The logistics industry is a huge sector that offers up a wide range of different opportunities. Find out all about them, and the essential skills you’ll need to enter into this exciting industry.
Drive on pretty much any road in the world, and you’ll likely encounter whole fleets of lorries rumbling along. DHL, UPS, FedEx – these names are surely familiar to you, on the road and off it. Even if you don’t know what the logistics industry is, you will have definitely seen it in action.
As the world has become more interconnected, logistics and getting things from A to B has become even more essential. The history of logistics runs concurrently with the unstoppable rise of consumerism in the 1950s. Since then, it has evolved from relatively humble beginnings into something that can make sense of the complex supply chains and deal with the subsequent growth.
So what sort of job opportunities are there in this global industry? And what are the skills you need to get started in logistics? In this article, we’ll take a close look at the logistics industry. We’ll explore some of the roles on offer, along with a handy salary comparison chart. We’ll also direct you to some of the courses that we offer, where you can get a great head start in your logistics journey.
The global logistics industry
Let’s start out with an overview of the global logistics industry, and have a look at some of the terms and phrases you might come across as you explore your options. We’ll also look at the size and the current state of logistics globally. This will give you a much better idea of where the industry currently is, and where it is headed in the next few years.
What is it?
So just what is logistics? It’s likely that at some point in your life you have directly benefited from this industry in some form or another. Logistics is the management of the flow of resources or products from their origin to their final destination – essentially the process of how things get to you.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s just another word for transportation. It encompasses a whole lot more than simply transporting something from A to B. Logistics, to quote Encyclopedia Britannica, is ‘the process of planning, implementing and controlling the efficient, effective flow and storage of goods, services, and other related information from point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements’.
The resources used in logistics can cover things like food, equipment, and other physical items, but can also include information and energy, for example. Assisting the flow of these items, physical or otherwise, involves many different steps, from integration and inventory to security. This can make defining logistics a little tricky, and it can require industry professionals to analyse and visualise the data regularly.
How big is the industry?
Logistics is often described as the backbone of international trade, as it is used across the globe. As consumerism took the world by storm in the 1950s, logistics became more important and, as a result, bigger and bigger. Logistics is now a major global industry, and in 2018 it was estimated that the logistics industry was worth over $6.5 trillion.
It cannot be brought into doubt the importance of logistics globally. It contributes to roughly 12% of the entire world’s GDP. This number could have ended up being a lot higher, but you have to take into account the many countries that have inefficiencies in their supply chains, which lead to an elevated cost structure.
And it is predicted that this number will continue to rise – with some people claiming that the global logistics industry could be worth over $15 trillion by 2023. This rate of expansion is enormous and goes to show how the logistics industry is shaping the global markets in the world.
How has the logistics industry been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Just like countless other industries across the globe, the logistics industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Logistics firms are an integral part of value chains and facilitate trade and commerce within and across international borders. Disruptions to this supply chain therefore directly impacted growth and competitiveness.
As countries started to shut down, so did shipping processes. Cargo became backlogged at major ports, and travel restrictions led to a huge shortage of truck drivers who could pick up containers. This led to major industries including but certainly not limited to, medical equipment, electronics, and pharmaceuticals, along with consumer goods, being affected.
It in fact got so bad and worrying for suppliers like DHL and CEVA Logistics, two of the largest and most important logistics providers in the world, that they decided to declare what’s known as a ‘force Majeure’ on all their contracts. This effectively means that all their contracts could be declared null and void due to acts of God.
Now a certain degree of normality is returning, the logistics industry is adapting to the ‘new normal’. There has been a marked rise in the use of technology, with many providers looking at the possibilities offered by the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and data analytics, for instance.
What kind of jobs are there in the logistics industry?
The logistics industry is a large and varied industry and can offer you many different avenues to explore. There are some key areas that make up the industry, but within these are many different career options for you to consider.
Owing to the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been new avenues of employment opening up, including many involving new technology. So if you were concerned that the majority of the opportunities in logistics were primarily transportation-focused, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised. Let’s take a look at a few of the roles you could consider.
Supply chain roles
We’ve mentioned the term ‘supply chain’ throughout this article. It’s a term that is often used in conjunction with logistics, and it effectively means the process of production and distribution of a commodity. As you can probably imagine, it’s an integral part of the logistics industry.
There are numerous roles available in the logistics industry that focus on supply chain. These vary from supply chain management and specialist jobs to more tech-forward roles focusing on supply chain innovation. These include roles in development and design.
Inventory can best be described as any materials or goods that pass through or are held in a warehouse or storage facility, and are the building blocks of your trade. So as you can imagine, managing the different types of inventory is essential.
One of the critical roles in the logistics industry is inventory management. As an inventory manager, you’d control and supervise purchases, maintain the storage for your stock, and fulfill orders. There are also roles in coordination and supervision, with an inventory clerk being one of the more junior roles available to you.
As a part of the logistics process, procurement is when you source materials needed to manufacture other products. It’s the actual process of obtaining the items in the logistics process and is closely linked to inventory. Some people also see it as the ‘ying’ to the ‘yang’ of logistics – actually getting the items to move and store.
Procurement strategies will help any logistics provider, and this is where the role of procurement manager comes into play. There are more junior roles in the procurement sphere as well, namely the role of procurement assistant.
One of the most important parts of the whole logistics process is ensuring that you are capable of managing an effective movement of the goods you’ve procured as well as any outbound goods too.
To do this effectively, you need to integrate all elements of logistics – from inventory through to transportation. And the most effective method of doing this is via analysis of each different sphere. A logistics analyst will present the logistics manager with insights into the operation of the provider to optimise performance.
Getting the goods from A to B is at the heart of logistics. And at the end of the day, you’ve got to have someone to help sort out the goods and transport them. Whether that’s using lorries and trucks, by air, or by sea, the logistics of transportation are vast. The industry have had to become even more forward-thinking lately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with due consideration for the future of transport systems.
From admin roles and planning positions to managerial and coordination roles, to even getting behind the wheel, ensuring that your procured or inbound items are successfully and effectively transported to your base is integral to a logistics provider.
What skills do I need to enter the industry?
As there are many different roles available to you in the logistics industry, it certainly makes it trickier to pinpoint which skills you need. Like with other industries, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ skillset that you can focus your energies on. While your chosen career path will dictate the skills and tools you’ll need, there are a few that can be applied to all these roles.
Problem-solving and decision making are two really important skills to have in your toolkit across any of these roles, as the world of logistics changes at the drop of a hat, and you’ll need to be able to think on your feet. Similarly, if things do go wrong, you’ll need to have the ability to properly communicate with your team, so great communication skills are a must.
With the logistics industry modernising and turning to digital power at an increased rate, having some knowledge of simulation and analytics can also make you stand out from the crowd. Financial forecasting can also be a great skill to have. To progress in this industry, you’ll also need to be committed to CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to develop your knowledge.
These are teachable, specific, and technical skills that can be defined and measured with ease. When it comes to exploring the logistics industry and what it can offer, there are a few that are very useful to have in your arsenal.
If you’re aiming for a managerial role, then having demonstrable people management skills is a must. Plus in a high-speed, ever-changing industry like logistics, resilience is a must. Specialisation in an industry like logistics is a great thing to have, so having an understanding of omni-channel retailing and sustainability will be sure to make you stand out.
Getting attuned with some hard skills is only one part of the battle. Soft skills are potentially more important than hard skills in most industries, as they demonstrate to prospective employers the skills you already have. In logistics, work communication is essential – you’ll likely be dealing with many different people throughout the logistics process.
Problems will surely arise – after all, no one could have predicted the events of 2020 – so knowing how to choose which problem to solve and how to solve it is a key soft skill to demonstrate. Plus, as you’ll be working closely with others, expressing emotional intelligence will be sure to make you stand out.
How do salaries compare?
Just like in any industry, the salaries you can get in the logistics industry vary dramatically. Your level of experience and job role are two of the main things that affect how much you earn, but as you can see in the table below, the country you’re working in can dramatically affect your income too.
(Data obtained from salary websites including GlassDoor, Adzuna, and PayScale).
|Supply chain manager||£39,542||$84,076||AU$101,541||CA$80,510|
You can also end up earning more or less depending on which logistics company you work with, and many companies may require you to go abroad or work from unusual locations. This makes the logistics industry an ever-changing industry to be involved with.
Why choose a career in the logistics industry?
There are many reasons why you might want to choose a career in the logistics industry. This will almost certainly differ from person to person, but we’ll take a look at some of the main reasons people have chosen careers in logistics.
- Ongoing innovation and changes to the industry. All industries took a battering after COVID-19, and logistics is no different. As a result, providers have leapt upon emerging technologies, and will continue to do so. Innovation is front and centre in logistics.
- Career progression opportunities. Career development is an essential part of the logistics industry, and is expanding at a rapid pace. You’ll find that there are plenty of opportunities for on-the-job training which will help your progression.
- Fast-paced careers. Speed is of the essence in logistics. You’ll want to get your item, goods or products from A to B in the smoothest possible manner, but faster than your competitors. The roles in logistics move at a similar pace, with new challenges every day, offering a variety of experiences.
- Wages in logistics are going up. The average salary in logistics is going up, with some salaries increasing by as much as 8%. Loyalty is rewarded too, so there may be an additional paypacket depending on how long you stay with the same company.
- Careers in logistics are very stable. At the end of the day, the world basically runs on logistics, and with the right skills, you’ll not only be employable in any role, but you’ll be able to find a job in just about any country in the world.
How to get started in a logistics career
When getting started in logistics, you’ll likely begin in a junior role and then work your way up. If you’re looking to change careers, it could be a really good option to consider, as there are many junior roles in the logistics industry that don’t require you to have a degree. A lot of logistics involves learning on the job and moving up the ladder in that way.
The most junior roles in logistics, which include warehouse workers and drivers, don’t require you to have a degree or any formal higher education. However, you can show that you have passion and drive by having an understanding of different facets of logistics, such as the role of economics in logistics and international logistics.
As we have mentioned, a lot of moving up in logistics involves learning on the job. The career progression is excellent, and promotions are commonplace, with training and mentoring for the new roles being done in-house.
You may not be able to start out as a logistics manager – but by working your way up from warehouse assistant and seeing the different steps that it takes to get there, you will attain the necessary experience required for that role.
Network and career growth often go hand-in-hand. Plus, there’s no better way to learn about the roles and duties that these roles require. Online networking has come into its own in the past 18 months, with LinkedIn being a really important tool, but you could also attend some webinars and online conferences to learn more and meet industry professionals.
You probably didn’t quite realise just how important the logistics industry is globally, and how it affects our daily lives. It effectively makes the world go round, and it will have undoubtedly affected you – whether personally or not – at some point or another.
Whether it’s the food you’ve bought in the supermarket or that essential piece of equipment for your business, logistics will have helped it get to you wherever you are in the world. And with so many moving parts, you can be sure of a variety of different roles in different areas, one of which will end up being a good match for you and for your skills.