January 2013 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Training Tomorrow’s Logistics and Transportation Executives Today

Tags: Education & Careers

Juan D. Morales is Managing Director, Stanton Chase International, Miami, 561-997-0011

A volcanic cloud descends on Europe, disrupting flight plans. A tsunami in Thailand ripples across the Pacific and affects port activity in California. Forest fires in Los Angeles close highways for days. Threats of a terrorist attack in Brussels halt all transportation.

Today's logistics and transportation executives must be prepared to handle these scenarios. Their jobs have become as much about dealing with crisis and understanding technology as loading boxes on trucks and airplanes to move product from Point A to Point B. Senior-level executives' roles have become extremely complex, requiring skills that could not have been anticipated 20 years ago.

The following are some demands C-level executives must be able to address:

  • Intermodal transportation that features complex sequences involving trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes. Transitions must be seamless, quick, and cost-efficient.
  • International currencies, border treaties, terrorist/piracy hot spots, taxes, regulatory laws, and government issues.
  • Security measures that keep product safe as it moves through dangerous areas. Logistics executives must consider how to avoid such areas when possible, and how to protect pilots, truck drivers, and cargo when entering volatile environments is unavoidable.
  • Transportation costs and impacts.
  • Negotiating with transporters in other countries, understanding pay scales, and ensuring timely deliveries.
  • Local cultures, religions, and work ethics that come into play when dealing with staff and service providers around the world.

Building Better Leaders

Because of the premium placed on delivery speed and safety—not only in local markets but across borders into other countries—today's executives must be able to translate efficiencies and systems into profits. Products get to the customer faster, and prices can be managed better when processes result in lower transportation costs and fewer labor hours.

As a result of these new demands, more supply chain education providers are introducing programs to prepare students to be the logistics and transportation executives of the future.

A syllabus for the supply chain management major at Lehigh University, for example, clearly illustrates the complexities of this field. The program:

  • Provides solid exposure to supply management, logistics, business-to-business marketing, and operations management topics.
  • Develops cross-functional team skills by mingling supply chain management students with engineering students in the Integrated Product Development program.
  • Emphasizes advanced cost analysis, negotiation, product development, and e-business.
  • Integrates core business courses with supply chain major courses.
  • Provides field study and experiential learning opportunities.

Logistics and transportation is a growing field—one with no plateau in sight. Companies are always seeking faster and better ways to get product to market, to retailers' shelves, or to consumers' homes. It is a sector that requires ingenuity for today and vision for the future.