February 2009 | Commentary | Checking In

A New World of Logistics Enlightenment

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Our annual education issue honors the importance and value of logistics education. Acing logistics basics helps practitioners master supply chain complexity. It's practical to the core and strategic when it needs to be. But it isn't static. The challenges of globalization continue to present new ways and means to engage learning.

In this sense, history serves a welcome lesson. Following Europe's Renaissance it was common practice for affluent young men to travel the continent and visit its centers of excellence. The Grand Tour was a means for embracing literature, history, language, and culture in one fell swoop. In return, these tourists gained a greater appreciation for the liberal arts and a year's credit toward cultural and political hegemony. Their career path was destined.

Alternatively, those less privileged entered into apprenticeships to learn a skilled trade. These mentored relationships provided practical, nuts-and-bolts skill sets, on-the-job training, and an unwavering path toward a specific vocation.

While class structures have changed, there is a similar dichotomy in how we approach education today. Vocational studies such as logistics and supply chain management are pragmatic; they place value on thought and action rather than simply thought. Conversely, a liberal dose of the humanities offers an ephemeral, "touch and feel" introduction to multiple areas of study—a view into the world through others' eyes. Naturally, we favor the former.

In an ideal world, however, logistics education might embrace measures of both. Today's undergraduate, post-grad, and career development programs offer a compelling compromise.

Purdue, Michigan State, MIT, Old Dominion, Georgia Tech, and many other universities in the United States and abroad are building global modules and exchanges into their programs. In Merrill Douglas' globe trotting article, Passport to Knowledge (page 17), you will read about industry veterans and undergraduate students, men and women alike, who are touring the world to view logistics through different scopes, sharing and soliciting best practices along the way.

These schools offer supply chain students and professionals the best of both worlds, old and new, pragmatic vocational training and cultural engagement. In classrooms and online they absorb instructional training, tactical and strategic; in the global lab they see and learn how logisticians apply these skills in different ways.

We value the importance of logistics education because it applies practical skills to strategic challenges; it empowers our workforce to be movers and shakers; it creates jobs; and it makes our economy more competitive.

Increasingly, logistics education also provides a window to the world. It's everything and anything you want it to be.

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