February 2005 | Commentary | Checking In

Power to Our People

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Have you seen Wal-Mart's new supply chain commercial yet? It's exciting for this industry because it builds on what UPS started with its "What can Brown do for you?" ad campaign: an attempt to make consumers more aware of the complex logistics behind everyday purchases.

The commercial starts with a two-liter bottle of ginger ale moving down the checkout conveyer toward the demand signal—the customer. She is happy buying ginger ale at the right price point—but does she understand how that bottle got there?

The tape reverses and we follow the bottle from the checkout counter back to the shelf, the storeroom, the delivery truck, the DC. The commercial illustrates perfectly how little those outside the industry know about the complexities of the supply chain and the people who master them.

Within the industry, we certainly spend ample time fleshing out the strategic details behind the ginger ale bottle's journey—just-in-time delivery, RFID, warehouse management systems—but we sometimes lose sight of the most important aspect of the complex supply chain: the people. The people in this industry ultimately have the vision, make the decisions, take the risks, and do the hard work required to get that bottle of ginger ale to customers.

The logistics and transportation industry employs smart, solid professionals who are open, helpful, and upbeat, despite their tough, never-ending workload. During my 20 years in this industry, I've met readers with stellar logistics careers. There is the founder of an airfreight forwarding company, for instance, who spent his entire career building the business, then sold it, and now in his retirement, lends his expertise to humanitarian causes.

Another reader began his logistics career at age 14, working part-time at the local fish wholesaler, eventually moving up to general manager of the company's western DC. Then there is the young Penn State grad who pushed to get Six Sigma certification. He now applies that discipline in the logistics field at a large retailer.

And I recently heard from a Marine serving in Iraq whose wife sends him Inbound Logistics every month. I was proud to hear how our articles help him in his job supplying the warfighter, as well as advancing his career development.

It's feedback like this that drives us to create our logistics education issue every year. Our cover story, Pushing Your Career to a Higher Degree, stresses the importance of continuing your logistics education, whether you are a newbie or a veteran. To get you on your way, we've included a directory of logistics education resources. There is always something new to learn, and always a new way to fast-track your career and skill set.

Then customers can continue getting their ginger ale faster and more efficiently, even if they don't really know how it happens.

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