The field of logistics is growing faster than average, with an expected growth of 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is due in part to the increased globalization of businesses, but also to the number of companies realizing how important logistics is to smooth-running operations. The field is more welcoming to women than in previous years, according to Evans Distribution Systems -- once a male-dominated profession, more women are moving up to work in logistics leadership.
Basics of Logistics
Logistics is a key component of many businesses and organizations, such as warehouses, retail outlets and the military. Logistics employees track inventory, but they do more than just place orders -- they must know how many of each product they need in stock so they can reorder each item before it runs out. In logistics, you also make sure items get where they're needed on time. This could be sending out a customer's order by truck or through the mail, or shipping the right amount of food to military troops in the field. From a customer service perspective, logistics employees must be able to build and maintain relationships with vendors, clients and transportation companies to keep the flow of products moving adequately.
To supervise a logistics department, you must understand all aspects of your company's products and processes. Each company has different needs, and you must be familiar with inventory tracking software, how to manage that inventory, how long it takes for you to receive ordered items, how long it takes for clients to receive what you ship to them, and how transportation or shipping companies work. With intimate knowledge of the products your logistics department handles, you help decide how the items are stored; perishable items need climate control, for example. You must be an expert in customer service, creating back-up plans for shipments that don't arrive where they're supposed to be and communicating those plans to management or customers as necessary.
In addition to being a logistics expert, you must understand how to manage people to keep your department functioning at full efficiency. This includes planning schedules, training employees and handling the hiring and firing within your department. You typically create a budget for your department, including inventory system or equipment upgrades as necessary. Exploring new ways to save money or time by investigating new transportation avenues helps you stick to your budget. You also design a logistics plan, assigning specific duties to your staff and monitoring them to make sure they complete their work satisfactorily.
Education and Certification
Working at entry-level logistics jobs usually requires an associate degree, but to work as a supervisor, you need at least a bachelor degree in a field such as supply chain management, business or industrial engineering, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most logistics supervisors work their way up through the ranks, starting at lower positions and learning the field before advancing. You don't typically need a certification to advance to a management-level position, but if you desire, obtain certifications through groups such as the American Society of Transportation and Logistics or the International Society of Logistics.
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