Archive for the ‘ Film References ’ Category

Supply Chain Porn!

From Wikipedia:

Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination to meet the requirements of customers or corporations.

Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and often security. Today the complexity of production logistics can be modeled, analyzed, visualized and optimized by plant simulation software, but is constantly changing. This can involve anything from consumer goods such as food, to IT materials, to aerospace and defense equipment.

I love logistics. I love thinking about how stuff is moved from A to B to … Q and all the major steps in between. This week my thoughts were dominated by the topic.

I also like talking about it but I never had the ability to engage anybody on the subject. It turns out not that many of my friends care how stuff goes from a web shopping cart to their front door. But I try anyway. You clicked, but probably because you were looking for the porn: It’s a great TEDxBoston video a few paragraphs down.

Logistics should be easy to discuss: During the rise of e-commerce I paid particular attention to Amazon, sometimes trying to configure a shipment that would force them to combine packages from all over the place into a distribution center (DC) just to see how quickly they could do it.* My sister did a college paper on WebVan.

In what feels like a lifetime ago in the Pacific Northwest, I was lucky to work with some amazing folks on a supply chain Data Warehouse project at Starbucks Coffee Company. Starting as a contractor, they seated me next to a grizzled veteran of the trade, a no-nonsense woman who barked advice to persons working in the DCs about how to “pick, pack” and eventually “ship confirm” stuff using the new system under testing. I eventually converted to a FTE “Partner” and Starbucks was a really cool company to learn about supply chain operations because from “bean to cup,” the entire business is vertically integrated. The only way to extend the integration would be to actually own the coffee plantations. Eventually, the company grew so fast that their supply chain needed an overhaul. I would like to think that some of the BI tools we worked on were useful for this exercise.

Earlier this week a colleague shared a link to a TEDxBoston presentation titled ‘The Hidden World of Box-Packing’ (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1) Wow! A logistics presentation explained in an easily digestible way complete with videos of a series of robots and predictive analytics. Sweet jeebus, this is supply chain porn!

And to top it all off, later this week I was playing Legos with my first-born, and he combined his love of trucks and stories to build a re-enactment of a classic Curious George tale with a distribution center and an earth-mover (fig. 2). How great was that? My excited and enthusiastic reaction surprised him.

But if you read this entire post, surprised I garner you are not.

Fig. 2) My son's first DC, with awaiting transportation

Fig. 2) My son's first DC, with awaiting transportation

*Environment be damned: I think I might have been the inspiration for their ‘Group My Items Into As Few Shipments As Possible’ feature

The pages underneath

In an undergraduate English Lit class, selected simply because I needed to satisfy a graduation requirement, I learned a new word. Palimpsest. I liked that word immediately.

First of all, Palimpsest has a nice ring to it. It makes you take notice. But the main reason this word sticks with me is thanks to a most eloquent definition provided by our instructor, a graduate student in English Lit. I paraphrased (poorly) her eloquence in this quote thingy:

Imagine a notepad with sheets of paper. As you start anew on one page, sometimes the words written on the previous page are visible as indentations. In fact, if you rubbed a pencil over the indentations, you can reproduce the original text but with varying quality. Like memory.

I like to think that the things we experience daily in our lives are like pages torn from a big notepad. The really memorable lessons are visible long after. In fact I’d argue that our own Palimpsests define us: Important lessons learned, meaningful experiences, highlights and (unfortunately for us all) failures.

There are really practical applications of a palimpsest too. NOVA devoted a special on a recovered text from Archimedes, considered one of the earliest examples of the great mathematician’s work.

Writing about Palimpsests is tricky: They may only have meaning to the original author, as “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski learned when playing detective (fig 2).

So I’ll try to keep my entries universally relevant. And Rated PG. Mostly.

Jackie Treehorn writes a mysterious note

Fig. 1) A mysterious note. . .

An obscene palimpsest

Fig. 2 ) "The Dude" discovers the contents of the mysterious note.