Be the 21st Century “Logistics Soldier”!

Nancy Anderson
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When we say that we work in Logistics, people outside the industry might think of the profession as a new specialty that focuses on getting their online shopping order delivered on time. The word does sound a little “techie” and new, but that the word actually originated from the languages of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Empires! The formal meanings not only include monetary and financial concerns, but are military in origin.

Wikipedia records that the term logistics comes from the Greek logos, meaning "speech, reason, ratio, rationality, language, phrase", and more specifically from the Greek word logistiki, meaning accounting and financial organization. In ancient times, military officers with the title Logistikas were responsible for financial and supply distribution matters.

Wikipedia continues to say the word logistics has its origin in the French verb loger, to lodge or to quarter. Its original use was to describe the science of movement, supplying and maintaining of military forces in the field. This evolved to describe the management of materials flow through ANY organization, from raw materials through to finished goods. I will add the term “professional problem solver”.

Thought you were in a new profession?

Today Logistics means essentially the same thing, but not only for the military. Our civilian corporate “soldiers” manage the flow of everything imaginable from their point of origin to their point of use. Our charge integrates information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, packaging, and security. Logistics pros facilitate complete cycles of the supply chain.
In this century Logistikas already know that we are not alone in our work. We are usually known for our vast network of connections in every part of our supply chains which helps us ensure every link supports the entire process.

OK, so what’s new? The “new” in 2011 has been creeping up on us for years, and it’s only getting more intense. Our job is no longer a call to Ed in Indianapolis to say that we need more fender washers by sometime next week. In fact, one of my associates says that it’s rare for her to make a phone call at all on most orders. Thanks to the “convenience” of computer systems the theme of JIT has turned into “now”.

The complexity of logistical pathways is modeled, analyzed, visualized, inventoried, ordered and optimized by simulation software. The comradery of human interaction is nearly absent. Computers talk to computers and the humans in the mix click yes or no, then enter some numbers. Next those computers talk to the bank’s computers, and shipper’s computers. The computer dispatched truck arrives with the washers on the day we told the computer we needed them! The driver pulls yet another computer out of his pocket and scans the label on the computer routed carton to send computerized delivery confirmation back to . . . the computer.

But who is checking the COMPUTERS! Frequently that answer is “nobody” when things are running smoothly. But somehow, in this near perfect chain, things occasionally do still go wrong! The Logistikas, you modern day Logistics Soldiers are the ones to get the call. “We ordered fender washers, not blender washers!”

Here’s where humans ARE indeed still required in this process! Be that Logistics Soldier and keep current with the complexities of your supply resources, not just their computers. Becoming completely reliant on automated systems is easy. Learning and remembering where the weak links can occur and how to manually (With phone calls?) work around them to solve a problem is what will make you stand out from others mouse as the true professional problem solver!

K.B. Elliott is a Detroit area contributing writer for Nexxt. Having worked seats on both sides of the logistics process for over 30 years gives unique perspective to the supply chain process and the varieties of successes to be had.


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