First Container Race is Underway

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Most goods travel from one location to another in standard shipping containers that can be sealed and loaded intact onto container ships, railroad cars, and trucks. Containers are generally 20-foot or 40-foot steel boxes, with a capacity of approximately 1,179 or 2400 cubic feet, respectively.

In an international shipment, a container might travel by any combination of transportation modes. This requires carefully choreographed hand-offs, from truck to port and then from port to ship for example. Each hand-off brings a chance of delay. Velocity also depends on schedules of shipping companies, throughput capacities at the ports, and precision of scheduling pick-ups and drop-offs.

To study these issues, the class in global supply chains taught by Professor John Bartholdi at the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute and with MedShare International, has finalized plans for the first Great Container Race to begin on May 7, 2008. The students in the Bartholdi's class will sort medical supplies and will be on-hand as the medical equipment is loaded into the two 40-foot containers. Then they will track these two containers as they travel by alternate routes and carriers to the University of Cape Coast Hospital in the West African nation of Ghana. The students will analyze the efficiency of the routes.

One container will travel by rail to Savannah, meet a French liner to Le Havre, transship to Tema, and then continue by truck 100 miles to Cape Coast. The other will travel by truck to Savannah, meet a Danish liner to Algeciras, Spain, transship to Tema, and then by truck to the final destination for Cape Coast, Ghana.

The race is expected to take about 35 days.

Rather than race empty containers, Bartholdi and his team preferred to do something meaningful and so contacted MedShare International, which serves as a recycling and distribution center for surplus medical supplies and equipment. MedShare collects batch and single items that are still valuable but no longer in demand in the United States and redistributes these products to healthcare facilities in economically developing countries that have little or no medical resources.

The University of Cape Coast Hospital is a teaching hospital that serves staff, students and member of the surrounding communities. The acquisition of MedShare supplies and equipment will allow the hospital to provide improved services to an increased number of patients.

"The logistics of moving humanitarian aid from the U.S. to the economically developing world is one of the most challenging aspects of our mission. Any time we can have outside consultation that might lead to improved efficiency in that logistical process, we're delighted. We look forward to the forthcoming insight into the challenges and nuances of shipping our forty-foot containers,* said A.B. Short, MedShare co-founder and CEO.

For more information:
Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute:

H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering:

MedShare International:



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  • Created By:
    Barbara Christopher
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  • Modified By:
    Fletcher Moore
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