Military Boxes, Pallets and Containers – Part 1 General Principles

1,755

Earlier this week I got into an email discussion on the subject of pallets and containers (as one does) and it struck me that it has been some time since I wrote anything new about the subject. The conversation started with questions about transferring pallets from DROPS racks to smaller vehicles at forward locations, the availability of mechanical handling equipment and what DROPS/EPLS vehicles bring to the party.

During the course of the conversation we came to the conclusion that there exists an issue with the gap between the 40/20ft container and the pallet. Do we break down container sized loads into pallet loads too high up the supply chain? I think there is a possibility that this is actually the case but what are the options and equipment possibilities?

So, this is a detailed look at boxes, pallets and containers, their current status, equipment in use and potential future options.

The series comprises multiple parts;

Part 1 – Introduction and General Principles

Part 2 – Pallets

Part 3 – Containers and Flatracks

Part 4 – Container and Flatrack Handling

Part 5 – Boxes

Part 6 – Air Transport Pallets and Containers

Part 7 – Air Despatch

Part 8 – Issues and Solutions for Pallets, Containers and Boxes

Part 9 – Trucks and Trailers

Part 10 – More Thoughts  on Trucks and Trailers

Introduction and General Principles

The logistics support chain is an incredibly complex construct that defies simple explanation in a blog post, if you really want to wade in, the seven volumes of JSP 886 will provide many hours of reading, click here including the 69 page glossary!

In general terms, the forward and reverse logistics chain operates through a number of nodes as shown in the diagram below

Joint Logistics
Joint Logistics

The actual laydown of units and sub units will vary depending on the nature and duration of the operation, it will also likely to change throughout an operation in response to changing needs. The diagram below shows a typical Combat Service Support (CSS) laydown for a non enduring medium scale operation, the number of nodes and locations will be minimised in order to reduce force protection overheads but operational resilience may dictate an increase. Between the Joint Support Area and Forward Support Area is typically a land only environment.

Generic Land Logistics
Generic Land Logistics

Moving forward, the general structure is as the two diagrams below.

The RLC is a very diverse organisation but for the logistics aspects of supplying bullets, rations and the millions of other things needed by combat units they are organised into Force Support and  Logistic Support Regiments with a mixture of Close Support Squadrons and General Support Squadrons. As usual within the British Army the operational organisation of these units is flexible with commanders adapting to need and creating task specific groups as required.

The Forward Support Area will be used by the RLC Logistic Support Regiment to support a manoeuvre brigade. From there, Close Support Logistics Regiments and specialist units such as fuel and tank transport.

From the Convoy Marshalling Area (CMA) a typical Combat Logistic Patrol will weave its way along an agreed route to multiple destinations, dropping off and picking up as required over a period of several days. Time spent loading and unloading is always minimised, a truck standing still is not earning its keep although the need for drivers and top cover to rest is an essential factor in planning. Immediate Replenishment Groups (IRG’s) are used for short distance replenishment tasks for battlegroups.

The JSP’s detailed above really do have some really very good definitions and descriptions.

The first one states that materials handling requires manpower, space and equipment, all of which are expensive commodities. It is probably a reasonable observation that the ‘cost’ of each of these commodities will vary in time and space but in general, the trend is fewer personnel because they are expensive. Simply look at the manning for ships to see the consequence of personnel costs. How this will influence future logistics is not clear but the general goal of using fewer people to deliver a measurable output would seem to indicate a greater use of mechanical handling equipment and unmanned logistics.

The second states that materials handling is an imprecise science, a very important factor to consider for those that think military logistics is the same as civilian logistics like Tesco or Stobarts.

Finally, materials should be moved from point to point using the shortest route possible whilst minimising expensive double handling and in general, economy is proportional to the size of the load.

Putting bulk materials like fuel, water and building materials like sand to one side for a moment (although many of the same principle apply) it is preferred to handle stores as ‘unit loads’ in the most appropriate box or container on a sliding scale, for example;

Ammunition box >> Multiple ammunition boxes on a pallet >> Multiple ammunition boxes on multiple pallets inside an ISO container

Box Pallet Container
Box Pallet Container

Bigger boxes are more efficient.

One person can drive a container handler

LIFT TRUCK - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH
LIFT TRUCK – Kalmar RT 240 RTCH

Or one person can drive a telehandler

Lift Truck - Telehandler JCB 524
Lift Truck – Telehandler JCB 524

 

Or one person can handle a box

Boxes
Manual Handling

So it makes perfect sense to use mechanical handling equipment and bigger boxes wherever and whenever it is practical to do so.

What actually makes it practical to do so is two of the simplest but most influential inventions of the modern age, the pallet and the container.

 

The rest of the series…

Part 1 – Introduction and General Principles

Part 2 – Pallets

Part 3 – Containers and Flatracks

Part 4 – Container and Flatrack Handling

Part 5 – Boxes

Part 6 – Air Transport Pallets and Containers

Part 7 – Air Despatch

Part 8 – Issues and Solutions for Pallets, Containers and Boxes

Part 9 – Trucks and Trailers

Part 10 – More Thoughts  on Trucks and Trailers

 

 

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
stephen duckworth

@TD
Did you read all of those standards? Bravo if you did !
The guys unloading the Chinook could probable use some of these linked together.
http://www.asconveyorsystems.co.uk/images/Expanding%20skatewheel%20conveyor.jpg
A 2′ wide version which can expand out from 8′ to 30′ comes in at about £1500. It can handle 300kg/m of loading. Replacing the hard plastic wheeled casters with 10″ or 12″ pneumatic wheeled casters would be a very simple operation to ease handling over rough/soft ground.
On the container front do the Military use 10′ ? I used to be involved in NDT for the offshore industry and one of my favourite days was testing new containers/pallets. We would fill the container with steel blocks stacked on top of each other which were then bolted together and the container closed. Lifting shackles and cables were attached to the lift blocks and the end of the cables attached to the rear tow point of a crane similar to the Kalmar RT 240 RTCH pictured above. About 100′ of slack cable enabled the crane driver (in an armoured caged on the crane) to accelerate away and when the slack cable became taught the container would be wrenched over and dragged behind the crane if all went well. I would then have the box righted and the 10 tonnes of steel plates unloaded and would inspect the welding to see if any had failed. I suspect in these days of elf’ and safety its done differently these days :-)
http://www.lion-offshore.co.uk/10ft-dnv-offshore-container.html

Sucks2doTrucks
Sucks2doTrucks

There are pallets galore of varying types in the M.O.D. supply chain.

The biggest problem with transporting loads is the lack of DROPS MMLC/EPLS vehicles and compatible trailers.

There’s about 500 Leyland/DAF DROPS/MMLC and up to 200ish M.A.N. SV. EPLS which are adapted from the 15 ton, 8×8 chassis.

There’s very few trailers to support them.

Those 500 Leyland DROPS suffer more and more from mechanical unreliability, too.

Tank Transporters = 92 across the entire Army (There’s some Oshkosh L.E.T.’S too).
It would take about a month to shift an armoured/mechanised brigade to the next unpopular peacekeeping war on terror for oil if they were all available.

Pallets & containers aren’t as huge a problem

stephen duckworth

The agricultural industry, specifically harvesting , uses adaptable conveying systems. The cableways are made from portable frames moved by hand as required through the crops to support the steel cable. They sit on wooden/plastic/concrete movable pads and are braced as required. The loads are then suspended from the cable on pulley wheels and linked to form a train. A cable tractor is used then to pull the train or you can pull it by hand if the load/inclines are not too great. The Banana / palm oil / coconut etc industries use them on a huge scale so the cost are cheap and they are durable, this is commerce after all !

Move to 1 min in if you don’t want they company sales blurb.
Much heavier versions ,so not as man portable, are used in the timber felling industry but these bananaveyors will take a 100kg per load point.

tweckyspat
tweckyspat

Thanks TD for embarking on another ambitious epic study. Once upon a time I was unit Storage Media rep which was so long ago it meant pallets and bins not the IT system…not quite one of those jobs they put on the recruiting adverts. I also had a copy of something called the MOD F3 Catalogue (or something like) which page by page listed all the pallets, bins, racks and MHE in service. I wish I had kept it if only for the photos of esoteric pallet handling kit. I hope in the subsequent parts you’ll be able to cover all the confused thinking in the 80s and 90s on whether the flatrack or 20′ ISO would be dominant mode.

AFAIK any shortfall in LETs or 20′ TEU carriers would be (as ever)made up from contractor or local rental transport. The only advantage of DROPS/MAN is the mobility off road, largely negated if you used the trailer anyway. So why not use more civilian rental transport rather than expensive DROPS/MAN ?

trackback

[…] is a bag of spanners. But even that assumption is not correct, as I described in the series on pallets, containers and boxes, the amount of dimensional incompatibility between road, rail, ships, pallets and containers is […]

Peter Elliott

The top end on the military inventory exceeds what commercial logistics can carry. Challeher2 is just too heavy and a Merlin Helo (even dismantelled) is just too big. Such units will always require specialist military logistics to move around. The question is should we tailor our next level down teeth assets specifically to find in/on generic civvi transporters?

Depends on whether our forces are going to have a ‘middle’ really. Light and heavy units don’t really need to leverage civvi logistics so much. But I’d we have a good few brigades of medium mechanised in our orbit then they will need Civvi OTS logistics to get them anywhere. Trouble is with our budget I can see the ‘middle’ dosappearing: SF, Paras, RM, Armoured. Are UK Forces really going to do Mechanised or Motorised land forces in the future??

Peter Elliott

I have a horrible feeling I have just solved the budget crunch of SDSR 15. Cancellation of UV and elimination of the Adaptable Force as a meaningful entity. Would I accept that if it meant filling up the gaps in the RAF amd RN?? Gulp: maybe.

Matt
Matt

Check out this system used in oil and gas. It would be perfect for the military. It’s even PLS/DROPS compatible.
https://youtu.be/GZ7ESvar3Uw

El Sid
El Sid

This is a month late, but this article celebrates the 60th birthday of container shipping, and has a few interesting stats on its growth :

https://clarksonsresearch.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/happy-birthday-dear-box/

↓