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Medicine with a bitter taste

Feb. 3, 2004
Medicine with a bitter taste In boardrooms everywhere, the search for a cure to the economic pandemic that has infected bottom lines for the better part

Medicine with a bitter taste

In boardrooms everywhere, the search for a cure to the economic pandemic that has infected bottom lines for the better part of the last three years has been a primary focus. Logistics has been right in there, slugging it out, developing strategies to support corporate goals and devising tactics to deliver on those strategies.

Challenges expanded exponentially as resources dwindled in many logistics operations. Manufacturing and sourcing moved further offshore in pursuit of cheap labor. Companies shed assets in favor of outsourcing, converting fixed costs into variable costs. Staffs were downsized. And cost cutting was the order of the day.

Logistics and supply chain managers ensured the flow of goods from offshore continued uninterrupted, terms of sale were favorable, data on location and condition of inventory was accurate and timely, and a plethora of new security requirements were met.

Domestic customers, faced with their own cost-cutting goals, demanded more. Again, logistics stepped in to provide effective solutions, shifting modes, consolidating shipments, improving information flows.

When Finance said, “Shed assets,” logistics found ways to reduce inventories, outsourced operations that had been performed by company employees at company-owned facilities, and contracted out private fleet operations.

Underlying nearly every strategy mounted to protect ailing margins is a logistics professional with at least a partial cure. So, it comes as no surprise that the majority of logistics professionals say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their career choice. You should be, this is pretty heady stuff.

More companies outside the Fortune 500 are recognizing that managing a supply chain can pay big dividends. As a result, the slowly evolving economic recovery is bringing substantial demand for logistics professionals who can link strategic goals to tactical solutions. The manager who can not only set up the plan but also implement the technology and apply the tools to day-to-day solutions is a hot commodity.

Of the 10 sectors experiencing the highest demand for managers and executives, three relate to logistics. Jim Chadbourne, managing partner of MRI Executive Solutions, starts down the list of the hottest fields: pharmaceuticals, healthcare, supply chain management, manufacturing, logistics, chemicals and transportation. The market for logistics skills is better than ever, he says.

There is a darker side to all of this, though. While logistics professionals are happy with their career choice, Chadbourne says about 90% of the people he talks to are changing positions for reasons of culture and value. “I'm not valued,” is the phrase he hears.

You want to know you have made a difference — or more accurately, you want to know top management knows you've made a difference. That lack of recognition will cause a large number of you to make a career move in the very near future. That's tough medicine.

There's a side effect that you may not be aware of. All of this demand for logistics talent will make your own hiring efforts more difficult. And on top of that, there's a talent gap developing between the large body of “baby boomers” and the next significant pool of prospects — basically an experience gap between the 55-year-olds who are nearing retirement or leaving the field and the 40-year-olds.

Don't relax yet. You may have helped contain one outbreak, but there are still plenty of ills left to cure.

Perry A. Trunick
executive editor

February, 2004

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