Atomization versus Massification in Transportation Modes
For transport modes, atomization represents the smallest load unit
that can be effectively transported. The person is obviously the
smallest load unit for passenger transportation, while a parcel or a
part are the smallest load units for freight transportation.
Atomization is less relevant for bulk since the smallest load unit
is a flexible concept; it can be subdivided without any changes in
the characteristics of the product. Still, the smallest bulk trade transactions
rarely go under a ton (except for retail consumer transactions where
the goods are bought in "bulk"). Massification for transportation modes
involves the growing capacity to move load units in a single trip.
The relations between atomization and massification can be
paradoxical since individuals and customers tend to prefer the
convenience of atomization while carriers are favoring massification
and the economies of scale it confers.
For passengers transportation, the most massified land
transportation mode is the passenger train which can carry about
1,000 passengers, while the Airbus A380,
the largest operating passenger plane, has a standard configuration to carry
about 550 passengers. The largest passenger conveyance is the cruise
ship with the biggest ships carrying about 6,000 passengers. For bulk transportation, tanker ships can
carry up to 400,000 tons while some bulk carriers have a capacity up
to 350,000 tons. Containerization offers a unique advantage since
the container is a relatively small (atomized) load unit that can
carry on average 20-25 tons, while containers can be massified on
large containerships carrying up to the equivalent of 15,000
standard containers of 20 foot.