On Radio 4 this morning, in the slot which used to belong to Alistair Cooke's Letter from America, Lisa Jardine, talks about logistics in the context of the salt shortage, which left so many UK roads untreated during the recent freeze and the apparent surplus of Swine Flu vaccine in the absence, so far, of the predicted swine flu pandemic. Logistics, she defines "as moving the right thing to the right place at the right time". Her talk explains how the term evolved from a narrow military meaning, where it was limited to the supply of resources for armies, to one which encompassed the movement of all goods and materials. It evokes a twinge of nostalgia for the fifteen years of my career during which I was engaged in editing magazines on this subject or something very close to it. For it was during those years that the term expanded. My first encounter with the topic was when I worked for Mechanical Handling, a journal devoted to the forklift trucks, cranes, conveyors and earth moving equipment, which manoeuvre goods and materials into and out of transport and storage and round and about the production line in factories. Next came Materials Handling where the focus of interest was extended to take in the systemic control of goods throughout manufacture, storage and distribution. It was a far reaching topic and took me to many different countries and numerous industries from motor car manufacture to brewing, from mining to retail distribution, in pursuit of new developments and new thinking. It was while I was involved with Materials Handling that I first heard the term "logistics" applied to what we had been calling "materials handling" or "materials management".
An additional dimension to this rich experience was that during my time with the two magazines I first met the man known to fellow bloggers as Barrett Bonden, who himself came to edit magazines in what may now be known as the field of logistics.
While on the telephone to the Sony Vaio centre over a problem with my lap top, I notice the gentle Irish voice of the expert at the other end of the line. He is exceptionally helpful, quick and courteous. While waiting for my computer to reboot, he enquires about the weather at my end. It strikes me as unusual and rather gratifying to find someone at a technical support centre who can engage in small talk. I tell him about the freeze. "And where you live?" I ask, curious to know where that is. "Cork," he says. " We have been surprised by heavy snow". We talk for a little about Kinsale, a town of which I have pleasant memories, before the computer boots up, and we retire to our respective roles.