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Posts Tagged ‘shipping

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”*…

In the year 578AD Germanic tribes were warring over the remains of the Roman Empire, an eight-year-old boy named Muhammad was growing up in Mecca, the Mayan Empire was flourishing in Central America, and the world’s longest continuously operated business was founded in Japan. When Prince Shōtoku Taishi (572–622) commissioned the construction of Japan’s first Buddhist temple, Shitennō-ji, Japan was predominantly Shinto and had no miyadaiku(carpenters trained in the art of building Buddhist temples), so the prince hired three skilled men from Baekje, a Buddhist state in what is now Korea. Among them was Shigetsu Kongō, whose work would become the foundation of the construction firm Kongō Gumi.

In the centuries that followed, the maintenance, repair and reconstruction of Shitennō-ji (ravaged a number of times by wars and natural disasters) provided Kongō Gumi’s main source of income, but as Buddhism spread throughout Japan the scope of the company’s work also expanded to include contributions to other major temple complexes such as Hōryū-ji (607) and Koyasan (816), as well as Osaka Castle (1583). Kongō Gumi would continue to flourish under the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867), a period during which Buddhist temples received substantial financial support. The company weathered the pro-Shinto Meiji Period (1868–1912) and its often violent efforts to eradicate Buddhism from Japan, which included the destruction of tens of thousands of Buddhist temples. Kongō Gumi also survived the Shōwa Financial Crisis of 1927, keeping pace with economic and technological developments until it finally succumbed to financial difficulties and became a subsidiary of Takamatsu Kensetsu in 2006, after more than 1,400 years of independent operation.

Although Japan boasts six of the world’s oldest companies and an estimated 20,000 firms over 100 years old, Kongō Gumi’s longevity is certainly remarkable and worthy of study. Fortunately, the principles that guided the company over the centuries have been preserved by the Kongō family itself. The 32nd leader of the company, Yoshisada Kongō, writing during the Meiji Period, left a creed, later titled Shokuke kokoroe no koto, or ‘family knowledge of the trade’, a list of 16 precepts distilled from the company’s successful past and intended to guide and preserve the family’s operations into the future. Western observers might be surprised to discover that while the creed addresses ‘business’ subjects such as quality control and customer satisfaction, it puts equal emphasis on ‘personal’ issues such as how to dress (in keeping with one’s station), how much to drink (in moderation) and how to treat others (with utmost respect). Indeed, the first article of the creed states that minding the precepts of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto, and training to use the carpenter’s rule are ‘our most important duty’, suggesting that the standards against which a Kongō measures his life are as critical to success as the instrument by which he measures his work…

Learning from the long-lived: “Building on Tradition — 1,400 Years of a Family Business.”

See also: “The Data of Long-Lived Institutions” from @zander at The Long Now Foundation.

* Gustav Mahler

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that RMS Titanic was launched from the boatyard in Belfast in which it was built, the largest passenger ship of its day. A state-of-the-art steamship, it set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage on march 10th of the following year, bound for New York City.  Four days later, after calls at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, the “unsinkable” Titanic collided with the iceberg that sent it under in the North Atlantic, 375 miles south of Newfoundland.

(For perspective on scale)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 31, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Pam, this is from corporate. How many times have I told you that there is a special filing cabinet for things from corporate? Called the waste paper basket!”*…

The subject of this essay emerged by chance. I was researching the history of the U.S. passport, and had spent weeks at the National Archives, struggling through thousands of reels of unindexed microfilm records of 19th-century diplomatic correspondence; then I arrived at the records for 1906. That year, the State Department adopted a numerical filing system. Suddenly, every American diplomatic office began using the same number for passport correspondence, with decimal numbers subdividing issues and cases. Rather than scrolling through microfilm images of bound pages organized chronologically, I could go straight to passport-relevant information that had been gathered in one place.

I soon discovered that I had Elihu Root to thank for making my research easier. A lawyer whose clients included Andrew Carnegie, Root became secretary of state in 1905. But not long after he arrived, the prominent corporate lawyer described himself as “a man trying to conduct the business of a large metropolitan law-firm in the office of a village squire.” The department’s record-keeping practices contributed to his frustration. As was then common in American offices, clerks used press books or copybooks to store incoming and outgoing correspondence in chronologically ordered bound volumes with limited indexing. For Root, the breaking point came when a request for a handful of letters resulted in several bulky volumes appearing on his desk. His response was swift: he demanded that a vertical filing system be adopted; soon the department was using a numerical subject-based filing system housed in filing cabinets.

The shift from bound volumes to filing systems is a milestone in the history of classification; the contemporaneous shift to vertical filing cabinets is a milestone in the history of storage…

It is easy to dismiss the object: a rectilinear stack of four drawers, usually made of metal. With suitable understatement, one design historian has noted that “manufacturers did not address the subject of style with regard to filing units.” The lack of style figures into the filing cabinet’s seeming banality. It is not considered inventive or original; it is simply there, especially in 20th-century office spaces; and this ubiquity, along with the absence of style, perhaps paradoxically contributes to the easy acceptance of its presence, which rarely causes comment…

But if it appears to be banal and pervasive, it cannot be so easily ignored. The filing cabinet does not just store paper; it stores information; and because the modern world depends upon and is indeed defined by information, the filing cabinet must be recognized as critical to the expansion of modernity. In recent years scholars and critics have paid increasing attention to the filing systems used to store and retrieve information critical to government and capitalism, particularly information about people — case dossiers, identification photographs, credit reports, et al. But the focus on filing systems ignores the places where files are stored. Could capitalism, surveillance, and governance have developed in the 20th century without filing cabinets? Of course, but only if there had been another way to store and circulate paper efficiently. The filing cabinet was critical to the infrastructure of 20th-century nation states and financial systems; and, like most infrastructure, it is often overlooked or forgotten, and the labor associated with it minimized or ignored.

The vertical filing cabinet was invented in the United States in the 1890s, and quickly became a fixture throughout North America and around the world. It spread globally because it provided a way to store large amounts of paper so that individual sheets could be retrieved easily. The technique of using drawers for storing a sheet of paper on its long edge was significant because loose papers cannot stand upright on their own. Put another way, the filing cabinet technology enabled loose paper to stand on edge so that more sheets could be stored in less space but still be accessed with minimal difficulty. It allowed loose papers to do the work of paperwork…

The filing cabinet had at least two inventors — and likely several others who remain lost to the historical record. The current accepted version attributes the invention to the Library Bureau, the Boston-based company founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey, inventor of the eponymous decimal system of library classification. Although the Library Bureau would proudly claim the invention, critical developments happened elsewhere. It was the secretary of a charity organization based in Buffalo, New York, a man identified as Dr. Nathaniel Rosenau, who provided the initial impetus for construction of a vertical filing cabinet. Inspired by the use of cabinets to store index cards on their edges, Rosenau sought a bigger container for papers.

In 1892, he took his idea to the Library Bureau’s Chicago office, which built a prototype. But no matter the inventor, the turn of the 20th century saw the filing cabinet develop as a part of the rapid growth of an office equipment industry in which dozens of companies manufactured practically identical products with little respect for the hundreds of patents issued for products and parts. To underscore their uniqueness and modernity, this industry explicitly labeled its products “equipment,” “appliances,” and “machines” — not furniture. And it made these products indispensable to offices, and thus helped to constitute the office as a “modern” workspace. The office with a vertical filing cabinet was decidedly not a 19th-century office…

The filing cabinet was critical to the information infrastructure of the 20th-century; like most infrastructure, it was usually overlooked– an oversight that Craig Robertson (@craig2robertson) rectifies: “The Filing Cabinet.”

* “Michael Scott,” The Office (Pilot episode)

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As we savor storage, we might spare a thought for Malcolm Purcell McLean; he died on this date in 2001. A transportation entrepreneur, he parlayed his experience as a trucker into the development of the modern shipping container— which revolutionized transport and international trade in the second half of the twentieth century. Containerization led to a significant reduction in the cost of freight transportation by eliminating the need for repeated handling of individual pieces of cargo, and also improved reliability, reduced cargo theft, and cut inventory costs (thus, working capital needs) by shortening transit time.

When McLean died in 1987, then Secretary of Transportation Norm Minetta said:

Malcom revolutionized the maritime industry in the 20th century. His idea for modernizing the loading and unloading of ships, which was previously conducted in much the same way the ancient Phoenicians did 3,000 years ago, has resulted in much safer and less-expensive transport of goods, faster delivery, and better service. We owe so much to a man of vision, “the father of containerization,” Malcolm P. McLean.

In an editorial shortly after his death, the Baltimore Sun wrote that “he ranks next to Robert Fulton as the greatest revolutionary in the history of maritime trade,” and Forbes Magazine called McLean “one of the few men who changed the world.” On the morning of McLean’s funeral, container ships around the world blew their whistles in his honor.

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“Liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee”*…

 

pallets_0

 

What’s the most important object in the global economy? The classic answer… is the shipping container, which carries just about every type of object you can think of through the arteries and veins of global trade.

But let’s drill down a little further. How do those boxes of grapefruits and scissors and puffer jackets get into the containers in the first place, and then get offloaded at their destinations? The answer, most commonly, is an even more humble and ubiquitous technology: the pallet.

“The magic of these pallets is the magic of abstraction,” Jacob Hodes writes at Cabinet. “Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a ‘unit load’—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency.”

But this simple tool, precisely because of its essential role in the global supply chain, comes with unexpectedly complex logistics…

From Quartz Obsessions, the story of the world’s lo-fi load bearers: “Pallets.”

* Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II (Act 3, Sc 1)

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As we pile it on, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Philadelphia iron products manufacturer Albert Potts patented his design for a lamppost-mounted collection mailbox (U.S. patent #19,578).  His box was designed to be affixed to a lamppost so that people could drop their letters into the box instead of making a special trip to the post office to mail their letters.  While Potts was a pioneer in America (anticipating the demand for letter boxes that expanded when City Free Delivery– the delivery of letters to addressees’ doors– was introduced), his were predated by the “pillar box” (introduced in the UK in 1852 by novelist Anthony Trollope, in has day-job capacity as Postal Surveyor) and by a short-lived postal system using collection boxes on street corners around Paris that was set up by  Renouard De Valayer in 1653.

potts letter box source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on”*…

 

From Grog LLC, because it’s “better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it”: Animated Knots.

[TotH to Kyle Lerfald]

* Franklin D. Roosevelt

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As wrap then pull, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that the MS al-Salam Boccaccio 98, an Egyptian Roll on/Roll off passenger ferry, sank in the Red Sea en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga in southern Egypt. 388 people were rescued; the balance of the estimated 1400 passengers and crew– the majority, Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, but also including pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca–were lost.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

From A to B…

Dutch designer Ruben van der Vleuten wondered what happened to the packages he sent between the time he shipped them and their arrival.

What happens when you send something by mail? What happens in between you sending it off and someone else receiving it? What people and processes are involved and how many steps does it take?

Those all were questions I was dealing with and wanted to find out. So instead of sitting back I started a simple project to actually see it myself. I put a small camera in a box, build a timer circuit using Arduino and shipped it.

That’s as simple as it is. The timer circuit was set to make a 3 sec video every minute and make longer videos while the box was moving: to not miss on the ‘interesting’ parts.

See the resulting video, “From A to B”.

email readers click here

[TotH to Flowing Data]

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As we add some extra bubble wrap, we might send stoic birthday greetings to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121 CE.  The last the “five good emperors” of Rome, Marcus Aurelius is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.  His Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign during the Marcomannic Wars between 170 and 180, and describing how to follow nature to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of turmoil, is considered by many to be the urtext of the philosophy of service and duty.

Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee.

Meditations, Book VI, 3

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

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