A career in logistics and distribution may suit you if you enjoy coordinating and overseeing a process to its completion

Logistics and distribution managers organise the storage and distribution of goods. In this role you will ensure that the right products are delivered to the right location on time and at a good cost. You may also be involved in transportation, stock control, warehousing and monitoring the flow of goods.

Understanding the whole supply chain is important so that you can coordinate it effectively and liaise with suppliers of raw materials, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

Responsibilities

As a logistics and distribution manager you'll need to:

  • use IT systems to manage stock levels, delivery times and transport costs;
  • use associated information systems to coordinate and control the order cycle;
  • use data from IT systems to evaluate performance and quality and to plan improvements;
  • allocate and manage staff resources according to changing needs;
  • manage staff;
  • liaise and negotiate with customers and suppliers;
  • develop business by gaining new contracts, analysing logistical problems and producing new solutions;
  • understand, work with and possibly help to develop e-commerce;
  • continually try to improve and develop business performance within the constraints of legislation, fuel costs and rising environmental pressures.

You may also be required to:

  • implement health and safety procedures;
  • manage staff training issues;
  • motivate other members of the team;
  • project manage;
  • set objectives;
  • plan projects;
  • work on new supply strategies;
  • plan vehicle routes;
  • use specialist knowledge, such as mechanical-handling systems, to provide consultancy services.

Salary

  • Starting salaries are between £15,000 and £19,000. This will typically be at a lower level as some experience is usually required before reaching management positions.
  • With increased responsibility and management duties, salaries can range from £25,000 to £35,000. Larger companies may pay more, especially on completion of training.
  • Middle to senior management salaries range between £45,000 and £60,000. There is potential to reach higher than this depending on budget, company size, specific role and ambition.

Some companies pay bonuses, which are often arranged to take into account individual, departmental and group performance. They are generally in the range of 10% to 40% and can significantly enhance basic pay. Enhancements such as company cars, stocks and shares, health insurance and pension schemes may be available depending on the employer and the job role.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Hours of work may vary but are generally around 60 per week. Companies that offer a 24-hour service may operate a shift system, in which case weekend and evening work may be required.

Part-time work may be available and freelance work and self-employment on a consultancy basis is sometimes possible, once experience has been gained.

What to expect

  • The working environment ranges from the office to the warehouse or shop floor, and dress standards reflect this. Office wear is most usual.
  • This industry is fast moving and work may be stressful.
  • The job attracts more men than women, particularly in storage and transport. However, the imbalance is slowly improving with increased graduate entry. Women are becoming better represented in management roles, especially in the retail sector.
  • The role occasionally involves travel away from home. In the early stages of training you may be expected to be mobile. For some, considerable overseas travel may be required.

Qualifications

Logistics and distribution manager jobs are open to all graduates but a degree, HND or foundation degree will help in subject areas such as:

  • business;
  • business with languages;
  • computing;
  • economics;
  • geography;
  • information systems;
  • management;
  • science;
  • transport, distribution or logistics.

Although many logistics companies are flexible about subjects of study, for some employers, a degree in logistics and/or transport/distribution management is an essential requirement.

Only a small number of first degree and HND courses are devoted specifically to logistics and transport. However, a range of other subjects, such as business studies, economics, geography and planning, often incorporate relevant modules.

Many employers may prefer graduates, while others will consider experience and personal qualities in addition to qualifications. Entry without a degree or HND has until now been fairly common, but it is likely that a higher education qualification will increasingly be required as the sector develops its strategic business function and competition for positions may increase.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential, but there are a growing number of Masters degrees in logistics and supply chain management. These may improve chances of entry and progression. Employers' recruitment literature often provides a guide on whether further qualifications are normally preferred. Search for postgraduate courses in logistics and supply chain management.

Professional qualifications are also available in logistics and distribution such as the UK Level 2 Certificate in Logistics and Transport, which is aimed at new entrants to the profession and is provided by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • a logical and systematic approach to work;
  • good time management ability;
  • the ability to solve problems and make decisions, as well as think laterally and offer creative solutions;
  • commercial awareness and numeracy skills;
  • some degree of IT literacy and the ability to handle electronic data;
  • the ability to manage change;
  • strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well as part of a team, as well as manage people;
  • excellent communication skills, both oral and written;
  • negotiation and analytical skills;
  • a positive attitude to continued learning.

Work experience

Related work experience, such as warehousing, storage, retail or administration, could be an advantage and is relatively easy to obtain. Many large logistics companies run graduate recruitment schemes and competition for entry onto these schemes can be high.

An alternative route is to move into logistics after beginning in another area of the supply chain, such as retail management or purchasing. Logistics consultancies are unlikely to take on new graduates and normally require several years' experience within the industry or in strategic business planning.

If you are a final year student wishing to apply to larger companies you will need to check with your careers service from late October onwards for vacancy details. Smaller companies tend to advertise throughout the year to suit their recruitment needs.

For more information see work experience and internships.

Employers

Logistics and distribution managers exist across the employment sector, from private companies to the government. You could work in retail companies, aviation organisations, rail providers or engineering firms.

Look for job vacancies at:

Commonly used recruitment agencies within the logistics and distribution industry include:

Find out more about self-employment.

Professional development

Larger companies may have graduate training schemes that allow graduates to experience a range of roles within logistics. Such schemes, typically lasting around 18 months to two years, may require relocation to different parts of the country or overseas.

Many companies require graduates to take professional qualifications. These may include:

These courses cover areas such as legal requirements for transport, managerial skills and other aspects of supply-chain management. For graduates wishing to progress further in their careers, qualifications such as the Certificate or Diploma in Management Studies (CMS/DMS) and/or a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), logistics or supply chain management will be useful or in some cases essential.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is very important in this industry and CILT UK has a CPD scheme to help with this. Membership of a professional institute is advantageous and demonstrates commitment to the profession and to lifelong learning. It also provides access to short courses, conferences, networking and industry publications, which can all help with CPD. A range of short courses and customised programmes in the field are offered by the Cranfield Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management (CLSCM) at Cranfield University.

Career prospects

Career development opportunities are excellent in this fast-moving and innovative industry. If you are willing to take advantage of further training and professional development, you will find it relatively easy to progress. Changing jobs is common, and in some regions of the country, such as the Midlands 'inland hub' between Leicester and Milton Keynes, where many opportunities exist, it is often not necessary to relocate for promotion or to broaden experience.

With ongoing global economic challenges, many logistics companies, retailers and manufacturers are expanding their physical presence into emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, Russia and East Asia, providing greater opportunities for working abroad.

Initial roles are often focused on goods distribution, managing storage centres or specific customer contracts. Promotion usually involves movement into general management of larger units, specialised roles or the more umbrella remit of logistics management.

Senior positions involve general management duties such as business development and overseeing the efficient management of an organisation's other resources, including labour, information, capital and facilities, and business functions. These business functions include financial management, human resources, production management, and IT systems and management information. Such responsibilities are increasingly reflected in the content of MBA programmes.