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Transcript: Forms of adaptation & their limits – online reading room

Home > Forms of adaptation & their limits – our third flexibility reading room > Transcript: Forms of adaptation & their limits – online reading room

Reading time: 68 minutes

02 December 2020. Online event


[Presentation title: A third reading room – the limits of adaptation]

[Slide: Energy demands are always changing and people and organisations are constantly adapting and responding to events (whether these relate directly to the ‘needs’ of a more intermittent energy supply or not).
Changes and strategies in response provide insight into the ‘limits’ of adaptation and into how definitions of core service and baselines are made.
This session is to think about what organisations (companies/ businesses) take (maybe implicitly) to be the limits of adaptation.
What are the non-negotiable practices and limits implicit in:
• contingency plans?
• in everyday forms of buffering and storage
• and in methods of managing and handling disruptions?
Debbie on buffering and trucking
Stan on storage and hospitals
Greg on resilience and transport (COVID?)]

Stan Blue: This is the sort of the topic that we have today which is kind of on the limits of adaptation and I suppose that idea for this reading room is kind of that energy demand is sort of on-the-move, varying, changing and evolving and the organisations in particular, so I suppose thinking about a bit about organisations today have to kind of adapt and respond to different events with implications for energy demands, and you know they’re evolving anyway, sorry, adapting and responding anyway, not necessarily to some of the issues that we’re interested in the flexibility and in CREDS about adapting to a more, connecting with a more intimate energy supply system but evolving and adapting on their own. And that some of these adaptations that I mean in light of maybe things that happen in this year but of course, all other kinds of adaptations and responses to whatever challenges certain organisations are facing, that those adaptations and the limits of those adaptations give us a sense or provide us some kind of like insight into the making of core definitions of core service and of baselines as well.

I suppose that this session or the idea of this session and some of the input that we’ve got for this session is to think about what the different organisations and maybe companies or businesses take to be the limits of adaptation, or how are those limits made, how are those core services made, how can we see the kind of non-negotiable practices and limits that are implicit in contingency plans but also in, we’ve been thinking about everyday forms of managing demand of buffering and storage and also everyday ways of handling disruptions.

So the kind of three inputs or people who are going to say a few words about this today, and thanks very much, were Greg Marsden was going to talk to us a little bit about contingency resilience and transport, possibly something on COVID, Greg, and Debbie won’t be able to make it until half past 12 but I think she’s also here to say something on her work on trucking and kind of like buffering and logistics and trucking and I’ve been trying to think a little bit about storage and hospitals and what these I guess some of these things say about these limits of adaptation.

[Presentation title: Contingency – some thoughts. Greg Marsden, 16 December 2020]

Greg Marsden: Right, so Stan asked me to put some thoughts together, we’ve been doing work on trying to understand behavioural responses to disruptions probably for the last decade. That’s included like flooding, snow and ice closure of bridges and more recently COVID 19. So I’ll give a little bit of thought on some of the frameworks that we’ve used and some of the concepts and then illustrate one or two examples. I think I’ve got eight slides done so I won’t go on forever.

[Slide: A definition. A picture of a Report titled How will your travel times be affected during the Games? A picture of a book titled The sociology of disruption, disaster and social change by Hendrik Vollmer; and text:
• “A provision for a possible event or circumstance”
• But a provision to enable what?
• Vollmer – what gets disrupted is the “coordination of activities and expectations” within a collective entity]

Greg Marsden: So contingency is not a word that we used in our projects but it obviously relates to what we’ve been thinking about, so I pulled out just a dictionary definition there: “provision for a possible event or circumstance”. But that made me think about a provision to enable what, so what kinds of contingency that supports what kind of outcomes and you know maybe we all have different parts of the system that we think about and therefore you know might be thinking about enabling different sorts of things.

But one thing that’s been a particularly useful guide for us in the work that we’ve done was the book by Henrik Vollmer and he argues that in moments of disruption what gets disrupted is this coordination of activities and expectations within a collective entity. And obviously from my point of view, from a transport point of view, even though he doesn’t write anything really about transport, that you know it’s social participation and how that gets reconfigured that we’re really talking about. But I think the thing that’s really interesting is this notion of expectations which I’ll come back to.

[Slide: A range of interlocking senses, showing a picture of cars queued up at a petrol station. A picture of a petrol can, and text:
• System of provision
• Food, manufacturing
• Organisation
• A local authority, Network Rail
• Community / Neighbourhood
• COVID isolation
• Household
• Partner, Family, Friends]

Greg Marsden: So, at what scale do you think about contingency? So you mentioned organisations, Stan, in your introduction. I think you can think about contingency at all sorts of different scales, so systems of provision, you know, how long does food store, how much of it is frozen stored, manufacturing, how much inventory do we keep in warehouses in order to enable us to do things? The image on the right is the queues that were caused in, I think it was 2012, when there wasn’t even a tanker driver strike, there was a talk of the threat of a tanker driver strike and Francis Mordo, one of the Ministers at the time suggested people fill up a jerry can of petrol. I mean even though it’s an illegal and a stupid idea to have 20 litres of petrol in your house, but actually what that revealed is that we just how our assumptions about how much petrol needed to be in the filling stations and how we didn’t know anything about how much petrol people stored in their vehicles more generally, but it doesn’t take much for the system to run out of fuel on the basis of essentially a set of expectations about how much contingency you need in a fuel supply system.

You can look at it at an organisational scale. So, what contingencies does Network Rail put into its timetable for example to allow for weather effects for late running of trains, how does that all work? More recently, communities where groups got together during COVID and kind of shared contact details if you’re self-isolating, I’ll do your shopping or walk your dog, or you know, so you can look at a contingency at that scale. And then you know further down you can look at the household partner drawing on family or friends and so on. But I don’t think any of those lenses on their own makes sense. They’re all connected; what you can do as a household also relates directly to the systems of provision or the organisations that you’re engaged with, so it’s actually a multi-scalar thing contingency. You can just focus your attention on one part of the system more than another, for example.

[Slide: You cannot measure contingency. Showing a picture of a flooded pub, a picture of a flooded road, car park and fields, and text:
• Graham and Thrift (2007) – when things break then we see the importance of everyday come to the fore
• Argue that the ingredients are there
• Circumstances force new configurations
• But critically: The ‘expectations’ on which the current patterns of provision are made are relaxed. This generates new opportunities for adaptation.]

Greg Marsden: And I would argue that you can’t actually measure contingency, so it’s quite an interesting concept to think about, and Graham and Thrift’s work points the fact that you know actually it’s only when things break that you see the importance of the everyday. And that in kind of remaking and redoing the things that we need to do during these periods you get innovations and people putting things together in new combinations to allow them to do things. What we’ve generally found is that actually people’s response set is more or less there, like they do it sometimes, they might do it for completely, if you’re looking at a household level that their behaviours might be done for completely different reasons. So, they may occasionally have work from home or occasionally they might get a taxi to town, you know, because, you know, the car is broken down or whatever it is so that they’re kind of the set of actions that are available to them at any one point in time. Generally, they’ve used them for some purpose or other. These new circumstances force them to think about different ways of putting those potential options together, but really importantly, it’s the expectations that exist, for example, the firms that they work for or the delivery systems that they’re engaged with, which really the change in those expectations are the things which really open up more substantial opportunities for adaptation.

[Slide: Example 1, showing a graph captioned Frequency of working at home before and during lockdown. Graph shows percentages of people in 10 cities, before and during lockdown, who worked at home ‘5 days a week or more’, ‘3–4 days a week’, ‘1–2 days a week’, ‘A few times a month’, ‘Less often’, ‘Never’ and those for whom working at home did not apply or their job could not be carried out from home. The 10 cities are Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayshire, Bristol, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London. The graph shows highest difference in the category of people who worked ‘5 days or more’ from home during lockdown as compared to before lockdown, with the differences tapering down significantly as one went down the frequency (3–4 days a week, etc.). The graph also shows a significant difference in percentages of people who never worked from home before and after lockdown, while some difference in percentages of people who said their work cannot be carried out from home. See also COVID19 Transport, Travel and Social Adaptation Emergency Data Collection]

Greg Marsden: So, my first example there is COVID19. So if you wanted, this is a chart from some research we’re doing which looks at frequency of working at home before enduring lockdown in 10 different parts of the UK. So, this was done in June so you can see that the green bars of people who worked home five days a week or more and I don’t think you could have asked, well if you’d asked individuals about how much they could work from home they wouldn’t have been able to tell you it was that much because it depended entirely on their companies. If you’d approached the companies and said how much you’re willing to let your people work from home, they would not have told you it was that much, but the circumstances required that all sorts of roles that previously had been thought to never be workable from home were suddenly mandated to be worked from home and so the whole system had a whole lot more contingency in it than you would have been able to find out by engaging with people in the system. Now, equally, it’s interesting to look at the lines on the right-hand side of the chart which my job could not be carried out from home and they don’t shift all that much at all. So, in this particular system of employment there’s some areas which have got no contingency at all you know from that perspective. So, I think that’s quite an interesting example to think through.

[Slide: Example 2: Childcare, showing a picture of a flooded roundabout, another picture of a toddler sitting in front of a laptop staring at it while holding a smartphone to his ear, and text:
• Trading of favours between families
• Invoking occasional paid childcare
• Rearranging working places between partners
For some there are fewer choices
• Self employed
• Key workers
• Family location]

Greg Marsden: The second example is one from childcare. So again, thinking about what sorts of activities people feel that they can trade off. This was interesting; childcare is something that you can’t not do or not find a way of having done, you know, even if you’re not doing it yourself. So, we found in the work we did around flooding in York where this particular, like it’s actually my local primary school closed, massive amount of trading of favours between families. So again, that’s something that happens anyway but you know it’s very intensive during this kind of time period; invoking occasional paid childcare, rearranging working practices between partners, but again that depends a bit on what you do. So ,self-employed people said, well you know, this is a real problem for me, every day I’m having to do that, I’m not earning, so you know I feel like I’ve got fewer options available to me. Key workers who need to be in the hospital or whatever, and then you know where your family, where your networks are located, so I think it’s just an interesting reflection on when you drill down what range of factors become important for particular cases.

[Slide: Adaptations related to activities and travel. A table with a list of types of adaptations with their descriptions:
• Remoding: Using a different form of transport for at least the main leg of the trip
• Rerouting: Taking a different route from that which was planned or would typically be taken
• Retiming: Modifying a time at which a trip starts by either bringing it forward or pushing it back without altering where in the sequence of activities it occurs
• Rescheduling: Changing when in a week a trip is made. This is distinct from retiming as the trip is seen to be moved in a sequence of activities
• Relocating: Changing the destination of a journey such as shopping somewhere else
• Reallocating: Passing over the responsibility for a journey to someone else (e.g. childcare pickup or caring trip)
• Reducing: Not conducting a trip at all but conducting the activity through ICT]

Greg Marsden: We came up with a list of, what is it, seven different adaptations that related to activities and travel. You know we spend a lot of time in transport talking about changing mode so remoting, re-routing, these are things which people do quite regularly. Re-timing, as in within a point in a day, do you set off a bit earlier or later; we found a lot more adaptation in rescheduling, so a lot more activities could be moved within a month or within a week than necessarily could be easily retimed. But then there’s a limit to that because, well, if you need to do that activity then, you know, you need to do it at some point, so how helpful is rescheduling from a carbon point of view, for example. Relocating gets done quite a lot. Shopping elsewhere, for example, something people do, seeking leisure opportunities elsewhere I think, seeing a lot of that in COVID, reallocating between members of the household or other community members and then reducing, not doing those activities at all.

[Slide: Some questions, showing two pictures of journal papers, first published in ‘Transportation Research Part A’ titled “Insights for disruptions as opportunities for transport policy change” by Greg Marsden and Iain Docherty, second published in ‘Transport Policy’ titled “Studying disruptive events: Innovations in behaviour, opportunities for lower carbon transport policy?” by Greg Marsden et al., and text:
What has less contingency?
• The more mutual coordination?
• Infrequent (?) – e.g. wedding
• Perishable – e.g. funeral
• Socially important – e.g. caring
What has more contingency?
• Things which have spatial options (e.g. shop local, work from home)
• Things which can be moved in time (e.g. shop or commute less often, hold more stock)
Where are infrastructures?
• Are these things which afford our expectations of what where and how we conduct our activities?]

Greg Marsden: So, final slide, some questions. I think it’s helpful to think about what sorts of things, what systems or activities have less contingency and I think the more mutual coordination there is involved in the activities, the less contingency there is. Sports, you know, an organised game of sport’s quite difficult to, you can shift it in time, but you know the actors need to be involved and there’s a lot of coordination there. We found that infrequent, sometimes these get talked about as like, well they are optional things that don’t happen very often, leisure activities, things like weddings, actually really important to people that, not things that people want to exhibit any flexibility around.

Some things are perishable, so if you’re not there at the point in time when it happens then you’re not there at all. And then there are some activities so people are much more willing to give up a commute because they do it all the time and they can catch up their work or that you know that they’re used to doing that differently, but things like caring, not going to visit your sick relatives or, you know, that is something which people find more difficult. So, you know, you can think about what systems or what activities has left less contingency and, therefore, which things might have more things with spatial options in transport and things which you can move in time, and you could hold more stock.

We choose not to because we, you know, the economic system has decided that we can save money by doing things just-in-time, but that’s a contingency. It’s a decision on contingency as to how much headroom you’ve got for things to go wrong or to be different to your anticipation. And then another question, where are infrastructures in thinking about contingency here? And I think that the way I would think about it is probably that they helped an affordance of the expectations about what’s possible and where and when and how and how much we do things and if you had a different infrastructure system it would have some different affordances in terms of its contingency. So that’s my initial set of thoughts.

Stan Blue: Thank you! I think it’s probably useful to do the sort of like three inputs because one of the interesting thing is to like cut across them.

[Slide: Storage, showing a picture of a portable charger/ power bank with text:
• Judgements made about the need for storage usually take the extent of demand, and where and when it arises, as read.
• Checking the flexibility that additional forms of storage might afford is only possible by holding a notion of ‘need’ stable.
• Past and present judgements about capacity and storage are closely tied to past and present judgements about needs and how these might be met.
• Treating storage as a response to the challenge of balancing supply and demand is to treat demand itself as fixed and not a flexible part of the equation.
A reference is also provided: Blue, S., Shove, E. and Forman, P. (2020): Conceptualising flexibility: Challenging representations of time and society in the energy sector. Time and Society, Online First.]

Stan Blue: Okay, so I guess it actually picks up a little bit on some of the things that Greg was saying and especially at the end there a little bit about stock and just-in-time and headroom, some of these issues as a way of connecting to contingency and the limits of adaptation. Storage is kind of or sometimes seen when it comes to, I suppose energy demand and flexibility, is kind of seen as a solution for, or a demand side management solution – you know, just have enough storage and then you know you can kind of cancel out some of the issues about intermittent supply and the timing of supply and demand.

In the paper that Elizabeth and I wrote with Peter on conceptualising flexibility, we sort of raised I guess a few questions or issues about storage where we said that, you know, actually judgments about the need for storage usually take the extent of demand when and where it happens as read, or holds a kind of notion of need for particular kinds of services stable. So, I think that’s something important that we raised about storage when it comes to energy demand. And also the judgments about capacity and storage that are made in the past matter for judgments about needs in the present, about how they might be met in the present as well, so there’s a kind of like historical element to that to the storage. So I guess thinking about storage as a sort of solution, you know, just having enough headroom or something like that is to kind of fix, to know how much headroom you need, how much storage you need is to fix demand or you know to fix the kind of the services that are being met by that capacity to treat those as fixed and not moving or a shifting part of the equation.

[Slide: Doug – Associate Director, Commercial and Procurement – v. big hospital. A graphic of a hospital worker pushing an empty trolley used for moving goods, and a quote from Doug:
• Consumables
…we hold around about seven days-worth of stock within the organisation… So we tend to have a revolving weekly cycle of deliveries coming in from supply chain… everything comes on cages and totes during the night and is dropped off on one of our four or five loading bays…we can bring in 40 foot artics, one drop into the hospital, there’s no congestion in the city centre, we can get straight into the hospital and drop off when it’s quiet and it suits supply chain to be able to pick during the day deliver at night… We then meet those deliveries in the morning at six am… we’ve got the hospital zoned, so Monday will be Zone A, Tuesday Zone B Zone C, etc. we work our way around the hospital on a weekly basis effectively. Hence the reason we carry seven days-worth of stock.]

Stan Blue: So that sort of got me thinking a little bit I suppose more in general about the relationship between storage and adaptation or storage and changing services and practices and I decided to go back to, if some of you know that I did a project on hospitals and the timing of working practices in unconnected working practices in hospitals as they matter for energy demand.

So I went back to an interview that I thought was quite interesting to try to see something about this relationship between storage and adaptation. So this is an interview with Doug who was the Director for procurement, quite a big or an Associate Director became a very big hospital that I was doing interviews at basically. And sorry I know this isn’t great but I’m basically going to dig through his interview to sort of tell a story about storage and adaptation, so you don’t need to read it all but I’ve just put it up there to sort of remind me and you can see it. So Doug when we started the interview he told me he’s you know, I guess this is sort of setting the scene, that I mean remember the NHS is something like the fifth biggest organisation in the world after the US Army and McDonald’s and Walmart or something and it’s a, you know, big contributor to climate change and they have so much you know stock and stuff moving through the organisation and coming in.

So he talked but he talked about how they have seven days-worth of stock that they rotate bringing in a lorry every night. This is for consumables so everything from gloves to toilet rolls to bandages and all the rest. I guess that seven-day cycle is linked into a seven-day stock rotation and stock system and the head room is linked into a couple of things including when the supply chain picks so during the day time to get it out and delivered at night so that it can be stored or where they put it out in the hospital in the morning. But also the zones in the hospital so each zone in the hospital has its day when it gets its delivery so the hospital kind of zones and then each zone can hold its consumables for a week or something like that, and that’s for consumables.

[Slide showing a picture of prosthetic limbs and text:
• High value stock
So clearly you’ve got ranges of sizes in a product, so you might need a couple of each. And the reason you might need a couple of each is that you would always want one for the procedure but you’d want one for backup in case it was faulty or was dropped or became contaminated during the procedure. So I can’t carry just one of everything. And then you’ve got your distribution curve where if you take implants, it’s a really good example orthopaedic implants, your outliers you may need two of but your mainstream products you might need four or six of depending on your, the number of procedures in a day, a week. The majority of supply chains for those kind of things are 24, 48 hours replenishment cycle.]

Stan Blue: But he also talked to me about kind of high value stock as well, so in particular Ray’s kind of orthopaedic things. And he had this move that he liked to do when before the interview and we were walking through the stock rooms sort of thing so it was actually around, they keep these in the back of a you know around the corner from the operating theatre basically. And you know he sort of points to some boxes on the thing, there’s you know loads of these boxes on the shelf sort of thing and he says oh you know you think it’s all right isn’t it just having these up here?

And he says what if I told you each one of those boxes like this is worth you know a Volkswagen Polo! It’s like you know that’s how much is up there just kept up on these shelves in this room, he thought that was really important. But the thing that he raised or came up in the interview was that there’s so much for every kind of item so one of these orthopaedic items you know I guess their knees and hips and things like that that you always need so many backups in case anything goes wrong, but you also need he calls it a distribution curve, so different sizes and outliers of sizes but then there’s also different types and preferences by different clinicians as well. So this has a different kind of supply chain and a different kind of timing and replenishment cycle which isn’t on the weekly like the consumables but a 48 hour cycle.

[Slide: Annual cycles of demand, with text:
Yes so again if you look at our demand profile, July and August it’s probably some of the lowest demand profile because our activity falls away – school holidays is almost you can look at the spend on consumables on a month by month basis and they do drop in July and August. And then strangely enough our busiest is from October to December, it takes off again. And interestingly enough, I’ve been here 10 years and it repeats itself every year it’s not a blip, it repeats itself. So whether you look at the cash expenditure, whether you look at the actual demand profile spent on consumables particularly does the same…And that is consistent to be fair. So if that’s consistent in consumables, that would be consistent in energy, consistent in resource, everything linked to it.]

Stan Blue: Another thing that he raised or another important thing he raised in this interview I suppose that was sort of striking and quite interesting was that both the consumables and the high value items run at quite steady annual cycles of demand that you can see in I guess in the procurement profiles of the well on the consumables for example. So he talks about that demand drops away in July and August, there’s not as much happening in the hospital because of the clinicians or a lot of the clinicians are going on holiday so the clinics kind of like slow down, don’t need as much stuff and he says that he’s been there for 10 years and it repeats itself every year. So it’s not a blip this is the cycle, picks up again in October to December and then builds up again until July and August and drops off because that’s consistent in everything. And he said if it’s consistent in consumables and you can see it in cash expenditure, etc. you can see it in everything else and he would expect it to be in energy. But anyway, so I suppose the things I’m raising here are that there’s different cycles with things like consumables and high value items and that they seem to be fairly repetitive at least or they have a rhythm to them or that’s how they’re perceived by the organisation and by Doug.

[Slide: Managing demand (1) – with more data. A picture showing a schematic of a RFID connection network (containing nodes like ‘monitoring’, ‘cloud’, ‘tag’, ‘database’, etc.) overlaid on a picture of a city, and text:
• Efficiency, FRID, just-in-time
…if we had RFID we may be able to have a map of the hospital and know where things are, but also by having a unique ID on the asset you can then start linking that to the maintenance records…and then…you can then then link product, place, patient, asset…resource the staff so we can then link the procedure, zap the patient, zap the clinician, zap the asset, zap the product, zap the place, you’ve got a total picture of who carried out the care, when did it start, when did it end…What products went into the procedure? Again are they the appropriate products and can we look at the variation on products? And patient and place.
So it opens up a whole raft of visibility that’s never been there before. But more importantly what it then allows us to do is look at those blocks of efficiency, back to demand for product, demand for people, demand for products and so forth. If we can get this visibility of stop, start number of people etc. you can then start to move those blocks of activity to more appropriate footpaths.]

Stan Blue: So, Doug wants to make the or in the interview he’s really excited because he wants to become the seventh for something like that hospital that’s going to you know streamline and manage demand, manage the stock much more efficiently by basically having a super data set, putting tags on everything and scanning everything, we call this is RFID system which is to try to get to a bit like Greg was saying kind of almost a just-in-time system. And the reasons for that are then there would be less time storing and stocking, yeah you know less time for clinicians and nursing and care staff trying to find items or order items, I think everything’s kind of on demand. And then they you know he talks about all the other benefits that this has about you know if you zap the patients, zap the clinicians, zap the assets, zap the products, zap the place, you’ve got a total picture of who carried it out, you know what training they’ve done, is I mean it’s very Orwellian, and you know what training they’ve done, you know who it was, you know which products are the most effective for which outcomes and the most appropriate products.

So, you get a whole new visibility he says that’s never been there before, and more importantly what they perceive this will do is allow them to look at blocks of efficiency those products and then move blocks of activity to more appropriate footpaths, basically making the, what they think kind of making the hospital more efficient. So one way to deal with demand is get a full and he talked about as well how you know he’s employing less and less if you like stock warehouse managers if you like on the floor and more data analysts and that’s that where they were hoping to move to more data analysts to predict to understand the pictures and move on.

[Slide: Managing demand (2) – convincing clinicians. A picture of clinicians in a huddle having a lively discussion and the text:
• Influence and evidence
We were just traditional buyers. Now it’s very much looking at the change management process, looking at how we can convince clinicians right at the start. We have to involve them and give them options. But what we are trying to do is work on a consensus of group basis, so rather than try and  accommodate every single clinicians requirements we want to work them as a group of clinicians and say right it’s not sensible that you’re using x, you’re using y and you’re using z. Can we have a majority decision here?
…But that data that we are talking about capturing through Scan for safety is invaluable to be able to prove that, because up till now it’s a bit anecdotal, Mr. X uses Y. But if we’ve got absolute certainty that those are the products, that was the patient and guess what you can link it to outcome eventually, then you’ve got that evidence to go back and show one, two, three clinicians, you’re clearly out, and we would cost that of course.]

Stan Blue: The other issue that he raised was about convincing clinicians. Clinicians have a particular you know thing they want to work with, they have a preference for this orthopaedic thing, this kind of scalpel, this kind of whatever and he sees the role of procurement and the stock systems as being you know more than just managing the stock for the clinicians but actually influencing how to make the most efficient and effective hospital actually. So, part of the scanning and the RFID is called “scan for safety” is about being able to give some evidence to say to you know surgeon whoever, actually you know these products have the best outcomes, you know other people use this and they can evidence that and convince clinicians to kind of join it. So those are the two things that he was interested, that he was kind of focused on pushing in the interview.

[Slide: Limits of adaptation (1) – connected timings. Graphic of long circular convoluted arrows and text:
B: Christmas is a good example where we will do a double order for a bank holiday. So a material manager is allocated to, they’ve got 15-20 locations that they manage and we’ll leave them in those areas so they get to know them very, very well. They get to know the people and they get to know the trends and they get to know the fast movers, the slow movers and so forth. Clearly by having material management what it means is we maintain variation, we agree what those products are and we don’t order either side of those. We stick
A: Within those limits.
B: And clearly what they’ll know is Christmas is coming up, so two weeks before the fast movers will order double and get those onto the ward, onto the area, into the department and then again after the bank holiday or whatever they’ll then run that back down again. So if you look at I think the ordering patterns in December, very early on in December you can see that they’ve spiked, where we’ll do some double ordering, but then in early January we taken it back down again, make sure we’ve got the stock. Because of course what people don’t necessarily appreciate is that whilst the NHS might close its back office systems for two days the majority of our manufacturers and distributers close for two weeks.]

Stan Blue: But what I thought was quite interesting, three things that came up in the interview as well, whether those what he’s trying to do in making that system itself within the hospital as a kind of like efficient as possible, streamlined as possible, just-in-time limit you know moving that capacity down basically, what’s quite interesting is that there are several things that are kind of like connected outside of the hospital, connected beyond the organisation of what he’s trying to do. So one really good example, when they get to Christmas, and they’ve got you know several bank holidays to deal with, what’s really important is that they have those you know even though he wants to move to the data analysts and things is that they have those people in place, the stock managers, the material managers who know the trends, know the what’s fast and what’s slow moving, and that they double up the order so but they you know they don’t have too much that they can’t hold it all on the or they you know clog up the system if you like, but they don’t have too little to not get them through the Christmas period.

I suppose what was interesting is that even though they kind of have that on site, that sort of timing and they can double up that order, is that actually the storage that’s more important if you like is the storage for the NHS supply chain which actually closes for two weeks. So he has here at the end of this quote, of course what we don’t realise is that while the NHS might close its back office or you know the hospitals, I think he means they might close their back office for a couple of days, of course clinical things are still happening. The manufacturers, distributors and the NHS supply chain are actually closed for two weeks over Christmas. In a way it’s kind of out on site having you know managing too much or too little, it’s also about trying to accommodate two weeks of closures. So storing, if you like kind of goes further up the line.

[Slide: Limits of adaptation (2) – webs of storage/ supply chain. A chain of interconnected green and pink rings and text:
Christmas is a really interesting one because it’s the only time of year where the supply chain is actually physically closed down. You can manage summer and you can manage vacation time, but Christmas is a really, a challenging time for supply chains. Particularly when you think a lot of products are coming from the Far East and of course the journey often starts three to four months before we take receipts of the goods, particularly if they are coming via shipping. They’re on the water for four or five weeks before we even get them. So this planning has to start round about now [Aug] for Christmas to make sure that the volumes are predicted. Now we work with supply chains to do that of course because they are the ones that
A: That’s where they get it.
B: That’s right. So we have an in plant from NHS supply chain who works with us at least one day a week and works in our team…we’re having those conversations all the time about what’s coming up, what we’re doing, how reactive we can be and so forth and planning, movement, shuts, if we’re closing beds, opening beds, those sort of things. That information flow is happening all the time. So any change can be reflected into the supply chain months in advance because as I said earlier it isn’t just, the gloves that we’re buying today were probably manufactured in January of this year. So for Christmas they were probably manufactured in June and that’s what we need to be, it’s not an instant supply turn it on and off.]

Stan Blue: You can see that as well in the you know carrying on talking about Christmas is that it’s not just that storing kind of like goes up the line with the you know having it more storage at the supply chain, but actually the tempo of that. So even if you want to just-in-time, scan everything coming on demand, that’s fine within the hospital and fine for the supply chain, but of course you know as he points to here that actually the stuff that’s coming in for Christmas is actually being made in January and February and shipped in August. So he has this nice in the second half of this quote, he has this nice thing where he says we’re really responsive, we’re having conversations all the time about what’s coming up, what we’re doing, how reactive we can be, planning, shutting beds, closing beds, opening and what this matters for what we need to order. But then he also sort of recognises that but of course it’s not an instant supply, we can’t turn it on and off because we have to make those orders six months, you know, nine months in advance.

[Slide: Limits of adaptation (3) – Inventory to shape the flow of demand in and beyond the hospital, with text:
It isn’t all about going for the lowest possible price, it’s about the contribution the product makes, the whole lifetime costs of that product and so then if we can get a more reliable product or something that speeds up the recovery and therefore the discharge, we might have to spend a little bit more in this area to make significant savings over here. And that can cut into obviously primary and secondary care in terms of…this is a bit of a dilemma for us at the moment I suppose. As an acute provider we could actually make investment decisions on product and services that the benefit actually sits out here in the community. And how do we bridge that financial gap by that extra investment being brought here on technology and innovation that benefits the community and the secondary provider.
A: Yes when it has that almost knock on effect or extra benefit.
B: Correct. That’s not mature enough at the moment in my view, we’re still looking at the patient flow if you like, the patient experience to our back door. And clearly the patient wouldn’t see it as that, they would see it as the whole journey right the way through to recovery at home and beyond. And at the moment we sort of, we don’t absolve responsibility, but certainly financially that where it ends for us and there is just something about if we look at more of a holistic approach to technology and demand and innovation could we improve it, but in terms of the patient experience but obviously the overall cost.]

Stan Blue: And then the last thing I suppose that I found that I sort of thought was quite interesting about this interview with Doug is the maybe a bit ambitiously for him, but it was really interesting that he recognised that if you like this you know the stock system the kind of things that they’re using in items, inventory, medicines, what have you, matters for the services that are happening in the hospital, matters for recovery, matters for discharge. And so as they can, the procurement team if you like, the stock management team actually see themselves, yet a bit ambitiously, see themselves as actually being able to shape the services of the hospital and maybe even outside of the hospital. So he’s saying we could actually use procurement, invest in procurement to give benefits actually out into the community, maybe even shaping the flow of demand itself. So he says we’re not quite there yet but there’s this kind of there is this idea he says at the bottom a holistic approach to technology and demand to connect the services in the hospital that’s underlined by this stock system if you like.

[Slide: Storage as some kind of interconnected barometer. Picture of a laundry basket full of clothes and a barometer and text:
“washing baskets, ironing piles, wardrobes, chairs, and even floors all acted as ‘devices’ employed to judge the required flow of laundry items through the sequence of activities, working as barometers for the circulation of laundry items around the home.” (Mylan and Southerton 2017)
• Just-in-time logic, standardisation and efficiency to ‘manage demand’.
• Just enough? Enough for what? Based on what?
• Has a feedback logic and is interconnected across supply chains and timings
• Storage here as a metaphor for energy demand, but of course storage and use of consumables, shapes services, which matter for demand of energy.]

Stan Blue: So just a final couple of thoughts. I remember Dale came to visit us in the demand centre a few years ago and he’s writing and this paper which is published now with Joe Milan which was about I suppose kind of about laundry, but the idea that I really took away from it was that the laundry basket or all other areas in the house, ironing piles and wardrobes become kind of like barometers for the flow of activities in the house supporting all kinds of you know all kinds of activities, the school uniform and the gym kit and the Sunday best and all the rest. The washing basket becomes kind of barometer and gives a sense you know the storage of the washing machine gives a sense of you know the activities that are happening. And so I suppose in some ways the kind of the storage system in the hospital also gives a kind of is a barometer of the activities in the hospital, but it’s also a kind of like performative one or it’s interconnected as well.

Yeah, moving to this kind of just-in-time logic, a standardisation and this efficiency to manage demand, I think there’s interesting questions to ask you know just-in-time, just enough for what, based on what and moving to that kind of a logic and a streamlined stock system or something, what’s the effect of that, what’s the feedback of that across the organisation of those services and you know this example shows that of course that the possibility for adapting that system is connected and interconnected back across these supply chains. So I suppose what it left me thinking was that storage is a metaphor in some ways, these kind of interconnections, the feedback and the storage as an interconnected barometer is kind of a metaphor for energy demand. But I suppose more interestingly this story about hospitals and storage, the use of consumables, how this shapes services, actually this is intertwined and connected with a story about energy demand as well. Jacopo, you are the first person on my screen if I’m going to have a system.

Jacopo Torriti: Thank you both, I made me think quite a lot. I’ll start from, I just want to make a point on what Greg said about contingency and how it cannot be measured, and I think you know I think what we learned from these you know two presentations is that contingency like storage is about it’s often about adding stuff. And storage in energy system is about physical boxes which are a bit everywhere and have a cost so it’s kind of an addition to the infrastructure which without storage let’s say. And to me the kind of smart digital logistics of just-in-time is about reducing those margins of contingency, so to kind of towards an optimisation or efficiency model and so I think those two forces are in play. And in a sense they are using the measurement of contingency. So I think in the examples there are things like additional volumes like litres of petrol during an expected strike. The example of the barometers for the washing basket is one that is obviously great. There are also other things like the space for parking for lorries in case of a no deal Brexit, and the additional time also in you know like the one day of supplies for hospitals during Christmas is another great example. I think those are all additions, so contingency as in adding to the space, the time, the volumes of what is normal. And so I mean obviously as an economist we always think of looking at what can we measure rather than not, and I think those are placeholders in my head for towards measuring contingency I’d say.

Stan Blue: Yeah, can contingency be measured? Dale, you’re next on my screen if that’s okay.

Dale Southerton: Thanks, both Greg and Stan for your talks. I mean obviously I’m going to go straight to laundry baskets because why not. I mean I think what one of the things about the basket-as-barometer type argument, sorry, I have some drilling going on I don’t know if you can hear that, is that you know, Unilever picked up on it and sat did you know they sort of bought into the whole concept that you need to not focus so much on you know storage. Where’s the stuff stored and how can that be shifted? And so they came up with a load of things which may be a bit gimmicky and so on but it did work. So they invented things which were you know different kinds of fabric freshener things and ways of arranging laundry storage, and their data which I don’t know anything about how robust it is did significantly reduce the number of laundry.

The amount of time and labour had, which was a key thing for them and the number of washing loads in a household, so that you know focusing and shifting on storage rather than washing machines and textiles in the way that they normally did make a difference. One of the things that sort of came up in my head and it sort of also links into Greg’s talk as well, it’s partly just because I mean a couple of weeks ago Elizabeth and I, well Elizabeth gave a talk and I attended in a memorial lecture for how Hal Wilhite and Hal wrote some really nice work 20 years ago on just-in-case, and Alan and I have been thinking about this as well. So can we think about just what’s just right as opposed to what’s just-in-case? So, just-in-case is this kind of storing up stuff in case we might need it in the future and you know, and I think those are really quite interesting ideas and some of the stuff around resilience I’ve been unfortunately for me caught in rooms with environmental scientists who talk about resilience which I have a major problem with. And that because my problem with the concept of resilience is that it assumes forms of normality that, and it’s about trying to create ways to maintain that normality and to build things up.

So all sorts of things are getting stored during COVID in the fear that the whole world’s going to collapse and so on. So it’s really a lot, that’s a very long way of getting around saying what I think is really important about this topic and particularly coming out of your talk, Stan, is the way in which different capacities and storage and not just the physical storage but the way we think about storage holds in place forms, arrangements of normality. And so yeah, I think I’ll probably just stop that, but that’s what I think is really important.

Stan Blue: Yeah, holding in place and yeah making maybe even reinforcing those normal patterns and services. James, you’ve got your hand up but you’re also next on my screen.

James Wright: Okay, so for those that don’t know me I just finished a PhD in sort of information security but focused on smart grids, but my interest is risk and time at the moment. So these two talks kind of raised three points in my head. The one like when you sort of said that the RFID system is Orwellian. It’s not necessarily Orwellian, it’s Taylorist, and when you view these systems through like the Taylorist scientific management of labor and supply lens, you then get very interesting questions about sort of agency when it comes to resilience. So one of the books that I’m reading at the moment is called “Re-engineering Humanity” by Frischmann and Selinger and it’s all about exploring how these Taylorist systems sort of chip away at certain capacities we’ve had. So he is trying to, kind of the Doug character that you mentioned, is trying to kind of abstract away our sort of appreciation of how we structure our storage giving it all over to these sort of like how you feature machine learning algorithms and getting the machine learning algorithms to then try and predict the future.

So, it is removing the agency and thus the resiliency of our ability to make adaptive changes, and have sort of the kind of the horizontal movements that we can have if you’re just streamlining into this very Taylorist just-in-time logic. So, the kind of the big second one for me was the sort of it was Greg’s talk where it seemed to be sort of focusing on what network, what sort of like adaptive networks that had appeared and built up in certain situations, but hadn’t analysed how the sort of social relations of those communities had changed that kind of level of lateral movement. So there are famous historical examples of, it was the 1964 earthquake in Alaska where the already existing sort of social orders and what the government had put in place in case of natural disaster just collapsed and the community just kind of came together organically and how these sort of social relationships have changed.

So I can’t remember the contemporary person but they were talking about how contemporary child care because we don’t let our children run free, therefore that they have these deficiencies in exploration and risk taking. But sort of his analysis didn’t look at the social order that, you’re right about child care being a kind of a difficult thing to organise these days. But then there is the example in the book called ‘Life and Death of the American City’, where it’s an ethnographic look at this one street and what she notices with the child care is that the parents let their children run free because they know that the entire street is sort of surveilling and observing the children on the street. And the case that she picks up on is like a stranger who no one in the community knows appears and starts talking to the children and within five minutes the entire kind of community that is available and free turns up and interrogates the stranger. So there is this sort of gradual decline in the community social relations that this degradation has sort of shrunk the amount of lateral movement we can have in our adaptation.

And the final very kind of quick point that I wanted to add as far as the timing and the supply chain stuff is, none of the analysis seems to have looked at like the ordering in the supply chain. But yes that you can if you sort of shrink these storages down as much as possible, it’s going to get the flow but it doesn’t look at the complexity of item A may need to arrive and be assembled before item B can begin. So there will be these still sort of pockets of storage just to kind of keep. So yeah, so those are the kind of the three things that the two talks raised in me, and if people want citations and want to drop me off.

Stan Blue: Yeah, folks that last point was exactly what I was trying to say was like, that storage you know you slim it down further down the line, but it has to get backed up kind of. There has to be capacity somewhere. Yeah. Nicola, you’re next on my screen if that’s okay.

Nicola Labanca: I would like to stress a couple of points because basically you address some aspect related to the possibility of measuring contingency, the relation between storage and the adaptability, but I would like to point out the relationship existing between storage and the information and the information networks. Because basically what is happening is that storage is considered by organisations as a risk and inefficiency. And the trend is that we can reduce this inefficiency and the risk by increasing integration into information networks. And so there is this balance and trade-off, the more we decrease the storage, the more we are supposed to become efficient and the more we get integrated into the information network. But the point is that with this kind of trend, risk itself changes because if previously we could still pretend to calculate risk either by probabilities or by some kind of deterministic approach and in this way we were objectifying risk, we were taking distance by from risk.

With an integration into information networks, we realised a kind of delegation process and we assumed that risk is somehow processing through the information network. And so somehow we are assuming that we can exclude the risk by including risk by processing it within the information network. It’s a kind of immune system; we want to neutralise a risk by englobing it and by processing it through the information network. And so, information network and data do not reduce contingency. They are what are supposed to allow to be flexible. You know because we enter in a kind of paradigm where we are supposed to be able to continuously to adapt. This is basically how I see this relationship between storage information risk and the efficiency also.

Stan Blue: Really interesting! So in some ways the shifting the storage to the information networks making faster is even more flexible or supposed to be even more flexible even more.

Nicola Labanca: Yeah, also in this way risks become more indefinite more indeterminate. Risk changes, because we lose the capacity to predict and to calculate but and at the same time we introduce new sources of risk you know because the functioning I tried to describe was the functioning condition of normal functioning, you know, but the disruption becomes more indeterminate and more possible I can say because we increase the intricacies and the possibility in this way to create more disruptions in the system.

Stan Blue: Thank you, Nicola. Jen, you’re next on my screen.

Jen Whillans: Hi, so I have a slightly random collection of thoughts. I can’t say that many of them actually relate to energy demands but I’ll speak on the kind of concepts of adaptation, resilience and storage. So, my first bundle of thoughts was does adaptation, resilience and storage, does it always relate to accumulating and storing up or does it ever actually relate to getting rid of things? So having to adapt by getting rid of things. And so, for example, pubs getting rid of beer in their pumps and selling at a cheaper rate and that’s one way of kind of keeping things afloat as a household, like potentially like recently I’ve been clearing out some stuff, gosh what if we need to move soon because of XYZ uncertainty. So does adaptation ever involve getting rid of stuff? The second kind of set of ideas that I had kind of came off the back of Greg’s presentation where he talked about working from home and obviously certain people don’t have the ability to do that self-employed, sorry you know changes in childcare and self-employed people and essential workers, and it just made me think about kind of social differentiation of resilience and contingency. And that certain people and sectors and even scales and sizes of organisations have different choices available to them in terms of their ability to store or to respond to change.

And so I guess my I’ve kind of in my mind shifted from thinking about organisations to the household. So Stan I was quite relieved when you went from kind of talk about the NHS to actually, in the house, in homes, laundry baskets and it just made me think about the differences between those scales. So, sorry I can’t remember your name, the chap that was speaking just before me talked about in organisations like storage is seen as risky and inefficient, and actually those kind of moral undertones to storage and adaptation, because in the household, storing things, even dormant things that we don’t use, it’s kind of a morally responsible things. Oh, I should store them up, just in case you know. It’ll be silly of me to get rid of them. So yeah, just the kind of the moral undertones at various different levels in terms of how we go about responding to circumstances. So there we are, that was my random collection of thoughts.

Stan Blue: Thanks, Jen. I mean it’s interesting to come back to that just-in-case and just-in-time, and I guess you’re right that those discourses about the kind of the stripping down and the seamless, they’re probably a bit conflicted as well in the NHS. So there are, I’m sure there are discourses about just-in-case as well and similarly in the home, so you’re right, sometimes getting rid of stuff, just-in-case and just-in-time, they’re quite neat. Marius, you’re next on my screen.

Marius Korsnes: Okay, thank you. Yeah, I just have a couple of thoughts as well. The first thing I was thinking, Greg’s presentation was that it was interesting how toilet paper had such a low contingency it seemed or is it high contingency, anyways it had at least, it was very important for us as COVID entered and that was surprising to me definitely. There’s something more to learn about this topic. But what I’ve been thinking about you’ve been talking about risk connected to storage, and to me I was thinking more about trust or lack of trust in a way, because if you’re storing up a lot of things it shows that you are basically not really trusting that you’ll be able to get those things. I was thinking particularly about something I’ve been wanting to study for some time, so if you have if you know about someone who’s already studied it, just let me know because I’m interested. But you know these doomsday preppers that are existing everywhere in the world I think that are basically storing up on a lot of things and of course people would say that’s not the most efficient way of doing things, particularly if when it comes to food I think they’re storing up things that are not really consumed at the end of everything.

I mean even the government, I’m from Norway, I’m based in Norway, and last year the government sent out a note to everyone saying that we should try to keep at least three days-worth of food in our houses and giving some advice just in case there’s a blackout and so on. So this issue of trust I think is related also to how we’re used to having things available and I guess those who are preppers they simply don’t really trust. So, there’s I guess their contingency is also different so that could also be a different measure of contingency.

Stan Blue: Thanks, Marius. Nick, I’ve got you next.

Nick Eyre: Thanks, Stan and thanks to Greg as well for his talk and actually to everybody else who’s spoken out the things, that I want to say seem to change as we go through the list of other contributors. I think what it’s made me think about is three dichotomies that have been talked about, well, two of them have been talked and one’s in my head. The two that have been talked about are between demand flexibility and storage, and then there’s been talk about a dichotomy between efficiency and resilience, and the one in my head is between goods and services. Stan, you’ve talked a bit about demand flexibility and storage as alternatives, and I think that’s sort of known in the energy flexibility literature, particularly the electricity flexibility literature, I mean, Jacopo obviously knows a lot about that. And then in economics they’re just seen as alternative ways of providing flexibility, but I mean clearly the way that flexibility is provided is pretty different. I wonder what the implications are for the efficiency versus resilience dichotomy. I mean, clearly the efficiency paradigm comes out of our physics and economics and applies to, yeah, only really works in if there’s no uncertainty at all whereas resilience is much more important if you’re thinking about uncertainty.

And I thought that the last point that Marius made there about trust, you know, how much do different people trust the official view of what the future is or the extent to which the present is going to continue into the future. And that I think feeds back to your point Stan about you know really trying to understand, hospitals really trying to understand the uncertainties that they face but presumably actually still face uncertainties as we’ve found out in the last year though to some extent are reducible. But it didn’t make me think about goods and services. Because I think storage is about storing stuff, including possibly energy. It’s difficult to say how you would store a service, alright. So you can in hospital you can store a bandage, but you can’t store nursing right. So if you need nursing on a Thursday, you can’t do a bit more nursing on a Wednesday, and you see you move the demand for it to the Wednesday but you can’t move the nursing right. Whereas, so I just wondered if this is a helpful way to think about the relationship between demand flexibility and storage is that they’re actually trying to work on different bits of what we as those are energy researchers tend to think of differently as goods and services. So there’s absolutely probably nothing useful there to anybody, but that’s what I was thinking.

Stan Blue: I think that it’s really useful to frame them as dichotomies between flex and storage efficiency, resilience and goods and services but I think there’s also quite a few interesting questions about and they seem to be related as you’re saying Nick, but also how to understand the relationship between them as dichotomous or not. So, Samuele.

Samuele Lo Piano: Thank you, Stan, thank you the presenters here and as well as the comments I really received. Well, I guess the points I want you to raise have already been raised. I mean I wanted also to speak about the dichotomy between efficiency and resilience and contingency I mean, but the point has already been very clearly made by Nick as well as Nicola. What I can add is just maybe a reflection, I mean a reflection related to the hospital exemplary you were bringing I mean, say the just-in-time and so hiring more data analysts, which is kind of okay of the logic of you know the cartesian narrative of prediction and control. So simply look at the pattern, look at that I’m serious, blah blah. I mean again think about black swans, think about and it’s again connected to uncertainty, what if an unforeseen event takes place, I showed up at that precise point I mean. And that goes back a bit okay to I think there is a strong link with those images that Rex was showing of flooded areas I think I were clearly black swans. And so yeah definitely that was the point I wanted to make. I mean, yeah, that okay that clearly you want to implement just-in-time, get more efficient, but then when it comes to the next one what you’re gonna do.

Stan Blue: Oh Greg, you’ve got your hand up! Did you want to come back on something?

Greg Marsden: Yeah, it’s just a couple of points in the discussion, just on black swans. I think pandemics were number one on the national risk register. So, in a sense it was at best a grey swan rather than a black swan. But maybe we didn’t have the collective imagination to think about what it might be. But just on the discussion on what’s storable and what isn’t storable, I think that’s came through a lot in our work. So I think that the non-storable things are things which you know are time critical. So, services definitely fall into that basket, you know, if it’s perishable, once that point in time has gone, that point in time can’t be re-had. Although, I’m not quite sure that it’s as clear-cut as services versus products because you have a stock of services. So, when everyone went to buying online with the COVID 19, there weren’t enough delivery drivers. So, what did they do? They recruited a load more delivery drivers and now we’ve got a much bigger stock of services which is now in circulation probably in perpetuity because now we’ve got that stock of services and a different kind of system of provision where you know we’re able to deal with larger volumes. So, events like Black Friday are probably now less of a problem than they were three or four years ago when suddenly that was difficult to deal with.

But I think I’d also want to bring back some of the discussion to this idea of expectations and that goes back to storage as well. So, look, the amount of stuff that’s in the NHS storage rooms that you were looking at is also partly a function of what kind of health service and system and expectations of healthcare we’ve decided to provide as our system of provision. And that drives in turn the number of consultants that we’ve got, and once you’ve got those consultants, they’re going to find the number of operations they’re going to do, and that’s going to require a certain amount of stock and so on. So, I think this notion of understanding the relationship with changing expectations is really critical and lots of people have kind of been pointing to that in different ways so, I thought it’d be useful to bring that back.

Stan Blue: Thanks, Greg. I think that’s really important, that’s I suppose that’s also what I was trying to say with the linking Joe and Dale’s washing baskets, like the stock room or the stock system in some ways is kind of yeah, a barometer of the kind of health system and the kind of services and the expected healthcare that you can. So, it’s a representation, like it’s come about, you’ve got those stock systems and you can see, then you try to change them to just-in-time to meet that set of already established healthcare priorities and expectations. In a way it’s like a dichotomous relationship but also they’re kind of impacting each other like all the time. Anyway, sorry.

Greg Marsden: I mean just like what would your wash basket have looked like in 1913, how many changes of clothes did you have, we’ve got a completely different expectation on that. I mean I think the efficiency one is also a real challenge because that talks to institutional boundaries. So, it might be inefficient for me specifically to stock those items in a room because of the space that it takes up, but it might be hugely inefficient from a system perspective to have a requirement that therefore stuff needs to be here on-demand. I’ve just pushed the problem outside of my boundary and someone else’s. So, I find, yeah, I find the whole efficiency discussion quite troubling in this space.

Stan Blue: Can I invite Mikko next?

Mikko Jalas: Yeah, thanks, Stan. Well, this is a kind of point of the discussion that I think we have discussed quite little, prices and the market system as kind of bringing about some kind of stability. So obviously supply and demand matches when somehow when the markets work but then these blackouts or droughts or flooding or something that’s like something that the market does not handle at all of course. So, flexibility and resilience related to market supply and demand is another thing and the kind of unexpected events is something quite different and you prepare also for them in a different way. So, thinking of the kind of market stability then I guess it’s quite important to notice that there’s a lot of contracting over time, so different organisations commit to the future deliveries of course and you have delivery times and all of that so we have a kind of whole architecture of kind of in-time contract.

Then I’m thinking that the visibility of stocks is something that we didn’t discuss at all. So, I’m thinking that particularly if you have kind of business actors they are not willing to kind of expose their inventories and so on and so forth, and yet this would be needed for some kind of an overview of how we should organise flexibility. So that’s kind of a thing. And still for organising flexibility maybe the hospital example gave me kind of two thoughts. Firstly, I was thinking of some supply that is not based on market actors like let’s say blood donation; so we need a steady supply of blood donation and it’s not something that you can buy, so there’s a lot of kind of gifting type of thing going on.

Like for example in Finland, there would be a public monitor of what blood types are low of supply and there’s prompting of donators to go in and donate. And so, this kind of a quite another form of organising supply is interesting. And still kind of remaining in the hospital area, I think that services can certainly be stored because there’s like, we would have a six-month store queue for particular operations, and if there’s some kind of disruption in the supply of these services that the queue just you know extends. So, the queue is kind of a buffer that operates as kind of like it’s not a kind of inventory of you know the service but it’s the opposite of that. It’s kind of that, how would I say, demand is in stock or we have an inventory of demand when there is a queue. So queueing is one of these future or time related technologies.

And finally, still I’m quite interested in let’s say that the hospitals have a low time in July and of course there’s a lot of kind of capital investment going into hospitals. So, the logic of somehow capital profit making would have a stable as possible production process. So, I’m thinking that there are then some other reasons that contribute to these peaks, and it’s some kind of like I guess here it’s a negotiation between the capital owners and then the doctors or other surgeons who want to have their holiday in July. So peaks are then some kind of a indication of a kind of a contrast in interest or something like that.

Stan Blue: Thank you very much, Mikko. Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Shrove: Thanks, I’m still sort of struggling to work out what the topic is here. And all the talks are really interesting, so I get going and I get further along and get quite excited including by the comments like Mikko just talking about the market and Nicola talking about information, and the centre of the table seems to constantly move away. In other words. I can understand that all of these things are actually about the constitution of some version of normal and I appreciate Nick’s effort to try and bring some system to this discussion. I actually disagree with his dichotomies quite a lot, but I appreciate the kind of struggle that he’s engaged in there. And so for me, and Stan said is this a metaphor, is this storage is standing for something else and I think maybe we’re all standing for something else but we don’t quite know what it is. Maybe there are just lots of different things implicitly behind the contributions and behind the questions that haven’t quite come together yet. So I suppose I’m, you know, whether goods and services is a similar or different kind of issue, it depends what the question is and I don’t know what the question is, so I’m still thinking about that. That’s just a thought.

Stan Blue: Perhaps, Jose?

Jose Luis Ramirez-Mendiola: Well, I’m also not very sure how useful this might be but all this talk about stock storage and systems of provision got me thinking about how there’s certain disruptions that could create opportunities for a tighter integration of those systems of provision and therefore increase the flexibility of the system as a whole, but somehow they’re being missed. And we saw a very clear example of that during the COVID lockdowns and I’m thinking about the case of the shortage of certain products in supermarkets where the demand for things like soap or flour skyrocketed in supermarkets but at the same time it went to the bottom for the suppliers of things like restaurants and industries and things that we’re not seeing that much activity during those days.

So that sort of inability of the system to you know re-route those chains of supply to different sectors of the system is creating this sort of artificial shortages of products because there are some storage pockets in different parts of the system and somehow they’re not being seen and they’re not taken into account to better redistribute the resources, which could potentially be very helpful and reduce the stress put on to the system. Somehow they’re not being even considered. So that was just what I was thinking about.

Stan Blue: So I come back to you, James. I was just going to say I was just thinking about Elizabeth’s comment about the centre of the table moving and I was thinking, I don’t know but when Greg brought the conversation back to expectation, or I know you kind of started as with that, I was thinking actually a lot of what we’ve been talking about has been the relationship between expectation as it’s made and the limits of adaptation. So I suppose potential flexibility, and I guess a lot of these things are circling for me. Well for me, that’s how I’ve been framing some of the discussion. James?

James Wright: So, I was sort of a similar ilk but sort of Greg’s bringing it back reminded me a lot of the debate about how capitalism changed our kind of appreciation of time in the book ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. So, what he points out, before you have sort of this very linear conceptualisation of the future, we just place everything on like the cycle, either cycling of events or just event after event after event. But then capitalism sort of redefines the order of time and you have like this very linear sort of appreciation of work, we’re constantly going forward. So, I feel that the answer, to try and sort of broadly answer Elizabeth’s question, is, for the system whose imagination of the future are we on and how much lateral movement and sort of flexibility does that imagination of the future entail those within that system. Because if it’s a very linear we’re just sort of focusing on profits, then yes storage is an inefficiency that we need to get rid of. But how that lack of storage then decreases the amount of lateral movement and agency we have if that vision of the future doesn’t come to fruition.

Stan Blue: Thank you so much everyone, thanks so much Greg for the talk and the presentation, input and thanks everyone for your comments, it has been really great.

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