What is Logistics? Examining this Overlooked Industry

what is logistics

You may not realize it, but logistics is kind of a big deal!

In fact, the United States’ expenditures on logistics in 2009 were larger than the gross national product of all but 12 countries in the world.

Despite its incredible scale and importance, logistics is an industry that flies under most people’s radars. You’ve likely seen the catchy UPS commercials offering up simple examples of what logistics is. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably left scratching your head wondering, ‘What is logistics, really?’ after seeing it.

We enlisted some experts to answer that very question. Keep reading to learn about this impactful industry.

So, what is logistics?

“[Logistics] is simply assisting companies in moving their products and materials into, out of and around the country,” says Terri Danz, director of Dakini International Logistics, Inc. She describes a logistician as a “travel agent for things.”

"Without logistics, there would be no products at your retails stores."

This is seemingly straightforward, but in a global economy where hundreds or even thousands of factors from across the world can influence the availability of crucial elements within a supply chain, you need people to make sure things run smoothly. That’s where logisticians come in.

“The majority of individuals, unless they are in the transportation or import/export business, have never considered how many miles the products they use on a daily basis have traveled,” says Ashley Boroski, head of business development and strategy at LILLY + Associates International. “Without logistics, there would be no products at your retail stores!”

What do logisticians do?

Logisticians are responsible for the analysis and coordination of a business’ entire supply chain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the typical duties of logisticians include:

  • Directing the allocation of materials, supplies & finished products
  • Developing business relationships with suppliers & customers
  • Working with customers to understand their needs & how to meet them
  • Designing strategies to minimize cost or time required for moving products
  • Reviewing logistical functions & identifying areas for improvement

Danz says in her experience a logistician’s day can include a wide variety of tasks. This might include the configuration of upcoming shipments, obtaining shipping rate information or tracking shipments that are already in the pipeline. Some of the challenges a logistician will face are planning out new shipping lanes and finding ways to reduce cost and increase transit time efficiency.

Is there a demand for logisticians?

The short answer is yes! The BLS projects logistics jobs to increase by 22 percent by 2022, which is twice the projected growth for all occupations. Not only that, but a study from the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics projects as many as 270,000 new jobs in the field of logistics and material handling will be created each year through 2018.

FACT: Logistics jobs are projected to grow by 22% through 2022.

So what’s the cause of this boom in job growth? For one, baby boomer logistics workers are reaching retirement age and there just aren’t enough younger workers to replace those who are departing. Also fueling this growth is the increasing complication of globalized supply chains as the added complexity requires more employees to coordinate and manage processes.

The logistics industry might be fretting about what this means for the future, but someone considering a career in logistics has plenty of reasons to be happy. The competition for qualified candidates is reflected in compensation rates. The median annual salary for logisticians in 2012 was $72,780, as reported by the BLS.

What do I need to work in logistics?

Logisticians need to have very strong critical thinking, communication and problem solving skills to succeed. If you’re the type of person who is always trying to maximize or find the best way to approach a process, this career field might be the perfect fit for you.

The best logisticians are extremely organized and possess the ability to work under pressure, according to Boroski. Think about how stressful it is rearranging your trip when you’re flight gets delayed or cancelled at the airport. She explains that logisticians are often faced with similar problematic factors that are beyond their control. The ability to quickly adapt to new circumstances and execute

FACT: 70% of employers prefer logistics candidates to have a bachelor's degree.

It may come as a surprise, but Danz adds it’s crucial for logistics professionals to employ exceptional interactive skills. “We interact with a variety of people from a variety of cultures and industries and building rapport is key to being successful,” she explains.

But it’s going to take more than just an extroverted personality paired with the appropriate skillset. We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 82,000 logistics jobs posted over the past 12 months.** The data revealed that 70 percent of employers require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree.

Like many industries, experience is also an important factor. Entry-level supply chain jobs that don’t require a degree may not be the most glamorous, but they can provide an excellent way to get a foot in the door and start getting valuable experience under your belt.

Certifications like the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) from the Association for Operations Management (APICS) or the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) are also great differentiators for aspiring logistics professionals.

Shipping out

Now that you know what logistics is, it’s time to evaluate whether or not this career field is a good fit for you. If you’re interested in capitalizing on this optimistic industry, it’s time to get a better look at the ins and outs of the field.

Hear it straight from the experts in this article: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Supply Chain Management Career.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook career information accessed July 1, 2015. bls.gov/ooh. BLS salary data represents national, averaged earnings 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.
**Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 82,317 logistics job postings, Aug. 1, 2014 – Jul. 31, 2015.)

About the author

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen University. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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