Each year, shipping companies move about 11 billion tons of goods around the world, not including the goods carried by rail, road or air.1 That’s 1.5 tons of goods for each person on the planet just from sea transportation alone.1 Every product you use — from the food you eat to the medications you take — must be transported. It’s an incredibly complex movement of goods.
If you're fascinated by the coordination of the transportation of goods and you're looking for a career in a growing field, you might consider becoming a logistics manager. What is this career, and exactly what does a logistics manager do? This career guide has the answers and will help you begin planning your career pathway.
Exploring a Logistics Manager Career
Before delving into the job of a logistics manager (also called a “logistician”), it’s helpful to establish what defines a supply chain. The “global supply chain” refers to the complex movement of goods around the planet and consists of a vast network of individual supply chains. In fact, each product sold by each company has its own supply chain.
For example, let’s say a company sells scooters. Then let us suppose that each scooter has four components, and that each of those components is sourced from a different supplier. Those four suppliers make up the supply chain for those scooters.
Supply chains can become more complex than this, however. The four suppliers in this example may need to rely on additional suppliers to provide the raw materials to make those four components. Each supplier of those raw materials is also a member of the scooter’s supply chain.
In short, a supply chain consists of every step in the process of getting the final product to the consumer. This process includes sourcing the raw materials, manufacturing the products, transporting the finished products to a warehouse (distribution center) and finally, transporting the products from the warehouse to the retail store or directly to the customer’s door. From the retailer to the warehouse and the transportation companies to the producers, each part of the supply chain is essential.
What Does a Logistics Manager Do?
A logistics manager is responsible for overseeing this complex network. These professionals collaborate with suppliers, manufacturers, transportation companies and retailers. They keep track of inventory, assess trends in demand and oversee importation and exportation.
The job of a logistics manager is a supervisory one. Their ultimate responsibility is to ensure that the supply chain functions smoothly. To accomplish this, these professionals may do any of the following:
- Decide which suppliers to buy items from, keeping in mind cost and quality
- Maintain business relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders
- Negotiate favorable shipping rates with transportation companies
- Schedule inbound and outbound shipments and adjust the schedules as needed
- Oversee product importation and exportation
- Supervise the logistics staff
- Track inventory
Logistics managers must think on their feet to solve challenges as they arise. Severe weather can delay inbound and outbound shipments, a supplier may experience shortages or a transportation carrier may suddenly increase their rates.
Supply chain management can be quite complex, and there are additional issues that a logistics manager may also need to address. For example, if your company's mission is to be as eco-friendly as possible, you should source products from outside suppliers that are near to distribution centers in order to reduce transportation needs. Similarly, if the new supplier company adheres to the principles of conscious capitalism, the logistics manager must thoroughly research each link in the supply chain to ensure that the new supply company treats their employees fairly.
How to Become a Logistics Manager
If a career in logistics management appeals to you, then you should consider talking to your guidance counselor about your career plans. You may be able to add more courses that will help you prepare for your future. Any courses related to business and management, accounting, economics, communications or computer applications will be helpful for you.
Logistics managers do not need extensive qualifications such as a graduate degree. A Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain and Logistics Management is an ideal program if you enjoy overseeing the production process of goods and services.
To gain experience as a supply chain manager, consider earning a professional certification. Earning a professional certification can help you to improve your career qualifications.
Some important skills and traits of logistics managers include:
- Customer service
- Knowledge of consumer goods and operations
- Creative thinking
- Time management
- Organization skills
Earn a Supply Chain Degree
The first step in the process of becoming a supply chain manager is to earn a relevant undergraduate degree. Many aspiring logistics managers choose to earn a degree in the business and management field. However, a degree that specifically focuses on supply chain management is ideal.
A supply chain degree will typically cover the following core areas of logistics:
- Business statistics and financial accounting
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Theories and practices of global supply chain management, including the tools and methods of operational management
- Process improvement techniques, such as Statistical Process Control (SPC)
- Supply chain logistics, with an emphasis in purchases, inventory management and upstream and downstream activities such as contracting and negotiating
Gain Entry-Level Experience
Depending on the employer's requirements, prior experience may or may not be expected. Boost your resume views by building your professional network and exploring entry-level opportunities to obtain experience that sets you apart from other applicants.
If you're interested in becoming a logistics manager, the following are specific jobs that may provide further experience:
- Industrial production manager
- Transportation, storage and distribution manager
- Business teachers
Prepare to pursue a rewarding career in logistics when by earning a supply chain degree at Grand Canyon University (GCU). The renowned Colangelo College of Business is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain and Logistics Management degree, which instills foundational competencies in global logistics, transportation management, procurement and much more.
1Retrieved from: International Chamber of Shipping, Shipping and world trade: driving prosperity in August 2022.
Approved by the Director of Academic Operations for the Colangelo College of Business on Sept. 19, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.