Logistics is everything that goes into "getting the right item in the right quantity at the right time to the right place for the right price in the right condition to the right customer." It includes:
Logistics isn't just about physical products. It can also involve the movement of energy, human resources, funds, information, and anything else required to manufacture and distribute products.
In many ways, supply chain logistics management is like a game in which the goal is to always have just the right amount of raw materials, inventory, warehouse space, and freight carriers and routes to meet current customer demand and allow for modest growth. There are obvious downsides to having too few of any one of these things. Having too many, however, can be as bad: warehousing components or unsold products costs money, and transportation is the most expensive part of logistics. It is very easy to spend too much on logistics.
That's why companies employ logistics analysts (who are sometimes called logisticians). These entry-level supply chain professionals spend their days looking for opportunities to enhance logistics processes and flows and reduce logistics costs. It's not a job most people have heard of, but it's definitely a good one. US News & World Report has ranked logistician as high as number six on its Best Business Jobs list and as high as number 26 on its 100 Best Jobs list. The pay is better than average—especially for a position that you can get with a bachelor's degree.
So, what is a logistics analyst?. We'll answer that question in this article and dig into the following topics:
Logistics analysts use math, statistics, data analytics, and operations research to analyze the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the moving parts of a supply chain. Transportation and logistics specialists focus on the flow of goods and resources; however, they also look at supply chain processes, inventory management, procurement, and production schedules because the different areas of the supply chain are part of a coordinated system. A breakdown in any of them could impact logistics. For example:
Logistics analysis is a data-driven discipline; logistics analysts spend their days scrutinizing vast quantities of information to find costly logistical inefficiencies. Their responsibilities typically include:
Put simply, logistics analysts look at the logistics operations of companies to find areas where reliability and efficiency can be improved and costs can be reduced.
Logistic analysts work in a variety of industries (e.g., science, technology, retail), and companies of all sizes include logistics analysts in their talent networks. The typical work environment of a logistics analyst can vary. Some are employed in the logistical department of businesses; others work for companies that specialize in domestic logistics consulting; others are specialists in international logistics. You can also find logisticians working for shipping companies.
As you might imagine, the manufacturing sector employs the greatest number of logistics analysts. What may be more surprising is that the US government is the next-largest employer of logisticians (who are typically civilians doing logistical work for the nation's military network).
Some hiring managers use these titles interchangeably, and the job descriptions for these roles can overlap significantly. Still, at many companies, logistics analysts and logistics engineers do different—though related—work. Analysts gather data on how products are produced and distributed and recommend logistical enhancements. Then, the logistics engineers use the analysts' findings to design and launch improved processes and systems. Sometimes, logistics engineers are managers and are responsible for overseeing the work of logistics analysts.
You typically won't see these titles used interchangeably because each of these professionals has a different purpose. Logistics analysts do look at the supply chain as a whole, but their ultimate goal is to optimize flow in the supply chain to boost efficiency and reduce costs. Supply chain analysts, on the other hand, are responsible for analyzing the entire life cycle of products from end to end. Their goal is to optimize everything from production schedules to stocking programs to procurement, so the whole process of producing and distributing goods is less expensive.
Professionals who choose logistics careers like logistics analyst, logistics specialist, and logistics manager tend to have highly-developed problem-solving skills, analytical skills, communication skills, and math skills. They have to be able not only to understand hard data but also to draw useful conclusions from them and to see how data from different areas of the supply chain are linked. Keen attention to detail is helpful because supply chains are complex, twisty things with many tiers and components. And while logistics analysts don't need to be experts in every element of the supply chain, they do need to have a fairly extensive understanding of supply chain and transportation management trends.
There are no degree paths designed specifically for logisticians. Most logistics analysts have bachelor's degrees such as the Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management or Bachelor of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management. However, it's possible to become a logistics analyst with a BS in Operations Management or a BS in Business Analytics—or even an Associate of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management and Logistics.
Students in logistics and supply chain operations degree programs usually study topics like:
Only 14 percent of logistics analysts have master's degrees, and most employers don't expect applicants for this position to have one. However, analysts who want to advance to logistics management positions or transition into roles in other areas of the supply chain can do so more easily with such degrees as:
Logistics analysts don't typically need professional certifications. Still, those who do may have an easier time finding employment or negotiating higher salaries; certifications demonstrate that a candidate has an extensive knowledge of logistics and relevant work experience, both of which employers favor. The following certifications are the most common and most valuable professional credentials for logistics analysts:
There's plenty of opportunity for advancement in logistics. Logistician can be an entry-level position that leads to increased pay and increased responsibility as employees move from logistics analyst I to logistics analyst II to logistics analyst III, and so on. Sometimes logistics analysts work as logistical support specialists before moving into this role. This isn't a terminal position; logistics analysts can advance into higher-level, higher-paid roles like:
Because some employers treat this role as entry-level while others don't, it's hard to pin down the average logistics analyst salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that logisticians earn about $75,000, but, according to PayScale, the average salary for logistics analysts is closer to $57,000. The only site that breaks down salary information for logisticians by seniority level is Salary.com, which reports that Level I Logistic Analysts earn about $57,000 while the most experienced logisticians actually earn closer to $100,000.
A lot more men work in logistics than women—about 65 percent versus 35 percent, based on graduate numbers— but there's been a recent push encouraging manufacturing and logistics companies to become equal opportunity employers and for women to explore careers in transportation and logistics. Currently, women in the field earn about $8,000 less than men—a substantial disincentive to women considering the profession—but this is a field where performance efficiency isn't affected by gender or gender identity. Anyone with the right qualifications and strong analytical skills can succeed in this role, and chances are that the gender ratios in logistics will change a lot over the next ten years.
Demand for logistics analysts and other supply chain professionals is expected to continue to grow. The greatest number of jobs for logistics analysts will likely be created in:
That doesn't mean that logistics analysts in these states are guaranteed to find well-paid employment or that analysts in other states will have a tough time finding work. The fact is, however, that there are still plenty of logistics analysts positions going unfilled—even in states with the slowest job growth. This is definitely a field where the job market favors employees over employers. For the present, at least, choosing a career in logistics analysis means good pay and a level of job stability that's becoming increasingly rare.
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