Friday, 23 December 2011

The logistics of my packed lunch

Today my lunch will consist of chicken soup, dry toast and a boiled egg.  I can hear you wondering how I am going to make this logistically relevant; really this is the story of what I am not having for my packed lunch.  The things I am not having for my lunch are noodles and butter for my toast.

Not a good time for elastomeric failure

This morning I opened the fridge eager to whip out the noodles only to find the Lamb family batch control system had broken down.  Noodles were past their sell by of the 20th and looking a little bit sketchy in terms of edibility.  This sent me harking back to my RAF supply office training.  We had a flight sergeant that we called uncle Lou who had a great line in stories of pressurized gas canister catastrophes (but that is a story for another time).  Lou’s other passion was elastomerics, that is to say he was passionate about the storage and stock control of rubber stuff.  I am reliably informed that if you store tires they give off a choking and flammable gas over time so all tire stores must be vented.  Certainly if my time in Haiti is anything to go by tyres burn well and the smoke is choking.  More precious to Lou was the humble rubber gasket seal, this little fella was very susceptible to perishing with time and artificial light……”as delicate as a flower – batch control is essential”.  In the commercial world now there are many IT solutions which will highlight where to pick your elastomerics from.  In the field however it is good logistics practice that needs to protect your time sensitive items whether they are food stuffs or pharmaceuticals.  Prudent ordering should leave you with a smooth supply chain bringing your plumpy nut  in batches that have a minimum of overlap in expiry.  Once they arrive in the consumption location a culture of best practice needs to be adopted to prevent them being sent for animal feed (the donkeys of El Genina ate well in 2004/5).  Best practice varies but we at The Logistics project like to observe the principles of keeping all batches of the same product on the one stock card clearly annotated to prevent a later batch being used first in ignorance.  On distribution mixed batches can be sent out but the later batch should boxed within a box and clearly marked as the later batch……if only the Lamb family fridge was so organised.
North Darfur is rather warm.
Ever the resourceful loggie I opted for soup and toast.  After all I have a heavy cold and chicken soup is medicinal.  There is a toaster in the office and we had a loaf end which was just about the right amount but butter……I had no solution for the butter.  No suitable containers and no cold chain plan.  I had managed to move vaccines through Sahara and Sahel landscapes for WHO  , I even once managed a load of ice cream and french soft cheeses from Khartoum to El Fasher after we had lost a colleague to a land mine.  Where had these skills gone this morning, no suitable container no cold media and consequently no butter on my toast at lunch today. If only I could apply all that I have learned professionally to my packed lunch.   We soldier on at The Logistics Project…

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