Until recently, very few civilians had much idea about what ‘logistics’ meant – something military perhaps? Or something to do with drivers and shelf-stackers? At any rate, not an obvious career recommendation for your sons and daughters.
And yet, logistics in the UK contributes £80 billion to the economy and employs around 2.5 million. And while it is true that many of these are truck drivers or warehouse operatives, there are some 85,000 at manager/director level, and nearly 500,000 or 22% of the logistics workforce are classed as ‘high-skilled’. Furthermore, despite or indeed, because of the multiple challenges that the national and global economies are facing, the industry’s need for high-potential managerial and technical staff can only increase.
So here are seven reasons why you, or someone you know, should be considering logistics as a long-term career choice:
1. A continually evolving landscape of fresh challenges. The central role of logistics in enabling organisations to meet challenges ranging from Brexit, through the pandemic, to the current war in Ukraine is increasingly understood. But even without these ‘black swan’ events, logistics skills are vital as firms adapt to trends such as e-commerce and home delivery
2. At the forefront of technology. Will goods be delivered by drone in future? What are the prospects for moving goods in fully autonomous vehicles in the factory or on the open road? Can new approaches to containerisation and materials handling transform economics and efficiency in the supply chain? It isn’t just hardware – logistics and supply chain are developing many of the most promising use cases for innovations from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Blockchain and Distributed Ledger. The whole sector is ripe for digitalisation, requiring high level skills not just in hardware, software and business management, but people skills as well.
3. It’s a people thing. Whatever the technical advances, logistics will always be dependent on human labour, albeit increasingly ‘co-working’ with automation. With ageing populations, this labour is a scarce resource, to be managed accordingly. Equally though, with the rise of e-commerce, logistics is increasingly the point of contact between the business and its customer. Logistics and supply chain recruiters value people and ‘soft’ skills at least on a par with technical knowledge.
4. Ease of entry. With a very diverse basket of skills requirements, logistics is not a profession that insists on a 2:1 in a narrowly specified discipline. It is also a profession that allows and encourages progression from the ‘shop floor’ into senior management, and there is an increasing range of apprenticeships, courses and professional qualification routes to support this.
- Transferable skills. From the outside, industries such as automotive, fashion, groceries, pharmaceuticals look very different, but very similar skill-sets can be used to resolve their unique challenges – for example, how to manage Just-In-Time supply, and what to do when it looks like breaking down. The responses may differ, but the analysis and insight required is common across the board.
- Saving the planet. It is well known that freight transport is a major generator of greenhouse gases, along with other environmental impacts such as noise and congestion. But the logistics industry is actively mitigating these challenges: technology, IT and new business models are combining to reduce wasteful empty and part-load running; warehouses are increasingly energy-efficient and resource-light; and new fuels and energy sources are being developed. Logistics professionals are also increasingly sensitive to the social effects of supply chains – how, for example, different business models affect employment and opportunity. The ESG agenda is to a significant extent a logistics agenda.
- Status and reward. People’s eyes no longer glaze over at parties when someone says they are a logistics manager. With e-commerce and home delivery, everyone is keenly interested in just how their parcels arrive – and of course the remarkable performances of many supply chains during the pandemic, and its aftermath, have raised the profile of logistics no end.
More fundamentally, there can be few organisations now that fail to recognise that logistics and supply chain, even if outsourced operationally, is a core competence that directly impacts the bottom line, customer satisfaction, regulatory and ESG compliance.
The logistics career ladder knows no limits – boardroom representation is now the norm, and that is showing through in the salaries on offer, at all levels.
As we all now recognise, logistics and supply chains are central to everyone’s lives. The careers offered are challenging; but fast-moving, diverse, increasingly well valued and rewarded, and actually a lot of fun!
By Leigh Anderson, Managing Director at Bis Henderson Recruitment