Flippant Logistics



It has been a logistical week of teaching logistics in English. Being in the right place at the right time to teach the right stuff to the right people (without sending them to sleep), because a lot of logistics is actually very boring. How can anyone get entusiastic about warehousing or fired up on inventory ? Not saying that logistics is for geeks, though the profession would suit bespectacled no lifes who enjoy number crunching.

Now, I am not a logistican, just a teacher of English who, teaches English for logistics to members of the French army transport corps, so I suppose we are not in pure logistics, merely supply chain,  and ….

Oh dear, this is getting very boring already.

So, here is what I said to my students (young officers learning their trade)

This is military logistics, and your role  in this great military logistical machine is to get everything up to the guys on the front line, so that all they have to worry about is fighting – food , médical supplies, bullets  and perhaps even some pornographic matériel to keep up moral – you’ve got to get them to where the fighting is and once you have got it to the troops, you have to get home all in one pièce,(as opposed to pièces) DO YOU AGREE ?

No one disagreed.


Gentlemen – we are in the middle of the Himalayas (or some similarly high and inhospitable snow-covered mountain range. On top of the very highest moutain, there is a French soldier whose job it is to report on Yeti activity – bands of Yeti insurgents have been reported in the area along with groups of kamikaze snowmen. No matter, the soldier is on the moutain, and he is bloody cold and bloody misérable. To cheer himself up, he decides to eat that most French of dishes – Cassoulet, of which there is a tin in his combat rations, the soldier is all the happier for eating his cassoulet because he comes from the warm and pleasant town  Toulouse in the South western France, which is also the home of Cassoulet. So homesick is the soldier, he decides to have another tine of cassoulet. Now, I should tell you at this point that cassoulet contains a lot of beans of the baked bean variety, though being French they are bigger and more powerful than the mean beans  you get from Heinz. A tin of Heinz beans might just create a few unpleasant odours  and minor bottom burps. Two tins of cassoluet on the other hand will give you smelly gale force winds errupt out your arse in volcanic proportions.

Now, it’s okay, for our soldier is all alone, however, after  the gases have died down, our soldier is feeling the effect of all those fibrous beans He must … and he would BUT, as he fumbles though his ration pack, his worst fears are confirmed, he has no toilet paper.

Gentlemen. As members of transport corps, you must get a few rolls of three ply up to this lonely soldier.

Solutions ?????

Air delivery

No, this is the top of a mountain, the drop zone is too small.


No, helicpoters can’t operate at this altitude

Take the toilet roll up on the back of a Yeti

Yetis are our ennemies

Take it up on the back of a friendly Yeti

Yetis are not friendly

Use a donkey

We tried dokneys but they all got eaten by the Yetis

Tell the soldier to wipe his arse on a Yeti.

Be serious

And then came the intelligent question …

If there are no means of resupplying the soldier, how come he got up the moutain in the first place and how come he got his supplies ?

Erm … he clilmbed up the mountain in summer

So, wait for summer and resupply him then

Do you want this soldier to drown in his own feaces ? Summer is months away. Come on, we have to find a supply solution

« We can’t resupply him, » says one student. « Military spending cutbacks mean that we have no toilet paper left. »

« He could use photocopy paper »

« Why doesn’t he just clean hmself up using the cardboard packing from the combat rations ? »

And this is where I have to admit that this is a flawed scenario, however one student suggeste that we blast our wat through the inside of  the mountain to build a lift shatf.

So, this reveals that my studenrs have some imagination and certain problem solving qualities.

The best solution to this exercise is top get father Christmas to deliver the  toilet roll, because Santa delivers everywhere in the world within 24 hours.


Not serious I know, but when you are teaching logistics ???? I think in the next lesson, I’ll use the pizza delivery scenario – yopu have to deilver a pizza o a very dangerous downtown area in Marseilles. Organise your tranpsort chain and analyse the risks involved. How do you protect your delivery  personnel and how do you make sure that the pizza stays warm AND above all, make sure that the client gets the pizza that he or she has actually ordered.