It’s a question logisticians are used to being asked. In this article, Natalie Wainwright, Group Operations Director from diamond, explains what logistics is for people new to the sector.
When you share that you work in logistics – “What is logistics?” – often follows. The journey of a carton of milk to a supermarket or a pair of shoes to a doorstep, adds context to an answer which is essentially, “the movement of goods.”
In the last few years logistics has risen to fame in the national press due to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Logistics commentators from trade associations – including the UKWA and Cold Chain Federation – and operators like diamond have found themselves in TV and radio news slots, speaking on behalf of UK logistics.
Warehouse pickers have also been recognised as keyworkers. Yes, people have finally found out what logistics is, a critical service which keeps us fed, clothed and medicated.
Also, the government is leaning on the strength of the UK logistics industry to roll out an ambitious vaccination programme. So yes, it’s a good idea to know what logistics is.
Unfortunately it’s been an invisible career path for decades. Fortunately brilliant organisations – including Think Logistics and Business on the Move – are now going into schools to raise awareness of logistics with students.
So, what is logistics?
Logistics is the movement of products by land, sea or air around the world. It’s the storage and distribution of that pair of shoes, from a Birmingham warehouse to a home in Devon or a store in Chelsea.
It’s the movement of a shipping container of bananas from Sierre Leone to the Port of Felixstowe.
It’s the safe transportation of COVID-19 vaccines at -70 degrees by an airplane from Belgium to London. (See this article by Prof. Richard Wilding with further details of temperature controlled storage requirements of the vaccine in transit).
What is fulfilment?
Fulfilment is also logistics. It’s the storage and distribution of products. It’s when goods are picked, packed and dispatched to customers (often in the same day). A retail fulfilment partner is responsible for receiving stock into a fulfilment centre (aka warehouse or distribution centre), the storage of those goods and is also responsible for the delivery of the product. This is what we do at diamond, for our multiple e-commerce retail partners.
Omnichannel means all channels. Omnichannel shoppers are those which shop online, in-store, on- phone and mobile devices. The omnichannel model has been a moving target as customer behaviour and retail tech have developed at a pace. Essentially it’s the integration between physical stores and online stores. A successful omnichannel distribution model is one which can supply one company’s products seamlessly to a supermarket, doorstep, click & collect location, locker… I suspect the options will continue to shift. Maybe one day that milk will just appear in your fridge?
So why don’t people know what logistics is?
Good question. UK logistics’ current model (at least in infrastructure) isn’t that different to the one developed to store and distribute food and materials in wartime Britain. So it’s not a new concept. However, there’s nothing archaic about modern logistics.
Fast-paced processes, IT and automation, big data, small data, blockchain – and all the other parts which make-up modern logistics – is a fascinating space to be in and worth knowing about.
If you’d like a career with a fast paced logistics operator, contact Natalie.Wainwright@diamondlogistics.co.uk