What is Logistics

Logistics is generally the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. In a general business sense, logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics can include physical items such as food, materials, animals, equipment, and liquids; as well as intangible items, such as time and information. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, materials handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security.

In military science, logistics is concerned with maintaining army supply lines while disrupting those of the enemy, since an armed force without resources and transportation is defenseless. Military logistics was already practiced in the ancient world and as modern military have a significant need for logistics solutions, advanced implementations have been developed. In military logistics, logistics officers manage how and when to move resources to the places they are needed.

Logistics management is the part of supply chain management that plans, implements, and controls the efficient, effective forward, and reverse flow and storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet customer’s requirements. The complexity of logistics can be modeled, analyzed, visualized, and optimized by dedicated simulation software. The minimization of the use of resources is a common motivation in all logistics fields. A professional working in the field of logistics management is called a logistician.

Origin

The term logistics is attested in English from 1846, and is from French logistique, where it was either coined or popularized by military officer and writer Antoine-Henri Jomini, who defined it in his Summary of the Art of War (Précis de l’Art de la Guerre). The term appears in the 1830 edition, then titled Analytic Table (Tableau Analytique),[1] and Jomini explains that it is derived from logis “lodgings” (cognate to English lodge), in the terms maréchal des logis “marshall of lodgings” and major-général des logis “major-general of lodging”:

Autrefois les officiers de l’état-major se nommaient: maréchal des logis, major-général des logis; de là est venu le terme de logistique, qu’on emploie pour désigner ce qui se rapporte aux marches d’une armée.

Formerly the officers of the general staff were named: marshall of lodgings, major-general of lodgings; from there came the term of logistics [logistique], which we employ to designate those who are in charge of the functionings of an army.

The term is credited to Jomini, and the term and its etymology criticized by fr:Georges de Chambray in 1832, writing:[2]

Logistique: Ce mot me paraît être tout-à-fait nouveau, car je ne l’avais encore vu nulle part dans la littérature militaire. … il paraît le faire dériver du mot logis, étymologie singulière …

Logistic: This word appears to me to be completely new, as I have not yet see it anywhere in military literature. … he appears to derive it from the word lodgings [logis], a peculiar etymology …

Chambray also notes that the term logistique was present in the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française with only a single meaning, as a synonym for algebra.

The French word logistique is a homonym of the existing mathematical term, from Ancient Greek: λογῐστῐκός, translit. logistikós, a traditional division of Greek mathematics; the mathematical term is presumably the origin of the term logistic in logistic growth and related terms. Some sources give this instead as the source of logistics,[3] either ignorant of Jomini’s statement that it was derived from logis, or dubious and instead believing it was in fact of Greek origin, or influenced by the existing term of Greek origin.

Jomini original defined logistics thus:[1]

La logistique est l’art de bien ordonner les marches d’une armée, de bien combiner l’ordre des troupes dans les colonnes, les tems [temps] de leur départ, leur itinéraire, les moyens de communications nécessaires pour assurer leur arrivée à point nommé …

Logistics is the art of well ordering the functionings of an army, of well combining the order of troops in columns, the times of their departure, their itinerary, the means of communication necessary to assure their arrival at a named point …

The Oxford English Dictionary defines logistics as “the branch of military science relating to procuring, maintaining and transporting material, personnel and facilities”. However, the New Oxford American Dictionary defines logistics as “the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies”, and the Oxford Dictionary on-line defines it as “the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation”.[4] As such, logistics is commonly seen as a branch of engineering that creates “people systems” rather than “machine systems”.

According to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (previously the Council of Logistics Management)[5] logistics is 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 and includes inbound, outbound, internal and external movements. [6]

Academics and practitioners traditionally refer to the terms operations or production management when referring to physical transformations taking place in a single business location (factory, restaurant or even bank clerking) and reserve the term logistics for activities related to distribution, that is, moving products on the territory. Managing a distribution center is seen, therefore, as pertaining to the realm of logistics since, while in theory the products made by a factory are ready for consumption they still need to be moved along the distribution network according to some logic, and the distribution center aggregates and processes orders coming from different areas of the territory. That being said, from a modeling perspective, there are similarities between operations management and logistics, and companies sometimes use hybrid professionals, with for ex. “Director of Operations” or “Logistics Officer” working on similar problems. Furthermore, the term supply chain management originally refers to, among other issues, having an integrated vision in of both production and logistics from point of origin to point of production.[7] All these terms may suffer from semantic change as a side effect of advertising.

Logistics activities and fields
Inbound logistics is one of the primary processes of logistics concentrating on purchasing and arranging the inbound movement of materials, parts, or unfinished inventory from suppliers to manufacturing or assembly plants, warehouses, or retail stores.

Outbound logistics is the process related to the storage and movement of the final product and the related information flows from the end of the production line to the end user.

Given the services performed by logisticians, the main fields of logistics can be broken down as follows:

  • Procurement logistics
  • Distribution logistics
  • After-sales logistics
  • Disposal logistics
  • Reverse logistics
  • Green logistics
  • Global logistics
  • Domestics logistics
  • Concierge Service
  • RAM logistics
  • Asset Control Logistics
  • POS Material Logistics
  • Emergency Logistics
  • Production Logistics
  • Construction Logistics
  • Capital Project Logistics
  • Digital Logistics

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