Business Logistics - An Introduction

Logistics – Introduction

A dictionary definition of logistics is “the branch of military science having to do with procuring, maintaining, and transporting material, personnel, and facilities.”
The definition promulgated by the Council of Logistics Management (CLM), is: “Logistics is the process of planning, implementing, and controlling the efficient, cost-effective flow and storage of raw materials, in-process inventory, finished goods and related information from point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements.”
Ballou explained that in the context of manufacturing it appears from the definition that the logistician is concerned with flow of goods to and from his firm. But the responsibility extends to the flow of components and goods through the production process as well. But the logistician may not deal with detailed production processes, machine scheduling, quality control etc. in the production process. Also the manufacturing logistics definition excludes maintenance which is a part of military logistics.
The mission of logistics in a business firm is to get the right goods or services to the right place, at the right time, and in the desired condition, while making the greatest contribution to the firm. Value in logistics is a combination of time, place and cost.
Logistics is about creating value – value for customers, value for suppliers and value for the firm’s stakeholders.

The Activities of Logistics Function

Council of Logistics Management identified the following:

  • Customer Service
  • Demand Forecasting
  • Distribution Communications
  • Inventory Control
  • Material handling
  • Order Processing
  • Part and Service Support
  • Plant and Warehouse Site Selection
  • Purchasing
  • Packaging
  • Return Goods Handling
  • Salvage and Scarp Disposal
  • Traffic and Transportation
  • Warehousing and Storage

Case for Organizing a Separate Logistics Department

Both marketing and production have recognized the importance of logistical activities. According to Philip Kotler, “Marketing management is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges with target groups that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

Therefore distribution of goods is identified as an important activity in marketing. Ballou quotes, McClain and Thomas, who stated that operations management has the responsibility for the production and delivery of physical goods and services. Hence delivery of goods at destinations required by the customer or the sales department is recognized as a part of operations management function.

But Ballou argued that both marketing and production have more important core activities to perform and hence logistic activities may not get adequate attention. According to him marketing may be given the job of creating possession value and production may be given the job of creating form value. A separate logistics department would be concerned with providing time and place value. Ballou recognized the interface problems that arise as more departments are created and hence stresses the need for coordination.

Objectives of Business Logistics Function

The logistics function has to earn the highest possible return on investment over time as far as internal objective is concerned. But to achieve this internal objective it has to first achieve external objectives. It has to earn revenue and minimize costs.

Therefore a logistics system has to be designed and operated considering its impact on revenue contribution that comes through the quality of customer service provided and cost of logistics facilities, system and operation.

Costs of logistics function include capital costs are operating costs. Wages, public warehousing (rented warehouses or warehouse space) expenses, public transport expenses, financial expenses related to inventory investment, other administrative expenses are examples of operating costs. Capital costs are one time costs, own warehouse, own trucks are examples of capital costs.

The financial objective of the logistics function can be expressed as “Maximize over the time the ratio of the annual revenue (due to the customer level provided) less the operating costs of the logistics system to the annualized investment in the logistic system.”

Time value of money may be considered and the objective can be expressed in net present value (NPV) terms or internal rate of return (IRR) terms.

Study of Logistics

Study of logistics can focus on management process and the skills needed to perform the activities involved. Management process can be briefly described as planning, organizing and controlling. The three important domain areas of logistics are facilities location, inventory levels and mix, and transport facilities. Logistics function is concerned with providing service levels to customers and managing costs appropriately for the company. All decision making requires information. Study of logistics includes principles and practices related to the above issues.  Some of the issues are discussed in detail in specialized texts related to those areas and a logistician has to examine them now in the context of logistics.


Ronald H. Ballou, Business Logistics Management, Fourth Edition,  Prentice Hall Int. Inc., USA,  1999.
Joh O. McClain and L. Joseph Thomas, Operations Management: Production of Goods and Services, Second Edition, Prentice Hall, USA, 1985.

Dean Clemente - Presentation on Logistics and Distribution

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