Logistics - so many hopes dashed on the rocks of transport problems

Logistics… about twenty years ago in big cities of Russia such as Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Nizhniy Novgorod and others, nobody had even heard this strong and concrete word.

Not so far logistics courses announcements had begun to appear in houses of culture and precocious training centers, and in high schools of our country seminars and reports had being run on international transit and logistics and their influence on market building and developing.

What is logistics and what do we know about it? Is it kind of modern trend?

Dear sirs, let’s go back about twenty years to the glorious past of our country. In another words, let’s pierce the time, as well-known character by famous producer said at that time.

What do we see: of course, there is no strict concept with a trendy name, there is no expressions on the professional slang: logistic, forwarding, TEU, but there are regular and well-developed traffic streams that had transferred numerous products of USSR national economy through the nodal stations, ports and routes of international importance.

There are self-supporting maintenance groups of ships among shipping companies of the country where vessels are divided by the vector geographic focus and according to cargo types. There are import and export departments in ports that belong to foreign trade associations that doing foreign trade activities (export-import, chartering, long-term contracts making). It is well-structured hierarchy, isn’t it? In this immense and united country there are properly designed territories and water areas of ports(this system is almost the prototype of unified Europe where we try hard to enter). This system works without imperial habits and minor snobbery. But it is quite different… And I am returning to LOGISTICS.

Looking round ports of twenty years ago by the eyes of person who noticed all these changes I’m still inclined to think that we used to have logistics in all its manifestations! All ports, warehouses, container and ro-ro terminals we clearly structured and equipped for a certain cargo and directions. Another thing if this cargo was exported and sent to numerous countries that were friendly to our country, such as Cuba, Mozambique, Nicaragua. And they were supplied as free aid.

But even a small part of imported supplies that many of us haven’t even heard about but could smell it(import) in long lines at large department stores of million citizen cities. The import arrived in full compliance with the international standards of foreign trade operations.

Both HS System and delivery rules according to Incoterms – were properly executed. Containers with tape recorders, women’s boots, jeans and French perfumery were imported the same way as in the west. Such huge soviet forwarding companies as: USSR Morflot or SZDU Soviet Railways had transferred the supplies from abroad. Foreign companies APL, Sea Land etc.– were also masterpiece of world design for regular transatlantic and pacific transport lines. What a beautiful printing of labels and stickers, and successful logos design! All these containers arrived in time, were unloaded in time, were arranged correctly and competently and went further to destination.

Central dispatching offices, forwarding agents and warehouses were planning, accepting, directing and monitoring these cargo flows round the clock. If I remember correctly, forwarding agents of sea port of Leningrad were repeatedly awarded prizes of ENEA (Exhibition of Economic Achievements). Well, do you remember Vera Mukhina: worker and collective farmer?

Vessels hadn’t been stood idle during loading – unloading. The whole process of stevedoring was organized very well. Words: demurrage, detention at that time were placed by a simple and short word: downtime. But for this downtime stevedore (i.e. port or separate cargo area) was punished by shipping company – by ship owner. And the word timesheet despite the old Seventies-eighties-nineties had already been applied in ports.

By the way, at that time container transits to Canada and some ports of North America by vessels of Baltic marine shipping made competitors of the former Soviet bloc and some self-reliant and well-developed capitalist countries to worry seriously. Many carriers that are well-known today and deservedly considered as leaders in international transit were very glad when we had left international forwarding market.

Meanwhile, vessels and cargo-owners agents didn’t waste their time and salaries. They could compete in service quality. And ITF (international transport federation) made complaints against us extremely rare.

Of course, tallymen, dockers and employees of agent companies looked not as their colleagues in Hamburg and Rotterdam. But then and now we, i.e. Russians, can’t be mixed up with anybody.

And tallyman Tanya that counted cargo and if necessary prepared the report about pack damage during transportation or cargo damage (in other words survey report but she didn’t even know about this buzzword). Soviet tallymen had worked as hard as western colleagues from big survey agencies. Probably without gloss. But abiding by corporate dress style (that time it was unified – blue boiler suit, canvas boots and quilted jacket) and keeping appropriate quality.

Very often timer dockers and stevedores faced with absence of necessary equipment but in short time had found the best way of reloading of non-standard cargo from container into the truck or wagon? There are many similar examples.

Personally I know current owners and directors general of successful logistic companies that had been working at that time as dispatchers, stevedores, seafarers, heads of warehouses, dockers. Using experience that had been gained at that time later they managed to build modern transport companies that satisfy signs of the times.

So, how old is logistics in our country – 10, 20 or 30? Well, it is, probably, not important. The most important is that we knew a lot at that time, we know more now and these combined knowledge help us to build business, life and… logistics.

A.Kovalev

Original of the article is here: http://www.answer-logistic.ru/