A career in logistics and distribution may suit you if you enjoy coordinating and overseeing a process to its completion
Your role as a logistics and distribution manager is to organise the storage and distribution of goods. You'll ensure that the right products are delivered to the right location on time and at a good cost. You may also be involved in transportation, stock control, warehousing and monitoring the flow of goods.
Understanding the whole supply chain is important so that you can coordinate it effectively and liaise with suppliers of raw materials, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
As a logistics and distribution manager, you'll need to:
- use IT systems to manage stock levels, delivery times and transport costs
- use associated information systems to coordinate and control the order cycle
- use data from IT systems to evaluate performance and quality and to plan improvements
- allocate and manage staff resources according to changing needs
- manage staff
- liaise and negotiate with customers and suppliers
- develop business by gaining new contracts, analysing logistical problems and producing new solutions
- understand, work with and possibly help to develop e-commerce
- continually try to improve and develop business performance within the constraints of legislation, fuel costs and rising environmental pressures
- implement health and safety procedures
- manage staff training issues
- motivate other members of the team
- set objectives
- plan and manage projects
- work on new supply strategies
- plan vehicle routes
- use specialist knowledge, such as mechanical-handling systems, to provide consultancy services - this may be a requirement in some roles.
- Starting salaries range from £19,000 to £25,000.
- With increased responsibility and management duties, you can expect to earn £25,000 to £35,000. Larger companies may pay more, especially on completion of training.
- Middle to senior management salaries range between £45,000 and £60,000. There is potential to reach higher than this depending on budget, company size, specific role and ambition.
Some companies pay bonuses, which are often arranged to take into account individual, departmental and group performance. They are generally in the range of 10% to 40% and can significantly enhance your basic pay.
Extras such as company cars, stocks and shares, health insurance and pension schemes may also be available, depending on the employer and the job role.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Hours of work may vary but you'll generally work around 60 hours per week. Companies that offer a 24-hour service may operate a shift system, which may involve weekend and evening work.
Part-time work may be available and freelance work and self-employment on a consultancy basis is sometimes possible, once experience has been gained.
What to expect
- The working environment ranges from the office to the warehouse or shop floor, and dress standards reflect this. Office wear is most typical.
- This industry is fast moving and work may be stressful.
- The job attracts more men than women, particularly in storage and transport. However, the imbalance is slowly improving with increased graduate entry. Women are becoming better represented in management roles, especially in the retail sector.
- The role occasionally involves travel away from home. In the early stages of training you may be expected to be mobile. For some, considerable overseas travel may be required.
Logistics and distribution manager jobs are open to all graduates, but a degree, HND or foundation degree in the following subject areas may help:
- business with languages
- information systems
- transport, distribution or logistics.
Although many logistics companies are flexible about subjects of study, for some employers, a degree in logistics and/or transport/distribution management is an essential requirement.
Only a small number of first degree and HND courses are devoted specifically to logistics and transport. However, a range of other subjects, such as business studies, economics, geography and planning, often incorporate relevant modules.
Some employers prefer graduates, while others will consider experience and personal qualities in addition to qualifications. Entry without a degree or HND has until now been fairly common, but higher education qualifications may be increasingly sought after by employers as the sector develops.
It may be possible to complete an apprenticeship in logistics and distribution.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential, but there are a growing number of Masters degrees in logistics and supply chain management. Check employer recruitment literature to see whether a postgraduate degree will improve your chances of entry and progression.
Professional qualifications are also available in logistics and distribution such as the UK Level 2 Certificate in Logistics and Transport, which is aimed at new entrants to the profession and is provided by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK.
You will need to have:
- a logical and systematic approach to work
- good time management ability
- the ability to solve problems and make decisions, as well as think laterally and offer creative solutions
- commercial awareness and numeracy skills
- some degree of IT literacy and the ability to handle electronic data
- the ability to manage change
- strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well as part of a team, as well as manage people
- excellent communication skills, both oral and written
- negotiation and analytical skills
- a positive attitude to continued learning.
Related work experience, such as warehousing, storage, retail or administration, could be an advantage and is relatively easy to obtain. Many large logistics companies run graduate recruitment schemes, though competition for entry onto these schemes can be high.
An alternative route is to move into logistics after beginning in another area of the supply chain, such as retail management or purchasing. Logistics consultancies are unlikely to take on new graduates and normally require several years' experience within the industry or in strategic business planning.
If you're a final-year student wishing to apply to larger companies, you'll need to check with your careers service from late October onwards for vacancy details. Smaller companies tend to advertise throughout the year to suit their recruitment needs.
For more information, see work experience and internships.
Logistics and distribution managers are employed within many different sectors, from private companies to the government. For example, you could work in retail companies, aviation organisations, rail providers or engineering firms.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Total Jobs - Logistics
- Logistics Manager
- MVP Search and Selection
- Supply Chain Online
- Supply Chain Recruit
Commonly used recruitment agencies within the logistics and distribution industry include:
- Michael Page - Logistics
A graduate training scheme allows you to experience a range of roles within logistics. Such schemes, typically lasting around 18 months to two years, may require relocation to different parts of the country or overseas.
Many companies require graduates to take professional qualifications. These include:
- the certificate, diploma or advanced diploma in logistics and transport and the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), also available as the international CPC supplied by CILT UK
- awards, certificates and diplomas offered by the Institute of Leadership and Management
- certificate, advanced diploma or graduate diploma provided by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).
These courses cover areas such as legal requirements for transport, managerial skills and other aspects of supply-chain management. If you wish to progress further in your career, qualifications such as the Certificate or Diploma in Management Studies (CMS/DMS) and/or a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), logistics or supply chain management will be useful, or in some cases essential.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is very important in this industry and CILT UK offers a CPD scheme to help with this. Membership of a professional institute is advantageous and demonstrates commitment to the profession and to lifelong learning. It also provides access to short courses, conferences, networking and industry publications, which can all help with CPD.
A range of courses and customised programmes in the field is offered by the Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management (CLSCM) at Cranfield University.
Career development opportunities are excellent in this fast-moving and innovative industry. If you're willing to take advantage of further training and professional development, you'll find it relatively easy to progress. Changing jobs is common, and in some regions of the country, such as the Midlands 'inland hub' between Leicester and Milton Keynes, where many opportunities exist, it's often not necessary to relocate for promotion or to broaden experience.
At first, it's usual to be focused on goods distribution and the management of storage centres, or specific customer contracts. Promotion involves movement into general management of larger units, specialised roles or the more umbrella remit of logistics management.
In a more senior position you'll be concerned with higher-level management duties, such as business development and overseeing the efficient management of an organisation's other resources. These other resources include labour, information, capital and facilities and business functions. Elements within business functions include financial management, human resources, production management, and IT systems and management information. Such responsibilities are increasingly reflected in the content of MBA courses.