Chain of Thought

Selling What Makes Logistics Sexy

There’s a strange thing going on in logistics. Although the field has been getting more and more attention in the news media, employers still have to be creative as ever to attract talent. I just read an article in Fortune quoting Ed Romaine, vice president of marketing at Integrated Systems Design, and an active participant in the Material Handling Industry’s product groups. He told Fortune’s writer that his company trolled LinkedIn for some recent engineering hires and that a former customer recruited one of his company’s top salespeople.

How can employers get good logistics job candidates to troll for them? Maybe they could get an hour-long prime-time special on MSNBC, like the one about Amazon that ran the other night. It went into detail about the importance of logistics to its business model. Or maybe they could make an hour-long video like Jim Tompkins did. The CEO of Tompkins International just released his analysis of why Alibaba, the Chinese Omnichannel retail platform, will soon be giving Amazon some real competition. They’re leveraging logistics to meet market needs at a low price-point while offering consumers a huge selection, convenience and—an experience. All this without even being a retailer—just a retail “platform” that will leverage logistics talent to secure Alibaba’s global presence.

Amazon is not yet profitable due in large part to its using logistics as a loss leader, and Alibaba’s profit picture is likely to take a hit as it gets its logistics capabilities up to full speed. But it looks like these giants are willing to wait for their profits to start rolling in. In the process, do you think they’ll be scrounging around for logistics talent? No, Alibaba formed China Smart Logistics, a joint venture with five express delivery companies in China. And Amazon is relying on an underutilized stream of talent to help run its fulfillment centers: military veterans. Both of these giants are also doing something their competitors had better do in a hurry: capture the imaginations of nascent talent.

The logistics field certainly has hot technology to do just that. The Amazon special showed off some of it, in the form of those Kiva robots being used to retrieve products in their fulfillment centers. But there’s a lot more sizzle that needs to splatter on school kids.

Global logistics firm DHL has the right idea. They just came out with a trend report detailing all the logistics possibilities associated with google glass and other “augmented reality” devices.  They should be disseminating this to all secondary school systems in the country, showing kids how logistics professionals will be using these devices for warehouse picking, warehouse planning, managing international trade, freight routing, freight loading—even managing equipment maintenance and repair.  Reading the conclusion of this trend report, you can tell DHL is using this as a means to attract talent:

“[Augmented Reality] is well positioned to deliver some of the future´s most intriguing user interfaces and display technologies, harnessing the potential to fundamentally change how we perceive information and interact in our professional and private lives. We are clearly in the early stages of what is sure to be an exciting journey that could result in the integration of AR into daily life in logistics – so come join us and together let’s look at reality in new ways.”

That alone takes talent—and imagination, both of which are on every kid’s curriculum vitae.

(Photo Gallery: Augmented Reality Devices)

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