Throughput, Breakbulk, and the Iron Mountain in Tsunami Aid
Via the ESG5/15th MEU Families - Float News site, we learn that U.S. Marines airlift supplies back to ship to take to hard-to-reach areas. An "iron mountain" of supplies, as it were, has built up in certain airfields and it probably hasn't been sorted and is difficult to identify. Anyone who's ever had to search through an offload area for that one special piece of gear -- humvee, quadcon, pallet, etc -- knows exactly what we mean. So this is good news. The logistics specialists in the 15th MEU will be able to sort things out and redirect. The key to fast logistics these days isn't the iron mountain -- vast stockpiles of supplies. Instead, the key is what's known as "throughput" -- how quickly you can move supplies through key nodes. This is a direct result of the "just-in-time" set of ideas that has radically changed the civilian logistics industry. So by carrying supplies out to sea, perhaps the MEU is creating more nodes for throughput. Another consideration is packaging. In the military you have to designate certain logistics nodes as "breakbulk" areas -- this means that when you get, say, 200 truckloads of food and 100 truckloads of water, someone has to break each pallet down, and put them together in the right mix before they can be delivered to the end user. Not rocket science, but little of these details seem to be reported. It's doubtful that the Marines have time to get real pretty with their packaging. Or the breakbulk capability could be right on the ground in the receiving areas on the islands -- but that would mean it is extremely decentralized, and all reports thus far say the majority of US personnel remain afloat. Another consideration for returning to ship is that given the distances in the region, doing so might be the best way to refuel enroute to final drop-points. It would be really neat to see a map of relevant nodes and drop-points . . . Just some random logistics thoughts to keep in mind . . .