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whats the point of LMN?

part 2: why even do this?

· whyLMN,transitkey,Krystian

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises.

- Wikipedia

Truth be told I’ve been working in logistics since 2012, starting as a cadet and working my way onto a operations support team whose function was to support the technical and operational aspects of the businesses logistics functions. We’re talking stuff like setting up a new user, to data migration, to SOP writing all the way through to site implementations and relieving a supervisor or manager of a warehouse should they go on leave. It was great, I loved the people I worked with, going from driving a forklift and doing admin into a world which was challenging and different, out of my league and in an office… it was all very exciting.


Now I was pretty rubbish at doing the really technical stuff like programming, still am, the most technical thing I could do was spreadsheets. I have a spreadsheet for pretty much anything worth tracking. When I got an office job, unhappy that I didn’t know what I was doing throughout the week, I made a spreadsheet which tracked what I did and how long I spent at work. Because in a warehouse you get to see how productive you were, it was a bit of a game - how many putaways, how many truckloads, how many trucks. But in an office, you don’t have the same system backed infrastructure (back then you didn’t, and it's a bit of a generalisation but I suspect this kind of thing isn’t widely tracked by anyone that isn’t a tier one firm which sells time as a professional service). Point is I built a spreadsheet and because at times work was slow, I didn’t really tell people about it, it was a pet project. All of this is sadly true, none of it helps you get a girlfriend, a sentiment which was thoroughly repeated by the coworkers (friends) whom I’d shared my dark secret with.


Anyway, I knew processes, I learnt quickly, liked spreadsheets and was up and coming. Then it got even better, the day my boss told me that his boss wanted a warehouse system. The concept was pretty simple, at the time, the existing standard procedure when a driver arrived at one of our warehouses was for the driver to call the office and then receive instructions for where to go (which dock they should back onto or if they should bugger off and wait for a while because they arrived three hours earlier for their time slot then they should have and nothing is ready for them).


My project was to design a system which would remove this step, i.e. how do you get the driver onto the dock, or to a waiting bay, without having to call the office. I was given a blank sheet of paper, access to developers and a timeframe, the end. And I loved it, I got to make something, I got straight into process mapping it and a week later hit full on analysis paralysis. Which must have been a good thing because the project actually went really well, my boss allowed me to drive it and with the support of the ops team and various other contributors we made the process - not bad for a non-tech company. We gave it to the developers, they gave us a prototype, I worked very hard to refine it before putting it in place, then when it went live I spent several months refining how the system worked. Honestly, it was awesome, I loved it, I loved making something from scratch, I adored my boss for trusting me and feared his boss telling me I’d wasted a bunch of time and money. So in the process of making this thing work, I learnt an incredible amount.


Now I feel I should state that there were obviously other people which helped a huge amount and if it wasn’t for them the thing wouldn’t have gotten to where it did and those same people wouldn’t have kept using it. So for them, its big thank you, from developers to office admins, to site managers and to drivers for giving it a shot as well. But for the sake of me having to explain a group effort five hundred times, I’ll acknowledge this now and then just call it my project, because it's easier, I have an ego, and it was my brainchild.


Back to the point, I made this system, this wonderfully complexly integrated yet simple to use the system which actually worked. Drivers would show up, put their mobile number in, get told where to go, the office would get an update on all of the overhead screens and desktops. Holy shit was that amazing, something I’d come up with, actually worked. But after handing it over I almost immediately started thinking… what's next.


Which leads me to a while later and to a new idea. The warehouse system worked really well and coordinated information from a lot of different systems, it was great for the site. But what if you could build a system that was good for the sites that site interacted with? Now at uni (going back to RMIT as a mature is turning out to be a lot of fun), I drafted the idea of a system which attempted to do just that, take the basic logistics functions which are done in email or excel, then make them standardised to the point that you can easily build interactions between sites. A standardised logistics system for warehousing and transport, pushing visibility, collaboration and the practical utilization of data.


Almost immediately, I fell into full-on analysis paralysis, trying to work out the minutia of how this web of chaos would actually function, who would use it? How would it get into companies who have purchasing agreements? How do I sell this to people? Who is going to build it for me? For what price? How could you or what if you pool the performance data of a forklift operator to include OHS variables, the forklifts performance stats as well as the operator's putaway numbers to create an aggregate performance rating? Is that even legal?


Having my unique experience in software development, I promptly decided I knew everything I needed because I had already done it before with this previous system. And it actually worked, I even managed to find some developers to help out. But like all good (and annoyingly correct) engineers, it was pointed out to me that before you can build this formula one car, you first need to invent the concept of the car. In other words, what I had come up with was a starship enterprise - which would be capable of going to other galaxies, when in the real world of logistics, people are still trying to get their heads around the idea of getting a person off the ground in a contraption called an aeroplane.


Furthermore, I soon worked out that not only did the basics need to be worked out for this system, you also needed to teach people what the system does, and before you can do that, you need an audience to teach.


So there it is, in the most elaborate way possible, LMN was started as a way to build an audience for a system (called Transit Key), which I’ve been trying to build for a very long time. Because deep down, I fundamentally believe its the right thing to do, I truly believe that the best way to improve the macro logistics scenario in Australia is for everyone to get on board, especially the smaller players who can’t afford hugely expensive and intricate systems.


The important thing about these SME (small to medium enterprise) players is that they make up a much larger proportion of the pie, and that they are practical operators who want something which is simple, gets the job done - something which works. But up until now, these operators are being ignored, so the system I’m building is for them. Because the more SMEs can improve their baseline of operation, the better the industry will get, and the sooner that happens the sooner I can start doing cool shit. Like making a spreadsheet for everyone in the country and how long it takes them to do a delivery. At my core, I just want another spreadsheet because I think it would be really cool.

Written By Krystian