The world of logistics we know today is very different compared to the industry of 100, 50 or even ten years ago. The aim has always remained the same – to deliver goods from A to B in the quickest, safest and most cost-effective manner possible. But the nature of the customer, and the dynamic of the supplier-customer relationship has changed drastically over time.
So, how have the parameters of the logistics industry changed in recent memory?
Origins in War
The origins of logistics can be traced back to the warmongering of the Roman empire. The Roman legion was the first to understand the importance of a regular flow of resources to a successful military operation, employing ‘logistikas’ to efficiently allocate supplies to its forces whilst on the move.
Logistics methods tended to improve alongside global warfare and the pressing need for supplies, culminating with the Second World War. The sheer demand of mechanising western forces, combined with significant advances in transportation methods, meant the logistics industry had reached previously unthinkable levels of efficiency by the close of the conflict.
It was this exponential growth that attracted the attention of the business world, shifting the focus of logistics from military to commerce for the first time.
Realisation, Specialisation & Globalisation
The evolution of logistics aligned heavily with business need, as organisations began to understand the importance of a proper supply chain as business affairs expanded first nationally, then globally. Logistics companies were able to offer relief to businesses looking to rid themselves of a vital operational burden, introducing specialisms to offer the most efficient and cost-effective solutions to particular sectors.
Take B2B logistics provider Tuffnells, as an example. Established in 1914 as a single horse and cart operation, the business developed post-war to provide an ‘any shape, size or weight’ style service to businesses, as well as offering specialist niches like transportation of delicate forensic equipment. By adapting to the changing demand of their customers, Tuffnells now sits as a global player, turning over well in excess of £100m.
Continuing globalisation in the 1990s and the increase in import and export of goods saw businesses give further importance to their transportation efforts. From this, ‘logistics management’ was born; a comprehensive service covering all stages of transportation.
The Present & the Future
The logistics industry of today is an ultra-optimised, cost-efficient operation that offers consumers full visibility on every stage of the process.
In the B2B world, logistics providers can provide real-time, actionable data to their client in order to identify areas for improvement, as businesses look to squeeze every ounce of margin and performance out of their delivery efforts.
In B2C and C2C operations, logistics businesses are constantly evolving to meet the demand of a surging industry and ever-increasing customer expectations, prioritising speed of delivery, tracking visibility and competitive pricing to attract and retain customers in a hyper-aggressive market.
As for the future, the logistics industry is set to benefit from the influence of technology greatly. Expect to see faster, greener and more autonomous methods of delivery and a focus on improving consumer convenience. The likes of self-driven vehicles, drone deliveries and smart-shopping are not too far around the corner.