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Flight friction

Like goods in the supply chain, many of us spend a good part of our work lives in transit. And, like supplies stuck in a port or warehouse,  we find ourselves delayed while we’re traveling, whether that means pausing to board a plane, waiting to check in, standing by to take off, biding our time before lunch,…or, well, you get the idea.

Often, delays in transit allow us to observe what’s going on, and provoke us to contemplate the process, specifically what’s taking so long. Now a lot of things can’t be rushed. You’d never tell a pilot to hurry up and take off, or ask security to just let everyone through. Sometimes, though, you have to wonder if there’s a better way.

Recently, on a trip to shoot some videos about friction, a glitch in the airline’s computer system prevented me from checking in ahead of time. Masses of people were waiting to check in when I got to the airport, and my flight was scheduled to depart in an hour and 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, I got checked in, but still had to get through security, which, judging from the line to check in, was going to be a nightmare as well.

Sure enough, at security there were at least 50 people waiting to get through, with my flight departing in a little more than half an hour. At this point I appealed to the security officer stationed at the back of the line, but she just pointed to the end of the line.

After 10 minutes, the line had moved a little but at least 30 travelers still separated me from the front. Another 10 minutes passed and and there were ten people ahead of me, although at least now there was something to see—the whole manual, friction-filled process of people making their possessions as transparent to the security personnel as possible—removing the computer from its case, taking off your shoes, removing your belt, etc. Annoyingly, an elderly couple had stopped to read the posted instructions, but my need to maintain a low profile overwhelmed my desire to scream at them to hurry up and move.

By the time I reached the conveyor belt my shoes were off and my laptop out of its case. I hurled them and my bag onto the belt and literally ran to the metal detector. “Beep!” went the alarm. My phone was still in my hand. One perfectly aimed toss landed it onto the conveyor belt, and I bounded back through the metal detector, sans beep, grabbed my things and then ran to the gate—barefoot—carrying my shoes, computer and bag.

“Never again,” I vowed silently as we took off. It was hard not to appreciate the irony of the situation, where a trip devoted to creating videos about supply chain friction and how to defeat it, could end with such friction that it almost delayed my trip home.

I had known about a program called TSA Pre, aka PreCheck but never considered it. Now it seemed like a no-brainer. It cost $85 for the TSA pre-check program and required a short in-person interview. In return I now get to go to a dedicated security line, which is usually empty. My membership is good for five years, so for someone who flies many times in a year, it’s a relative bargain.

Weeks later, my family and I were flying together, and wouldn’t you know it, the same thing happened. We arrived at the airport to find an immense crowd of travellers at security. Fortunately I was able to get through in 5 minutes thanks to being TSA PreChecked, but suffered through an anxious hour waiting for the rest of my family to make their way through security. We made our flight, barely, but not before nearly having a collective nervous breakdown.  

“Never again,” my sister said as we took off.  

Waiting is a part of every process, and that goes for payments as well as passengers. Nevertheless it’s sometimes wise to check out shortcuts, whether it’s in the air with TSA Pre, or on your invoices with Early Payment.

In addition to eliminating friction from the process, enrollees in these services gain a measure of freedom back as well. For Suppliers who are “stuck in line” waiting to be paid according to their agreed upon terms, Early Payment can reduce their waiting time to as little as one day, giving them the working capital they need to avoid being temporarily grounded, and the freedom to set their sights higher.

About the author

Ashley Infantino

As Global Supplier Marketing Manager, Ashley works closely with the Chief Marketing Officer to develop multi-media marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the Tungsten Network brand, strengthen engagement with existing & prospective Tungsten clients, and manage Tungsten’s presence at industry events. When Ashley is not “geeking” out on the latest marketing trends, she enjoys travelling, fitness and spending time with friends and family.

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