Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Logistics of The New Broom.....and change management.

I have borrowed this from the official TLP blog (titled "Beware The New Broom") because I think it sums up a lot of the problems faced by organisations trying to manage change. I have end some emphasis here and there but it remains largely intact.
“Beware the new broom” – This was a phrase that would get whispered on RAF stations all over the world each time a new officer got posted into a supply section.  The new broom referred to the enthusiastic zeal with which the aforementioned officer would arrive to sweep away the methods and projects of the previous 18 months for “improvements”.  Weary Senior Non Commisioned Officers would direct the troops to “realign the daffodils” in the direction they were in just 18 months ago.
At The Logistics Project we see a similar, although not identical pattern, in humanitarian logistics.  NGOs, FBOs and other humanitarian agencies frequently find they have neglected their support elements in favour of the primary task, the logistic component of their organisation is either creaking under the strain of expanding programs or has completely broken down leaving field offices and beneficiaries unsupported.  At some point the pain becomes too much and up goes the cry “something must be done.”
The usual process is to look at the staffing of the logistics department and decide that there needs to be a new senior position created or a more capable individual put into this role, someone who has a lot of expertise and can change manage.  To an extent this is true but all too often it begins a cycle that leads to perpetual change and even destruction.  The new hire arrives and with gusto sets about making the necessary changes to logistics policy, structure and systems in line with their (far too) closely defined terms of reference; this is the up stroke of the cycle.  
Problems start to arise when they have completed those tasks as defined in the terms of reference.  Their remit is improvement and change management but they have hit a place where stability and continuity are required.  This is the beginning of the down stroke of the cycle.  Having been hired as an expert logistics change manager their (personal and professional) validation comes from rolling out new shinier solutions to the challenges facing the agency, after all they are taking a significant salary. The temptation to tinker with what is working well is too great.  Phrases like “future proof” ,”long term view” and “legacy planning”  start to litter the vocabulary of logistics HQ to veil a need to innovate, change and self-validate; meanwhile the field operations are running to stay abreast of the current developments and the stability they need is not forthcoming.
It is for this reason The Logistics Project offer system audit and design services.  Over many years of working the “innovation and decimation” cycle in both the commercial and charitable sectors our team have come to believe having external innovators and change managers leads to a more stable and functioning operation.
External change managers come with a different mind set and agenda.  They are not caught in the day to day of operations.  Their remit is to bring exceptional expertise to quickly and effectively identify solutions and make necessary changes and then to move on.
The advantages of this are a clear costed project plan that once agreed becomes the arbitrator of what change is necessary.  The project plan also becomes a useful fundraising tool with clear costs to tangible objectives.
The core benefit to this is removing the temptation to tinker but it also realises a cost benefit as the expertise you hire does not remain on the pay roll beyond the change project’s life cycle.  Agencies like The Logistics Project also bring the advantage of having a raft of specialists who can be drawn into the project rather than one individual with a general knowledge of many of the components that make up the supply chain.
If you want to know more about our change methodology drop us a line - or visit the website

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Logistics of Socks

I think we are all
familiar with socks.

This morning I have had a long telephone call with Jennifer of Radcliffe Training Associates.  We are collaborating on a very exciting course scheduled for release this fall.  I am afraid I can’t offer any spoilers on here although you can look at our training page and work out which course we were talking about. It did lead to an interest conversation about socks...... no we are not running a sock distribution course.

The conversation relayed a pub chat over the number of socks that the two protagonists owned.  One had a clearly defined sock policy: 2 pairs for a weekend back, 4 pairs for a suitcase and 7 in the sock drawer.  The Logistics Project are all in favour a solid underwear stocking policy. The second protagonist admitted to a whopping 50 pairs of socks........and they weren’t even a centipede!!!!
Whilst our main remit is improving standard of logistical performance in development and disaster response we do keep an eye on the global sock draw.  If you are a logistician here hopefully you can see the problem but for those of you who can’t we feel that someone is having trouble defining their maximum and minimum stock.
This is a common problem which leads to over stocking.  Over stocking for a non perishable item merely means too much of your finance is tied up in stock and when you get to use it ......well it’s pretty dusty.  Over stocking for perishable items is a budget killer, if you can’t consume the items in time you haven’t just lost the use of your finance as time ticks by you end up losing money as stock expires.  If the price of the product your stocking drops you are stuck with expensive stock....commodity traders take note!
So what are the considerations for your maximum and minimum stock.  
"a logistician's nightmare"
Storage capacity:     Small storage spaces can only hold small stock...perhaps some trainer socks, a large space can hold all the thick mountain hiking socks you could want.
Consumption:      How many socks do you need?  2 at a time we presume..... but do you require two pairs a day if you go running?
Lead in time:   This is your laundry cycle, how many days is it before you are likely to receive back a sweet smelling pair of laundered socks?
Operational contingency: There are algorithm that Doc Roath our tame academic can show you to work this out but most folk work on a more emotional calculation.  It is the addition of this operational contingency that gives us a maximum figure.
So lets try and work this out for an individual who runs every other day and does washing every five days.
The maximum amount of socks our individual will use is 8....3 running days of two pairs and 2 days of one pair.  They will then need a pair for the laundry day, if laundry day is a running day they will have a pair of socks in hand to cover the running. So our minimum figure is 9.  If we in put an operational contingency of two days (a maximum of 3 pairs) this will give us a maximum stock of 12.
So if you are a runner with a day on day off frequency and a five day washing cycle a 9-12 range of pairs of socks is reasonable. Everyday logistics eh????

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Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Logistics of Drawing Dogs.....

Do you know what a dog looks like? Sure you do, in any street anywhere in the world you could identify a dog.  You can probably give me differentiating characteristics between a dog and other furry quadrupeds.  The well informed of you may be able to tell your Miniature Schnauzer from you Labrador.  Now if I asked you to draw a dog how would you do?
This dog looks a little sad.
Al, has finally cracked..... One too many days in the Somali sun you may be thinking but bare with me. This week Joel has had his sketch pad out and asking Laura and I to draw things. One of these things was a dog.  Laura and I both know what a dog looks like but all we managed was a quizzical sheep and a friendly bear. We both have the fine motor skills to have mastered writing so that is not the problem. There just seems to be a disconnect between what we know and what we produce.
We believe this to be an alsatian hippo cross
This got me to thinking about logistics.....  as a lot of things do...... I pondered how often it is that an organisation has a great logistics vision which never seems to get off the ground.  Organisations find themselves staring at a "quizzical sheep" of a system. So what would turn Laura and I into award winning dog artists and how does that play out for the logistics scenario.
Lessons would be a good start from someone with a good knowledge of dog art, someone who had spent a lot of time perfecting their "quizzical sheep" into a faithful depiction of a canine. Then it will take a degree of practice and correction with the experienced eye of our dog artist not to tell us what we got wrong but how our technique lead to the sheeplike features of our dog.  Logistics is no different really. We at The Logistics Project look to leverage our years of badly drawn logistics systems on helping you to draw yours. We are committed to helping you identify why the wooliness occurs in your system and refining your techniques to ensure your logistics "dog art" improves.

A real dog.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Just in brief.......

Hi all, this isn't my usual style to put out a short notices type blog but I wanted to link in readers of Surely more interesting to The Logistics Project's official blog - which is taking a look at change management this week.  I guess now there is an official blog I am a pirate blogger I am pretty sure I will not start legal proceedings.

Also I was hoping that those of you involved in logistics humanitairan or otherwise might complete The Logistics Project's continuous professional development survey.

It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes to complete and we will put you on our list of favourite people if you do.*

*This list is theoretical rather than actual and consequently is not governed by the data protection act.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Does squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle make you a bad logistician? - PART 2

So we ran a competition for readers to get their opinions published on "Does squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle make you a bad logistician?" - Sadly some of our most prolific bloggers were tied up with work and study which meant I got sent a lot of ideas but no blog post as such.  So I thought I would give a go at doing justice to Michael Keizer's idea of FIFO vs FEFO vs LIFO.

Michael is a logistician working in the humanitarian healthcare sector and someone whose blog and twitter posts I enjoy.

Now FIFO FEFO LIFO may sound like something from my childhood fairy tales where the giant cried FEE FI FO FUM - I smell the blood of an englishman - and to be honest if you don't get your choice of FIFO, FEFO or LIFO right it could land you with a giant problem.  For those of you not used to these terms they mean.

First In First Out    -     First Expired First Out     -     Last In First Out

Perhaps a little too meticulous even for TLP
this chap is definitely a LIFO practitioner.
My preference for toothpaste usage is last in first out.  The easiest way to achieve this is to squeeze from the bottom of the tube, neatly rolling your way up the tube until the smooth flow comes to an end leaving you with a tightly rolled expended tube. Whilst this appropriate for my toothpaste usage it is not often perceived as a good model.  It does however reduce the workload of your warehouse team as they can stack lots of product on push back racking, or stack for maximum density and always take from the front of the storage area.  It produces problems in any commodity with an expiry date as the product at the back of the stack will expire prior to use.  As we looked at in The Logistics of My Packed Lunch this is not good.

For good batch control FEFO is definitely the way forward.  First Expired First Out is a more labour intensive strategy and requires excellent record keeping and an effective stock controller.  When putting together pick lists it will require the batch number to be part of the pick data; warehouse staff will need to be educated in the importance of picking from the right batch.  FEFO however does not really figure in toothpaste use except perhaps in choosing between tubes.  Is your Colgate going to expire before your Arm & Hammer....if either of them expire you should probably review your dental hygiene program.

So we are left with FIFO - first in first out.........hmmmmmm ........short of cutting the bottom off the tube of toothpaste I can't sees how that can be effected in the dispensing of toothpaste.  I do know of people who do this to ensure they get every last mg of toothpaste from the tube.  I sometimes think of FIFO as FEFO for those without a batch control system but such things should not be left to chance.  In some warehouses FIFO is the result of how the racking system works.  There is a receipt face to the racking which has a gravity roll to the pick face, therefore you will always pick the first you received.  It is good for items that have a long expiry date and a quick turnover meaning they will be picked and consumed well before expiry.

So in conclusion none of these recognised systems look even vaguely like squeezing the tube in the middle squeezers review your stock movement policy!!!!  You are upsetting us LIFO users. 

Michael I hope I have done a reasonable job on this.