This paper examines logistics in the space of action between production and consumption to provide (1) a rethinking of logistical power, not as seamless flow but through seam space and friction, and (2) a re-conceptualisation of cargo mobilities, as the dynamic articulation between things being freight cargo, and being products and goods. The paper uses empirical research on cargo movement in Northern Europe to reveal the frictions resulting from freight cargo’s spatial ordering and from systemic imbalances in trade flows. It shows the multiple lines of friction produced by and productive of cargo mobilities across maritime and terrestrial space. It argues that logistics is an art of accommodating this and creating competitive advantage through making interruptions, discontinuities or seams in the spaces of flow. This is done through different temporal logics of ordering physical cargo sequenced across maritime and terrestrial space. The paper further shows the frictions between the physical spaces and flows of freight and the corresponding code-space and data flows. Bespoke corporate systems translate freight cargo to data and provide visibility to actors such that logistical and regulatory work can be anticipated and planned. Yet they do so through specific lines of sight. Bespoke systems also create seam spaces between networks as they simultaneously make frictions between rival corporate systems. The effect is to generate a contested, fractured space in which at stake is whether logistics works to further the interests of lead actors in the distribution chain linking up the global factory or as a tool of supply chain capitalism that spans continents and connects material supply to consumer, in which logistical actors increasingly perform the role of contractors in a global warehouse.
Gregson, N., Crang, M., & Antonopoulos, C. (2017). Holding together logistical worlds: friction, seams and circulation in the emerging ‘global warehouse’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35(3), 381-398. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775816671721