Must-Have Skills for Logistics Employees

A discussion of careers in logistics may elicit the question: ‘What’s that?’ Some people don’t realize that logistics are integral to the complex global supply chain. Logistics refers to the processes involved in moving goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption, and involves a multitude of specialized equipment, technology, and personnel.

Logistics encompasses procurement, production, warehousing, inventory control, order fulfillment, and transportation and delivery. A career in logistics includes any number of jobs related to these specialized activities across a wide spectrum of levels, ranging from professional to skilled trades to blue collar.

Logistics is all about delivering products to customers as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. So, the first thing to look for in potential logistics employees—no matter what their level—is a big picture understanding that it’s all about the customers. From picker/packers to forklift operators to truck drivers to shift managers, no matter what their title or operational duties, potential employees must understand the job is careful, on-time delivery of goods to customers.

In addition to understanding the importance of customer service, there are a host of other critical logistics skills but they can vary enormously, depending on the specific position. By way of example, we’ve included a breakdown of the hard and soft skills needed for two important, but very different logistics roles: an order picker and a manager.

Critical Logistics Skills Vary by Position

Order Picker

An order picker works in a production facility or a warehouse. They are responsible for fulfilling incoming orders and delivering them to the shipping department. While this position doesn’t require a college education or a high level of technical skill, it does require other important skills to ensure orders are processed accurately and in a timely fashion:

  • Focus. The ability to read detailed written orders or listen carefully to verbal orders, day in and day out, no matter how hectic the environment becomes.
  • Organization and attention to detail. Order picking priority may be affected by a number of factors, including rush orders or a hold due to low stock levels. The order picker must keep the orders organized accordingly to ensure that no orders get lost.
  • Physical strength and stamina. Continually pulling parts or products from the shelf can be physically demanding. It’s important that order pickers are in good enough shape to do the job.
  • Good team player. Order pickers must work in concert with procurement and production staff, as well as the shipping department. They all must work cooperatively to meet customer demand; there is no room for difficult personalities or loners.
  • Accountable. Each member of a logistics team, including order pickers, must accept full responsibility for completing their assigned tasks to the best of their ability, understanding that their efforts have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.

Logistics Manager

A logistics manager must be able to deal with many moving parts in the supply chain process. Logistics managers don’t necessarily require a college education, but they must have prior logistics management experience and a facility with numbers and analytics. It’s a high pressure role not for the faint of heart. When something inevitably goes wrong—for example, when there’s a problem with a production run and a key product part is suddenly in short supply—it can have a cascade effect, resulting in a number of other problems. A logistics manager must be able to deal with rapidly changing situations and solve problems effectively. Other important skills of logistics managers are:

  • Organization and attention to detail. Logistics is all about planning, scheduling and delivering goods on time which requires incredible attention to detail and follow through.
  • Results driven. Logistics is all about the results: delivering products intact and on time. The manager is responsible for making this happen.
  • Good communication with excellent powers of persuasion. Multiple moving parts means there is a need for excellent communications skills internally, as well as externally. Logistics managers must be in close communication with other members of the team to ensure they’re on the same page. At the same time, they must be able to communicate effectively with vendors, shippers, and customers for optimum relationship management.
  • Conflict resolution. Logistics is a fast-moving area of operations with a lot of moving parts and personnel. Inevitably, conflicts will arise that need to be resolved immediately to avoid mistakes and a slowdown in work.
  • Critical thinking. Logistics managers must be able to anticipate events and outcomes, and formulate contingency plans.This entails being able to think about big picture issues as well as detailed plans of action simultaneously.
  • Adaptability. Logistics involves rapidly changing conditions; the manager must be able to change course, as necessary.
  • Cool under pressure. Logistics is a high-pressure field which may not be for everyone. One wrong move and a customer delivery is delayed, costing the company money and perhaps future business. The manager must be able to calmly work to solve the problem.

Examples of Other Logistics Jobs:

An efficient logistics operation requires exceptional workers along every step of the supply chain. Here’s a list of other typical logistics jobs:

  • licensed CDL drivers
  • order packers
  • data entry specialists
  • dispatchers
  • production supervisors
  • returns processors
  • licensed forklift operators
  • schedulers
  • general laborers
  • shipping and receiving clerks
  • inventory clerks
  • loaders/unloaders
  • taggers/pricers
  • machine operators
  • stock clerks
  • mail clerks
  • verifiers
  • material handlers
  • and yard drivers (non-CDL).

A Short History of Logistics

The concept of logistics originated with the military, which long ago had to figure out the best way to supply and move troops around the world, as needed. The challenge of designing, producing, storing and supplying equipment and supplies to troops to be deployed at a moment’s notice has always been a daunting prospect. Wars have been won, and the course of history changed on the strength of countries’ military logistics prowess. It’s an incredibly important field requiring savvy, motivated, and mission-focused workers. By the way, this is the reason military veterans often make excellent logistics employees: they’re well-trained and understand the critical importance of moving goods efficiently through the supply chain.

Logistics spread to the business world starting in the 1950’s, and evolved with globalized commerce and international supply chains. Companies figured out that efficient logistical systems would allow them to deliver to their customers faster than their competitors, giving them an advantage in the marketplace. Rapidly-advancing automation technology has played an important role in the industry, allowing companies to streamline their operations and lower costs.

This means employees working in the field today must be fast learners and tech savvy to keep up with constantly changing technology.

Finally, it’s important that all logistics employees have some understanding of the industry in which their company operates. This gives helps them see the big picture, prioritize effectively, and think on their feet, as the need arises. It’s a fast-paced industry which demands quick-thinking and hard-working employees who appreciate the contribution they’re making to the company’s bottom line.

Contact LINK today to find exceptional permanent and contingent logistics employees.