Shortlisted for the 2021 Porchlight Business Book Awards, Current Events & Public Affairs
The Wall Street Journal technology columnist reveals the fascinating story behind the misleadingly simple phrase shoppers take for granted—“Arriving Today”—in this eye-opening investigation into the new rules of online commerce, transportation, and supply chain management.
We are at a tipping point in retail history. While consumers are profiting from the convenience of instant gratification, rapidly advancing technologies are transforming the way goods are transported and displacing workers in ways never before seen.
In Arriving Today, Christopher Mims goes deep, far, and wide to uncover how a single product, from creation to delivery, weaves its way from a factory on the other side of the world to our doorstep. He analyzes the evolving technologies and management strategies necessary to keep the product moving to fulfill consumers’ demand for “arriving today” gratification. Mims reveals a world where the only thing moving faster than goods in an Amazon warehouse is the rate at which an entire industry is being gutted and rebuilt by innovation and mass shifts in human labor practices. He goes behind the scenes to uncover the paradoxes in this shift—into the world’s busiest port, the cabin of an 18-wheeler, and Amazon’s automated warehouses—to explore how the promise of “arriving today” is fulfilled through a balletic dance between humans and machines.
The scope of such large-scale innovation and expended energy is equal parts inspiring, enlightening, and horrifying. As he offers a glimpse of our future, Mims asks us to consider the system’s vulnerability and its resilience, and who shoulders the burden, as we hurtle toward a fully automated system—and what it will mean when we are there.
Wall Street Journal technology columnist Mims chronicles a product's journey from manufacturer to doorstep in his timely debut, an enlightening exploration of e-commerce. Combining studies of human ingenuity, technological advances, and labor practices, Mims begins at an electronics factory in Vietnam. Picking a USB charger as his object of study, he details the 14,000 miles it travels to North America, beginning with a barge ride to one of the busiest ports in Southeast Asia, where the gadget, housed in a shipping container, is transferred by a 13-story high crane onto a cargo ship (his awe at global freight is infectious; shipping containers, for instance, are "the one object most responsible for the state of today's world"). He also explores the history of a labor system that prizes efficiency above all else, studying the design of an Amazon warehouse, the cabin of an 18-wheeler, and the passenger seat of a UPS truck to detail the toll of "stressful working conditions that push people to their limit." Readers will be hooked by Mims's ability to turn what could've been a dry supply-chain explainer into a legitimate page-turner. For those interested in what goes on before packages arrive at their door, this is a no-brainer. \n