Logistics management is the science of getting stuff where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, as part of a larger process, like manufacturing. In business, logistics management most often refers to transportation, inventory management and storage issues related to the supply chain: where are your parts or materials coming from, where do they need to get to, when do they need to get there, do they need to be stored anywhere en route, and how are you going make all that happen in a safe, efficient, reliable way.
Transportation and logistics management also come into play at the other end of the line, helping you get your product to your customers quickly and efficiently.
In trim global markets, fine-tuned transportation and logistics practices can deliver a competitive edge. If you and your competitors make a similar product from similar parts, the winner will be the one whose product gets to market quickest for the lowest cost-per-unit -- and that's done through logistics.
Larger companies have transportation and logistics professionals among their supply chain management staff. But smaller companies can reap the benefits of lean logistics without adding any staff. At its simplest, effective logistics management is just a matter of making smart decisions about warehouse shipping and inventory management. More elaborate logistics management is called for when certain complications enter the mix. For instance:
- Transportation and logistics are more complex when dealing with international shipping and markets.
- Tariffs, duties and exchange rates require more sophisticated logistics management.
- Distributed manufacturing demands greater attention on transportation and logistics.
Hire a transportation and logistics consultantTransportation and logistics consultants don't move and store stuff for you -- they evaluate your operation, and then tell you how you could move and store stuff more efficiently. A consultant is a great option when you want to improve your logistics management but don't want to hand over your transportation and warehouse shipping needs to a third party.
Hand your transportation and storage over to a third-party logistics providerThird-party logistics providers, also called 3pl providers, take over all or part of your transportation and warehouse shipping, using their expertise and technology to perform those jobs as efficiently as possible. Contracting with a trusted third-party logistics provider saves you from having to know much about logistics. Not surprisingly, some of the big names in shipping now market themselves as third-party logistics providers; think of them as really, really, really full-service shipping companies.
third-party logistics providers at Business.com.
Use logistics management softwareThe 3pl providers use logistics management software to keep track of where everything is and, more importantly, how moving and storing that stuff can be made more efficient by combining or dividing shipments, changing routes, changing carriers (from truck to rail, for example), reworking inventory management practices, and so on.
Invest in logistics management trainingLogistics is an area for ongoing improvement, and that's best achieved by eyes on-site. A few courses or a degree in logistics management could position you or someone else in your company to play a valuable new role -- one that will continue to deliver benefits for years to come.
American Public University offers an online logistics management degree, while the Supply Chain Academy is a more informal logistics learning solution targeted at supply chain professionals.
- "Logistics" means different things to different companies -- it can mean anything from glorified mailing to global inventory management. Make sure you and your candidates are on the same page.
- Even if you will ultimately use a 3pl, you may want to hire a consultant first, who will help you understand your needs and may help select and negotiate with your 3pl.
- Look for a logistics management provider or consultant that specializes in your industry.