might the future of sustainable transport look if oil prices keep rising; or if they decline? Current information to support strategic decision-making for optimizing the system may be uncertain, incomplete, evolving or conflicting; thus, leading to alternative versions of the future. In this essay, we are concerned with the question: How does what might happen in 2050 affect decisions about the freight transport sector today? How do we make near-term choices that last over the long term? In other words, how do we make decisions today that are robust over a wide range of alternative futures?

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