What is Logistics and Supply Chain Management?


Defined: According to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), logistics is defined as, “The process of planning, implementing, and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods including services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements. This definition includes inbound, outbound, internal, and external movements.”

Simply put, logistics is the process that enables goods and services to get from its source to the consumer. Every business – from a micro-business to a large Fortune 100 company – needs logistics to operate smoothly.


Take, for example, the simple scenario of a teenager who wants to start a babysitting service. Think about everything that is involved in operating that business. He or she will need to get the necessary training and certification, market the business, which may involve buying business cards, and then manage transportation to and from babysitting gigs. Combined, this is the babysitter’s supply chain – the system that moves services from a supplier (the babysitter) to the customer (parents of children) – and logistics ensures that system moves forward efficiently.


For larger companies, like, the supply chain is much more complex. In 2013, the company posted $74.5 billion in online sales1. That’s not just a lot of money. The figure represents an extremely high volume of products shipped, and that can only be accomplished through a carefully executed system of people, activities, information and resources to ensure items ordered are processed, packaged, shipped and received by customers on time.

If working in the retail or service industries don’t appeal to you, consider how logistics is used in government and public agencies. For example, when a natural or terrorist disaster occurs, wreaking havoc on communities, cities and entire nations, logistics professionals can provide the operational and management support needed to see through the chaos.

Organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, make use of logistics professionals to support these domestic emergencies. Other government agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employ logistics professionals to support a variety of areas including facilities operations and management, employee health and safety and construction management.

Logistics can be a challenging and rewarding career path for individuals who enjoy solving problems, collaborating with others and analyzing the financial impact of the supply chain…it just may be the career path for you.


If you’re interested in learning more about specific jobs you might encounter in the logistics field, as well as the salary and employment outlook, read Is a Career in Logistics Right For You? Also consider visiting professional organizations like the American Society of Transportation and Logistics (AST&L) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) to gather more information about the industry and potentially connect with logistics professionals.

And if you’re interested in pursuing an advanced education in logistics, Colorado Technical University offers a bachelor's degree in logistics, a master's degree in logistics and a master's degree in supply chain management you may want to know more about.

Image Credit: Flickr/Gwen Kho

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