[T]here was a time when I would describe myself as a Licensed London Black Cab Driver, but for anyone now who drives for a living a little creative re-branding is the order of the day.
‘Logistics’, the word first entered our lexicon in 1982 when the armed forces described the task of transporting a battleground, with weapons, food, and all the paraphernalia of war half way round the world and drop them on two small remote islands in the middle of nowhere. Now anyone who delivers ‘stuff’ in a van provides a logistics solution.
United Parcel Service advertises itself as ‘why logistics is the most powerful force in business today – and why you should understand it.’ With a photograph of volcano erupting for dramatic effect, it warms (sorry out that) to its subject by asking the question “What is logistics”? I always thought it was a man in a van going from A to B, but apparently UPS claims ‘Logistics is the art and science of getting things exactly when they need to be there’.
Now I mention this is passing for recently I was expecting a delivery from one of UPS’s competitors and twice when they arrived at my house I managed to be out.
A card informed me that I could collect my parcel from their depot, but first I had to make an appointment. These guys were really serious about providing a logistical solution. Only 35 minutes were spent on the phone waiting to make my appointment, while listening to the solutions that this company provided.
Next day, armed with my passport and utility bill for identification I drove 15 miles (unlike Royal Mail they don’t have a depot in every town) and here on arrival I rang the bell three times before someone appeared behind the counter.
Now at this point I would ask you to suspend your disbelief for it took 40 minutes of logistics to locate my parcel within their depot, even though they knew I was coming. A mumbled apology with the excuse that the parcel was in the wrong place and a check of my proffered ID and a signature enabled me to drive away with my goods.
Well that doesn’t sound much like science, for that needs quantifiable evidence; it’s not much like art, for I can’t imagine a green and yellow van, with a driver being exhibited in the engine room of Tate Modern.
And come to think of it the logistics side is pretty thin on the ground.
I’ll tell you what it does sound like though: Loading stuff into a van, driving it around London, and then unloading it somewhere else and sometimes the customer getting his delivery delivered or just getting them to do the job themselves.
I’ve got to go there is a man in my cab with the logistics problem of getting from his office to the station, and I might just have the solution . . .