Why logistics and how does supply chain help?

· logistics and systems

Define: Logistics is the coordination of resources to achieve an outcome.

Logistics is the coordination of resources to achieve an outcome. 

That is the most straight forward definition I can come up with. You need to do something, and you have a certain amount of resources. So, you plan out how you’re going to use them, and then get on with it till the job is done – the outcome is achieved. #logistics 

With this logic, logistics on its own has a very broad definition, one which could easily be applied to any organization or process. Whether it happens to be delivering enough stock when marketing decides to have a sale, using giant diggers to pull iron ore out of the ground, or setting off on a road trip from one place to another. It’s could all be defined as #logistics. 

The problem with such a broad definition is that it effectively stands for everything and nothing at the same time, what we need to do then is narrow the definition down to something like this. Logistics is the coordination of individuals to deliver a specific outcome. An outcome which links into other things, what if they go wrong? 

What’s more is that these days we are often in one of two camps, we either focus entirely on our own agenda and how it affects our world without considering the bigger picture. Or, you know just how big that picture and you see how one action has a ripple effect on another, so you end up doing nothing because it’s hopeless or well… maybe your choice is just wrong? 

This is where logistics can be very helpful, whereas the two contrasts are very real, logistics has the power to methodically untangle this kind of a mess. Especially when you put logistics into the broader context of the supply chain. Whereas logistics looks at what the individual delivers, supply chain looks at the linkages, how several individuals (and their respective contributions) culminate into one cohesive journey to success. 

Now we can comfortably classify the difference between logistics and supply chain.

  • Logistics is the coordination of individual entities to deliver a specific outcome.
  • The supply chain is the coordination of multiple outcomes to achieve a cohesive success.

They are similar but vastly different in scale. 

For example, you can worry about the logistics of getting yourself to work on time. Whereas your manager is looking at how you contribute to the overall project, along with resources such as time, money, and other people involved to deliver the projects end result. Whilst you get to worry about the logistics of delivering one’s self, your manager is looking at the supply chain – the bigger picture. 

This though is not a great example, it's relatable, but it’s not especially fitting. Let’s go back a step, when we are talking about resources and coordination in the supply chain, we could stretch it to cover almost anything but really. What we are talking about is the coordination of creating, storing, and moving goods. Going through the key steps, discovery, sourcing, making something, moving it, storing it, consuming, then dealing with the waste. 

Take a product we know and use, like food, any food, let’s use Bananas as an example, the idea of selling Bananas has come from somewhere and it needs to be validated - we need to check that people want them (that’s discovery). Bananas then need to be sourced from farms. Put into consumable units (make something from those Bananas, which includes quality checks). Move those Bananas closer to the consumer. Storing them. Moving them closer to a consumer. Then deal with the waste. Put any ‘food’ supply journey you want, Bananas, Beef, Beets, it will flow through those elements with varying degrees of complexity. 

But really, what’s the point of talking about this, why are definitions important in the first place? What the benefit of understanding the different needs of a micro-logistician and a macro-supply chain operator? 

The value goes back to the helpfulness, like a golf swing, if you pull the swing apart and understand the individual elements, it becomes a lot easier to put them back together and develop a much more effective swing. Understanding the individual elements of logistics and supply chain allows the untangling of the complicated and the enabling of new ideas to be delivered. And thanks to the vast expansion of technologically enabled innovations these ideas are becoming very intriguing to follow. 

Just look around at the creativity going into finding new ways of delivering a product and using the supply chain as an advantage (instead of seeing it as just another cost centre). Some easy examples are Amazons drone delivery idea, Amazons mothership concept, Ai powered customer service and information retrieval, blockchain rated transparency, Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems, just to name a few. 

This, however, highlights a problem. The innovations are coming from the top but aren’t really making their way down, they are being kept by a small handful. I don’t believe this is by design, I believe it's because the majority of people in logistics and supply chain, those being small to medium-sized operators, don’t have a thorough grasp of the fundamentals. 

This is where Carter steps in to help, helping people to understand their supply chains for the two groups who need this knowledge most. The people in small to medium enterprise who are on the front lines (those who need to be the most efficient with their limited resources). As well as the start-up entrepreneurs who are creating concepts but lacking the tactile knowledge of how to deliver whatever they’ve promised. 

From my assessment, this is the most effective way we can progress an industry and raise the baseline for what’s possible. By looking at the grassroots and providing a quality understanding of the fundamentals. The building blocks of logistics and supply chain management. Breaking things down so we can build up a brighter and much better future.