The Big Money in Warehousing

Oct. 1, 2004
Want to make the rules-- and big bucks? Set your sights on vice president of logistics job.
If you want to inhabit the office — and the role — of logistics vice president some day, these capabilities will have to be part of your programming.

Want to see who's making the big bucks in warehousing? Visit your vice president of logistics' office. If that's you, then look in the mirror. According to the 2004 Study of Warehousing Salaries and Wages, conducted by the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), that position is the top earner.

And why not? The study reports that while these warehouse professionals earn well over $100,000 a year in salary and bonuses, half of those surveyed also supervise 26 people or more. Heck, most of the vice presidents of sales and marketing supervise five people or fewer for not much less in salary.

Besides supervision of his/her people, the job description provided in the WERC report says that person is "responsible for the overall performance of multiple facilities ... assists facility managers in planning, budgeting and organizing to enable the organization to reach customer service, safety, financial and growth goals. ... Interaction with a wide range of internal and external contacts requires excellent communication, negotiation and people skills."

If you're not already holding this position, maybe that's where your career path is taking you. Look what warehousing did for H. Lee Scott Jr., CEO of Wal-Mart. After graduating from Pittsburgh State University with a degree in business, he worked at Yellow Freight System and Queen City Warehouse Corporation. He drove trucks and immersed himself in the nitty-gritty of transportation and distribution before joining Wal-Mart in 1979. By 1993 he was executive vice president in charge of logistics. Eventually, he became the third CEO of Wal-Mart, after Sam Walton, the founder, and David Glass.

Scott is credited with reorganizing Wal-Mart's culture to be more customer focused. He started that reorganization in the warehouse, and his changes are now shaking up supply chains around the world.

According to profiles written about Scott, he visits his stores at least once a week and talks to associates. This will prove to be a vital part of their education as they climb the career ladder after him. This is education, not training.

Clyde Witt's article on the following page makes that distinction clear. It will give you the employer's perspective on warehouse hiring, but you'd also do well to check out our editorial advisory board section this month (page 13). Some of the people on our board hold the vaunted Vice President of Logistics title, or its equivalent. Whether they make the type of salary reported in the WERC survey is their business, but whatever they earn is well earned. Their skills go beyond warehousing and include every aspect of transportation management.

Today's ambitious warehouse professional needs a solid grounding in what it takes to load and schedule trucks most efficiently. Our advisory board members agree that transportation management is the basis for managing JIT deliveries to the warehouse, balancing inventories and maintaining profit margins.

Sure, there's software available to help with these things, but if you want to inhabit the office — and the role — of logistics vice president some day, these capabilities will have to be part of your programming.

MHM board member David Lockman, manager of engineering for L.L. Bean, says it best:

"When we rely so heavily on systems and refuse to work around them when necessary, they are a crutch, not a tool. But if business rules used by the system are consistently followed, you are far less likely to make errors."

Play your cards right and some day you'll be making the rules — as well as the big bucks.

For more on the WERC Study of Warehouse Salaries and Wages, go to, or call WERC at 630-990-0001.

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