What Is a Logistics Manager? Exploring This Under-the-Radar Supply Chain Role
Every day, an almost unfathomable amount of goods, parts and raw materials crisscross the globe in order to keep the world’s economy churning. This massive daily undertaking requires a lot of skilled workers and adept logistics professionals overseeing them.
That massive scale is good news for job seekers, but if you’re plotting potential career paths within supply chain management and logistics, you may have some questions about these roles. One of the more advanced positions in this sometimes-overlooked field is that of a logistics manager.
This role can cover a lot of ground—and not just in terms of shipping. Read on to learn more about what logistics managers do, what it takes to be effective and more.
What is a logistics manager?
Before we can answer this, it’s important to keep in mind that “logistics manager” is an umbrella term that can cover several job titles. Common logistics management job titles include:
- Distribution center manager
- Fleet manager
- Global transportation manager
- Logistics director
- Shipping manager
- Warehouse supervisor
While the details of the day-to-day work in these roles will vary, they all involve overseeing the transport, storage and procurement of goods in a supply chain. Logistics managers must plan how to get the products they need to ship and then forecast the best and most efficient way to transport those goods. Another role of managing the supply chain involves oversight of the warehousing and storage of goods.
If this sounds like a significant amount of responsibility, that’s because it is! Which is why it comes with significant earning potential as well. The May 2021 median annual salary for transportation, storage and distribution managers was $98,230, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.1 That’s more than twice the $41,950 national median annual wage for all occupations in 2020.1
What does a logistics manager do?
While the big picture summary of what a logistics manager is responsible for might seem straightforward, their work consists of much more than just making sure a product gets on a truck and out for delivery.
Logistics managers are often tasked with resolving transportation and storage problems that regularly occur, such as weather delays, geopolitical situations, theft and damage, according to Philip DiPatrizio of LILLY + Associates International.
The daily duties for logistics managers typically include the following:
- Supervising employees
- Addressing customer issues or complaints
- Developing operating strategies, plans or procedures
- Maintaining safety in the workplace
In this line of work, everything must be accounted for, and this requires precise documentation. For that reason, logistics managers spend ample time maintaining reports and keeping organized records of their inventory. They also collaborate with concurrent departments, such as accounting or customer sales, to make sure that all processes are in order.
To ensure that all supply chain processes are operating smoothly, DiPatrizio highlights some important questions that logistics managers might ask themselves on a daily basis: Are goods being delivered on time? Are shipments on the most optimized routes, at the lowest rates available? These are just a few of the things these professionals need to consider.
What skills do you need to be a logistics manager?
Managing the daily operations of a logistics outfit isn’t a walk in the park and requires an interesting mix of practical skills to be effective. To offer some more pointed insight into the job requirements of this advanced career path, we used job posting analysis software to take a closer look at over 98,000 transportation, storage and distribution manager job postings from the past year.2 This data helped us identify some of the top skills employers are seeking:2
- Logistics management
- Warehouse operations management
- Supervisory skills
- Inventory management/control
- Customer service
- Occupational health and safety
- Project management
- Process improvement
In addition to these major skills are two traits that DiPatrizio says may contribute to an individual succeeding as a logistics manager: the ability to work under pressure and stellar organizational skills. Both will help you effectively navigate and adjust to unplanned challenges that spring up—and work with the understandably concerned clients or higher-ups hoping to avoid costly delays.
While many of these skills can be learned on the job through practical experience, a focused degree program in Supply Chain and Logistics Management can help round out your business and logistical operations expertise.
Where do logistics managers work?
The simple answer to this is anywhere goods are transported and stored. That includes retail distribution centers, wholesale parts warehouses, regional shipping centers and more. Some work as internal members of an organization’s logistics team. Others find work as employees of third-party logistics firms that use their expertise to manage logistical work on behalf of clients.
Geographically, these roles are typically more concentrated in areas that have major manufacturing hubs or are well-connected to shipping and transport infrastructure like seaports, major interstate connection points, rail yards or large airports. That said, logistics roles in smaller concentrations can be found across the country.
Manage your career
There is plenty to consider when it comes to working as a logistics manager. And as you’ve now learned, there is also huge variety in what the job title may encompass.
Take it from an experienced professional: “In the logistics field, every day is different. An individual who enjoys daily challenges and doesn’t mind making a living as a problem solver would be a perfect fit,” DiPatrizio says. Does this sound like the right career for you?
Earning a degree in Supply Chain and Logistics Management can help prepare you for a wide array of critical logistics positions. Learn more about some of your potential options with our article “What Can You Do With a Supply Chain Management Degree? 9 Careers to Consider.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [accessed March 2022] https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113071.htm. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 98,689 transportation, storage and distribution manager job postings, Mar. 1, 2021 – Feb. 28, 2022)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated to include information relevant to 2022. Insight from DiPatrizio remains from the original article.