"Arriving Today" a book by Christopher Tims
A couple of weeks ago, I spotted the book "Arriving Today" by Christopher Tims in our local library, and the blurb on the cover suggested that I might find it interesting to an O.R. reader. Essentially, the book is about the journey of a small item from manufacturer to customer in the 2020s, where so much commerce is done online. And in manufacturing, storage and transport, O.R. plays a part.
Having finished the book, O.R. does get a mention, but not enough to merit a place in the extensive index. As the UK O.R. Society repeatedly stresses, O.R. is "The Hidden Science". The mention in the book comes alongside queueing theory, and attributes to the O.R. world the concept of a "buffer stock". That said, buffer stocks are scarcely mentioned except at one stage in the supply chain.
So was it worth reading? The first half of the book deals with the shipping of that small item from a factory in Vietnam, to a container port in that country, across the Pacific to California and thence through warehouses and trucks to the customer. The research was done during the pandemic in 2020, which colours some of the text. Interspersed with the description of the movement of the item, there are vignettes of the people involved (I especially enjoyed the navigation of the container ship from ocean to its berth.) In the latter part of the book, a great deal of the text talks about the Amazon systems, their automation, and the pressure that the machinery and software puts on the employees. Maybe this could have fitted into a second book? The "last mile" of the shipping goes via UPS, and it is clear that the author prefers the management style of UPS to that of the aforementioned bigA. But nobody told Tims that the routing system at UPS had won prizes for the OR team behind it!
Would I recommend it to an OR readership? Yes, because anyone interested in or involved with the world of online shopping is bound to find something new. No, because there are no lessons on the process which leads to implementation of the work of OR people to the business practice here.