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Logistics Engineers


The supply chain field developed during the industrial revolution, when mass-production machinery was invented and became more efficient. More goods and products could be produced in less time and with fewer workers. Developments in transportation also expanded the manufacturing industry, with steamships, railroads, and airplanes procuring and delivering materials, supplies, and products to more locations in the United States and worldwide.

The logistics field originated in the military in the 1900s. Military operations relied on logistics to transport the correct number of men, machinery, and supplies to the correct place and at the correct time during campaigns. The business world adopted logistics into its operations in the 1950s, using analysis and coordination tactics to improve production and material handling.

In the 1960s, trucks became the preferred method for transporting freight that had to be delivered within certain time frames. The "physical distribution" of goods and products increased the need for professionals to manage the production process, material handling, freight transportation, and warehousing. The National Council of Physical Distribution Management was established at this time, providing standards and guidelines for this new business area. The growth of computers in the 1970s and 1980s gave business managers various tools to help them in their work, including software for spreadsheets and map-based interfaces for supply chain management and logistics.

Logistics was recognized as an important business focus starting in the 1980s. During this time the National Council of Physical Distribution Management changed its name to the Council of Logistics Management. Companies included training programs for logistics and operations planning in their budgets, and software was introduced for logistics planning, such as Material Requirements Planning (MRP), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) systems.  

The manufacturing industry expanded further in the 1990s and early 2000s, with dramatic growth in U.S. imports from China (from $45 billion in 1995 to more than $280 billion in 2006). This growth increased the need for logistics and supply chain professionals to coordinate and manage complex business processes, particularly those that conduct business in different countries.

The Council of Logistics Management became the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals in 2005. The council described the distinction between logistics and supply chain management as follows: “Logistics is that part of the supply chain process 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 customers’ requirements. … Supply Chain Management is the systemic, strategic coordination of the traditional business functions and the tactics across these business functions within a particular company and across businesses within the supply chain for the purposes of improving the long-term performance of the individual companies and the supply chain as a whole.”

Today companies hire logistics engineers to help them optimize in areas such as transportation, shipment, distribution, inventory management, and workflow processes. Logistics engineers apply their knowledge of math, science, and various logistics and analytical software programs to create streamlined, efficient operational processes and systems.

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