Distribution and logistics are an important part of commerce. These functions control the way products move between the supply source and the store shelves. Without them, there would be a noticeable shortage of goods overnight. It can be a challenging job, but one that offers a variety of positions for many types of background, education, and training.
Distribution refers to the network of suppliers, warehouses, freight forwarders and delivery systems responsible for product movement. This includes all aspects of shipping, from trucking companies and railroads to air freight delivery. The final leg of a distribution journey is handled by local delivery vehicles running packages back and forth across town. Products that began as raw materials in a factory arrive in packaging that stock clerks place on store shelves.
Distribution careers cover every aspect of the process. Cargo agents, freight brokers, dispatchers, truck drivers, stock clerks, shipping and receiving employees, and distribution managers all play a part. All require a different level of knowledge and expertise. Consequently, pay scales vary greatly, as does the potential for career advancement.
Educational requirements vary as well. Warehouse workers, delivery drivers, dock hands and stock clerk jobs typically require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Distribution managers, custom brokers, supply chain supervisors and transportation planners will often require a two-year associate or bachelor’s degree in a related study.
Pay scales start at minimum-wage entry level wages and can reach into six figures for high ranking executives, with profit-sharing, performance bonuses and lucrative retirement programs.
Logistics is a term borrowed from military strategy. It refers to the task of placing personnel and equipment at a location on a pre-determined schedule. A career in logistics includes several aspects of routing, scheduling, time management and oversight related to the movement of goods and materials from point of origin to point of delivery.
According to the Education-Portal website, which cites data compiled by the Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech University, logistics and distribution account for nearly half of a company’s marketing budget and more than a quarter of its overall operating costs. Precise delivery of products and materials is key to the survival of any manufacturing, wholesale, or retail business.
Educational requirements include an associate’s degree in applied science or a bachelor of science degree in supply chain management. This kind of background gives you the knowledge and skills to handle acquisition, inventory management, strategic planning of delivery systems, and cost-analysis of logistics operations. Pay scales vary depending on the scope of a company’s business. But these technical jobs generally start at a higher rate of pay than many of the lower-echelon distribution positions.
A look at the 2009 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website illustrates the wide range of requirements and career opportunities in distribution and logistics. Annual incomes vary from the low $20,000 range for package handlers to between $50,000 and $65,000 for high-level management and technical positions, such as supply managers and logistics coordinators.
U.S. employment figures from 2009 reflect numerous jobs across the industry. First-line managers alone accounted for more than 200,000 positions. You’ll usually earn more if you work for a Fortune 500 company that handles a large volume of international products and materials. Technical vocations such as logisticians earned a median annual salary of $70,400 in 2009.