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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