So, I spent a pretty good chunk of last night writing a post on containerized logistics, and come to find this morning, in the comments on this post, Think Defense UK had done me a solid and wrote the whole thing up for me, and did a far, far better job than I could have.
The concept of intermodal transport is deceptively simple but without it, the global supply chain would be very different.
Goods leave the production line, loaded onto pallets, which are loaded into containers. The container is closed and transferred by road to a port, where it is stored with other containers until the ship is ready. The container joins the thousands of others and is loaded into the hold of a waiting container ship. To make things even quicker still, modern container ships don’t have hatch covers, just efficient bilge pump.
At the end of the sea journey the reverse happens.
TDUK gives us a great overview of the tools available for logisticians to use standardized containers to move goods. On the civilian side, the concept of using standardized containers for shipping is only about 50 years old. It took just a short while after its introduction to catch on, and now virtually all non-bulk goods that are shipped travel in containers. It has taken the military a little bit longer to transition to this mode of shipping. One of the problems is that civilian customers rarely move, so establishing the infrastructure to handle containerized cargo is a one-time expense. But military units tend to move quite often. And the equipment to handle the ISO standard 20’ shipping container is bulky. With the introduction of BICONS, TRICONS, and QUADCONS and the profusion of palletized load handling equipment, the attractiveness of using containerized shipping has grown. And be sure to read his section on inserts for containers. The simple idea to establish weapons racks inside a container make storing and securing weapons a whole lot easier than the previous method of taking arms racks out of the home station arms room and lugging them around in theater for a year, and having to find something to chain them down to. The use of shelf inserts for parts storage and issue is another simple, elegant solution to a vexing problem.
Expect to see even more innovation and use of containerized storage for Army logistics in the future.