Visibility in Transit

ISO Container

We often have an image in our heads of the global supply chain being a model of efficiency and smooth running, like a Toyota Sewing Machine, and the military supply chain comprising practices that are stuck in the 18th century, but the reality is actually very far from it.

This video Maersk shows the paper trail of a single container shipment.

Do watch it all the way through, it is fascinating. It shows that there are 200 paper documents required to get a container from Africa to Europe and the number of delays, incompatible systems, dodgy workarounds and all round general inefficiency.

The assumption is that the physical system is fine but the information system 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 stagering. It is a wonder anything gets shipped at all.

This post from 2010 shows the scale of the issue with software and logistics in the MoD and this slide shows exactly the same shortcomings in 1991 as 2003.

Over a decade of learning, investment and development for zero improvement.

Logistics Lessons Learned

Poor asset tracking underpinned by poor communications and information systems inevitably leads to over ordering, hoarding and generally a lack of logistics performance, too much stuff or not enough stuff in the right places and the right times.

As we all know, you really need to know where your towel is!

Since then, the MoD has embarked on the a number of projects such as LogNEC/FLIS, the large contract with Boeing.

This is not a UK specific solution, the Swedish FMV for example, has just let a contract to Mil Def Systems and Track 24 for a container tracking system, read more here



As the British Army refocuses on contingency operations, integrating geographic asset tracking and visibility, further implementing FLIS, and doing more with considerably less but any notion of just copying civvy street needs to be examined very closely.