Sunday, January 17, 2010

protest, logistics, support

Posted by PicasaPigeon in action the Pantiles.
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.


Clare said...

I had a teacher (ex-military, I seem to remember) when I was 12 or 13 who said: "As long as you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, you will never get into trouble."

It was a nice touchstone in a world that seemed so full of "don'ts". And it's a lovely phrase, too -- I take it out and hold it in my mind sometimes. It's as comforting and as pleasing as a sea-worn beach pebble.

Roderick Robinson said...

It's interesting to see what has rubbed off. All that travelling about, for instance, left me very pro-Europe. Also when I wash up I do it according to a system which has its roots in work study. After you'd moved on the emphasis on computerised systems grew and grew and sometimes it was quite hard to grasp sequences, a vital element in understanding, say, a warehouse. A useful byproduct was that one learned more about computer applications and that always proved useful.

Accents at call centres. I moved to First Direct when it was the first telephone bank and have grown up with them. They have two call centres: one in Leeds and one in Scotland both serviced by people from those two areas. Since First Direct has a very high standard of customer service (it regular leads the field when banks are polled) this has had two effects: I have always envied Scottish accents and now I associate them with efficiency and sympathy, and these qualities also shown by the Leeds employees have helped damp down my deep antipathy to that particular neck of the woods.

alison Wormald said...

I enjoyed the details of your working life on those two magazines. I thought you might like this wonderful photo of a marine crane at sunset which my husband found whilst listening in to ship to shore radio this morning (strange hobbies some men have!) Though I couldn't help feeling those two magazines might have featured on Have I got News for you! I love your photos, by the way and sent the frosted rose to family and friends as a New Year Card (a Happy one to you) Many Thanks, Alison