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Logistics and Distribution

Logistics and Distribution

Once you hang up your uniform, could a career in logistics and distribution be the next step for you?

What’s involved?

Logistics is the time-related positioning of resources, or the strategic management of the total supply chain. It covers the movement and supply of goods – from raw materials, through all stages of the manufacturing process, to the final delivery of the finished product to companies and consumers. Logistics embraces an array of different industries that work across all types of transport and a variety of supply chains. Logistics is very often an ‘invisible’ industry, despite the fact that it underpins the economy. It includes the planning, routing and movement of freight across all transport modes (road, rail, sea and air), as well as associated activities such as warehousing and storage, removals, freight forwarding and wholesaling. Ultimately, logistics works to ensure the right goods are in the right place at the right time.

Freight logistics companies fall into two groups:

  1. those that manage their own logistics system, known as ‘own account operators’, and
  2. those that manage logistics on behalf of another company.

The latter organisations are often referred to as hauliers or third-party logistics providers (3PL – see box). More than 60% of UK freight is carried for ‘hire and reward’ (i.e. 3PL) on behalf of another company, emphasising the massive importance of this industry to the UK, with the sector being worth in excess of £93 billion. An incredible 1 in 12 working people in the UK are employed in logistics – that’s 2.3 million people spanning some 196,000 companies!


Many companies now outsource their logistics, or elements of this, to third-party logistics (3PL) providers. These subcontracted services can include:

  • primary and secondary transport and distribution
  • inbound logistics and consolidation
  • inventory management
  • order processing and case/unit picking
  • invoice and management reporting.

Although this article doesn’t deal with transport, it is almost impossible to separate it from other parts of the supply chain. It has to be an integrated operation if it is to be successful – a principle that will be familiar to you if you have spent any time in Services logistics. Many qualifications (see below) include all parts of the supply chain.

Supply chains are becoming increasingly adaptive and agile as competition affects them, and e-management of them is often the norm. Indeed, IT and electronic communications have become key competencies for logistics managers, with the supply chain at the heart of many e-commerce developments. Supply chains that start in Hong Kong can end in Harlow. Warehousing involves minimum holdings while satisfying customer expectations.

The industry is suffering from major skills shortages in some areas, in particular of HGV drivers (see ‘Finding employment’, below). Skills gaps have also been identified among junior and middle managers, and the supply chain management credentials of more senior managers are currently under examination, too. The good news is that major employers offer significant training to their staff.

Skill up while serving

Maybe you are already one of the Armed Forces’ highly trained and experienced logisticians, who support operations, training and exercises, unit moves, static bases, war stocks and equipment pools? Such people work in Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the MoD’s procurement and support organisation, on ships and in ports, in Army formations, and on air stations and detachments, to turn plans into reality.

Every unit has its own logistics staff, performing exactly the same functions but at a lower level. They manage and deliver the essentials of fuel, ammunition, water, food, clothing and personal equipment to the people actually involved in operations. They may have ranks and job titles that are peculiar to a single Service, and in many cases they have enough experience to gain qualifications – usually vocational ones – in the logistics field.

Each unit and sub-unit also has a host of people who carry out many logistics functions as an integral part of their everyday work, although they would probably never dream of calling themselves logisticians. Many other military people are also concerned with logistics although they do not themselves run facilities. If you are one of them, you may be involved with research, design, trials and tests, project management, procurement, development, maintenance, finance, training, and so on.

When you start your resettlement, you will find that there are a number of providers offering training, as well as Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT(UK)) courses in transport and logistics management, and supply chain management, available via the CTP. Check the CTP website for more information: It is important to get qualifications that will remain valid in the months and years ahead, as logistics and its qualifications are changing rapidly.

Get qualified!

There are five main routes to the upper echelons of logistics:

  1. graduate training
  2. postgraduate entry
  3. with management experience
  4. school (or young Service) leavers
  5. professional qualifications.

Graduate training entrants join management training programmes run by employers. They will then often take the professional qualifications of the relevant institute.

Postgraduate entry applicants will have completed an MSc or an MBA. Those without a first degree can often enter a postgraduate programme provided that they are up to the academic demands of the course.

Graduates with management experience may well see transport and logistics as their logical next career step and will need to gain the extra knowledge to make it possible.

If you already have A-levels, you may want to start work at once. In which case your best route into management might well be on-the-job experience.

Professional qualifications must reflect the needs of the profession and employers, so they are under frequent scrutiny to ensure they are relevant and provide the right standards. They can enable people like you to translate your Service skills into their civilian equivalents.

CILT(UK) and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) offer qualifications at a number of levels that are valued in the industry. Both institutes will allow exemptions to various levels of qualification and individual subjects based on prior learning and experience. 

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK

CILT(UK) is the independent professional body for individuals associated with logistics, supply chains and all transport throughout their careers. It offers a number of qualifications, most of which can be studied as stand-alone units). Visit its website (see ‘Useful info’) for full and up-to-date details.



Whatever the entry route, the following personal qualities are valued in this field.

Core technology skills:

  •  IT literacy
  •  machinery
  •   warehousing – engineering
  •   warehouse management
  •   analysis.

People skills:

  • problem solving
  • leadership
  • communication
  • team building
  • decision making.

Personal qualities:

  • analytical
  •  presentation
  •  numeracy
  •  decision making.


Visit it here:

Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply

CIPS is the world’s largest procurement and supply professional organisation. It is the worldwide centre of excellence for purchasing and supply management issues. It offers a portfolio of professional qualifications. All CIPS UK qualifications are Ofqual accredited. To find out about them in more detail, check out the in-depth guide at

Vocational qualifications

Although there are relatively few logistics vocational qualifications, there are many units that are relevant to logistics in vocational qualifications offered by the Services. It is also possible to ‘grow’ an NVQ/SVQ through a military vocational qualification office or a local college. Higher National, and National Certificates and Diplomas can also be gained through part-time study. Visit an education centre or local college to find out the necessary information.

Use your ELC

Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website at and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features on this website.

Finding employment

With the huge variety of logistics jobs available, it is possible to highlight only a few areas of employment here that you might consider.

  • Manufacturing makes great use of just-in-time (JIT) management to cut unnecessary costs, with materials arriving in the right quantities and at the right times to meet production schedules, and finished goods despatched to customers.
  • Retailing is a very competitive business and the supply chain for a major outlet has to be carefully managed to maintain profit margins.
  • Logistics service provision is a growth area as more organisations outsource some or all of their logistic support, so that customer satisfaction will be a prime goal of the service company.
  • Consultancy offers opportunities for experienced logisticians to work either in-house or for an external business, to advise clients on supply chain matters.

Prospects for employment are good. Industry insiders point out that the UK freight transport sector is heading for a massive shortfall in personnel over the next few years. With this in mind, a number of training companies are focusing on helping Service leavers prepare to enter the industry.

You should also note that logistics is a very broad field, and any company or department specialising in it will also need staff working in the administrative, financial, IT, human resources and marketing functions. A background in logistics is now accepted as a basis for career development in general management and a board-level position in a major company. Much (including salaries) depends on the area of the industry and the size of the organisation.

To view a full list of Logistics and Distribution training courses Click here