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The government came up with a logistics innovation first.

By Steve Geary | 09/20/2017 | 7:06 AM

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There was an interesting piece in the June issue of DC Velocity Magazine, “Micro-warehouses bring fulfillment closer to the customer.” Containerized micro warehouses? It’s a great concept, worth putting in the spotlight.

I showed the story to a Veteran who is also a logistician, and he looked me in the eye and said, "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt." 

He's right. The military did it a long time ago. Pre-loaded containers configured as a stockroom are a fantastic timesaver when you are deploying a military force and you have to hit the beach and function.  Transport the box around the world, open the door, and you have a mini-distribution center ready to go. 

These transportable distribution points ride on rail cars. They ride on trucks. They ride on combat amphibious assault ships, and on merchant marine container ships. They are air transportable. They line up nicely on the back of combat transport vehicles for mobility in a battle zone. They can be linked together to create standard 20-foot container configurations. 

The Marines call them quadcons, palcons, and joint modular intermodal containers. The Army has larger truck or rail transportable versions that can deploy, open up, and be a distribution point ready-to-go. Heck, I used to buy coffee out of a container converted to retail and storage space in Iraq. FEMA does something similar for disaster relief, with pre-configured loaded containers deployed around the country, ready to respond immediately to a disaster.

Bottom line: containers configured to service as mobile distribution points is a concept the military has long understood. The ability to deliver what is needed when it is needed, even in the most challenging situations. Necessity is the mother of invention.

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About Steve Geary

Steve Geary

Steve Geary is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tennessee's College of Business Administration, and is on the faculty at The Gordon Institute at Tufts University, where he teaches supply chain management. He is the President of the Supply Chain Visions family of companies, and Chief Operating Officer at ROSE Solutions, consultancies that work across the government sector. Steve is a contributing editor at DC Velocity, and editor-at-large for CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and Who's Who in Executives and Professionals. In November of 2007, Steve was recognized for "Selfless Service to Our Nation and the People of Iraq" by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.


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