Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Okay, I already know that there will be dissenters out there who think this is the waste of a perfectly good song. But I have to admit that this is one of the most effective commercials I've seen in a long time. It shows you in a compact way the enormous scope and scale of a complex undertaking that most of us take completely for granted. And how is that undertaking accomplished? Logistics.

I think we all have a fair idea what logistics is (are?). It's the organization of a project or process in what is hoped to be the most effective or efficient way. It's the 'logical' way to get from point A to point B. But is there a science of logistics--is there something more rigorous behind our more casual use of the term?

... Well, of course it should have occurred to me that the original use of logistics was military. Before it was taken over by UPS, it was a term used in military science for the moving and supplying of troops. Military logistics had few thousand years head start on that of the global corporate world, I now realize.

Here's the definition of business logistics:"having the right item in the right quantity at the right time at the right place for the right price in the right condition to the right customer". Just switch in "gun" for "item" and "soldier" for "customer" and that's more or less military logistics as well.

The origins of this word are somewhat buried in the haze. On the one hand, some maintain that it goes back to the "art of quartering the troops", from the French loger "to lodge". But I've also seen it derived from the Greek logos, which gives us the logistiki who were apparently military officers in the Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires who were responsible for matters of finance and distribution.Never mind. No one ever said words have to arrive to us down a lineage that's uncontaminated by influences from other sources.

Logistics doesn't have to be about the movement of vast armies of UPS drivers, though. It can be about one person and one problem. As an illustration, I'll end with this link to a blog post on Funny Photos on Logistics. I should warn you, though, that I got sidetracked by the video link to the Smart Phone testing ads. What can I say? I'm easily distracted. If you are too, well, I'm sorry about that.

* * * *

Turns out the Smartphone ad doesn't show up every time, but am I going to forget the whole thing? No, I'm going to give you the link right here. Why, after all, should I be the only one to dribble away my days?

Also, I have no idea why this blog is only showing these clips half-screen. Just hit the picture again and it will take you to the full screen in another window.)


  1. I wish I could figure out the best logistics to keeping my house clean. Something along the lines of my house getting clean while I sit and read sounds about right.

  2. Have you ever thought about asking the UPS guy (or gal) to come in and give it a shot?

  3. I haven't, but I wonder what they would say if I did. I can imagine the quizzical look I'd get.

  4. Seana

    Do you know this quote?

    Armchair generals talk tactics, real generals talk logistics.

    I think the implication is that logistics are the most important part of modern warfare.

  5. Glenna, if you just start humming the tune from the commercial, they may understand better.

    Adrian, I may have heard it, but it didn't stick.

    I actually would like to read a (very readable)book about some of this stuff was thought out over the ages, or even in some particular war. I like to read about the kind of mind that can think that way, because I'm certainly never going to understand that kind of thinking by doing it myself.