Short case: Dealing with variety – two examples
The Bombay Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (TBSA) operates a service to transport home-cooked food from workers’ homes to office locations in downtown Bombay. Workers from residential districts must ride commuter trains some 30–40 km to work. Typically, they are conservative diners, and are also constrained by strong cultural taboos on food handling by caste, which discourage eating out. TBSA arranges for food to be picked up in the morning in a regulation tin ‘tiffin’ box, deposited at the office at lunch time, and returned to the home in the afternoon. TBSA takes advantage of public transport to carry the tins, usually using otherwise under-utilised capacity on commuter trains in the mid-morning and afternoon. Different colours and markings are used to indicate to the (sometimes illiterate) TBSA workers the process route for each tin. For as long as ships have navigated the seas, ports have had to handle an infinite variety of cargo with widely different contents, sizes and weights, and, whilst in transit or in storage, protect them from weather and pilferage. Then, the transportation industries, in conjunction with the International Standards Organization (ISO), developed a standard shipping container design. Almost overnight, the problems of security and weather protection were solved. Anyone wanting to ship goods in volume only had to seal them in a container and they could be signed over to the shipping company. Ports could standardise handling equipment and dispense with warehouses (containers could be stacked in the rain if required). Railways and trucking companies could develop trailers to accommodate the new containers. Such was the success of the new design that very soon specialist containers were developed which conformed to the ISO standard module sizes, for example, refrigerated containers that provide temperature-controlled environments for perishable goods....
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