By Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC  |  05/16/2023

Competitive advantage  and key differences in supply chain and logistics include multiple organizations helping to make the supply chain run smoothly

In my over 30 years of experience in supply chain management and transportation and logistics, the one thing that is clear is that professionals in both fields are always in demand.

I worked in logistics and transportation throughout my college career to pay for my education. Once I graduated, I found a role in supply chain management.

Beyond my personal experience, I also made sure that I would focus my education on the field of supply chain management in which American Public University offers both a bachelor’s and master’s degree program. The University also offers a bachelor's degree - and a master's degree - in Transportation and Logistics Management. Read on for more information about the degree programs.

Supply chain managers and their partners must ensure that their global supply chain visibility is optimized, allowing them to anticipate and respond to changes in demand, mitigate risks, and hopefully maintain a competitive edge.


Supply Chain Management and Logistics Management

I have learned that supply chain management and logistics management are two closely related concepts in business operations.

Although there is some overlap between the two, they refer to different aspects of the overall supply chain processes of ensuring raw materials are handled correctly and goods and services get from suppliers to customers.

Supply chain represents the entire process, from raw materials to final delivery to the customer. Logistics management considers only the transportation elements within the global supply chain.


Optimizing the Entire Process

Supply chain management refers to the entire network of businesses, people, and activities involved in creating and delivering a product or service.

This process includes all the steps in sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution - culminating in the final delivery to the customer.

The industry aims to optimize the entire process, from procurement to delivery, by creating an efficient and effective system that minimizes costs and maximizes customer satisfaction.


Moving and Storing Goods

Logistics management, on the other hand, is a subset of supply chain management that focuses explicitly on moving and storing goods from one place to another. This process includes the planning, implementing, and controlling of the physical movement - and outbound logistics - of goods, as well as the associated information flows and documentation. Logistics management involves transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and packaging.

In essence, supply chain management is concerned with the overall coordination and optimization of the entire global supply chain process, while logistics management is explicitly focused on the movement and storage of goods. Both are critical components of business operations, and effective management - and a good performance may often lead to improved efficiency, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction.


How Supply Chain and Logistics Differ

Supply chain management works as an essential aspect of modern business operations. It involves overseeing the entire life cycle of a product or service, ensuring that every stage is streamlined and efficient. The goal of effective supply chain management is to minimize waste, optimize production processes, and help to guarantee timely and high-quality product delivery.


Fostering a Collaborative Supply Chain Network

One of the key principles of supply chain management is the integration and coordination of various stakeholders, such as suppliers, fleet management personnel, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and customers.

By fostering collaboration and transparency among these parties, companies can better anticipate and respond to changes in demand and mitigate risks, and possibly help to foster a further competitive advantage and edge in the market.


Technology and Supply Chain Management

Technology plays a crucial role in advancing Supply Chain Management. Modern tools like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics help supply chain organizations gain deeper insights into their supply chain operations.

These technologies enable real-time monitoring, data-driven decision-making, and automation - leading to improved efficiency and cost savings.


Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Professionals

Logistics management is focused on the effective and efficient movement and storage of goods. The rise of e-commerce and globalization has increased the importance of logistics and supply chain management, as businesses must now navigate complex international shipping networks and manage delivery expectations from customers around the world.

Logistics management tools, such as Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), help organizations optimize their logistics operations. These systems streamline processes, reduce manual errors, and enhance visibility across the entire logistics network to ensure all aspects of supply chains run smoothly.

Supply chain management and Logistics management are interconnected disciplines that contribute significantly to a company's success.

By integrating these two disciplines, companies can achieve greater efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer satisfaction in today's competitive business environment.


Logistics Distributes Products to the Final Customer

The process of getting materials to the end customer through logistics often comprises specialist logistics providers. The logistics operation and logistics process typically involves several steps within inbound logistics and outbound logistics businesses, including:


Efficient transport systems are vital for success. Once materials are procured, they must be transported to the production facility or distribution center. This process may involve using various modes of transportation, such as trucks, trains, ships, or planes - and other specialized transport modes - depending on the shipment's distance, final destination, volume, and urgency.

Warehousing and storage facilities

Some logistics businesses specialize in warehousing and storage. Once materials arrive at the production facility or distribution center, they may be stored in a warehouse, or other storage facility, until they are needed for production or shipping. Sometimes, long term storage control is part of the process.

Proper Packaging and labeling

Finished products or components may be packaged and labeled for shipping to the end customer. This process may involve complying with regulations and standards for packaging and labeling, such as hazardous materials labeling, weight and size restrictions, and customs requirements.

Shipping and delivery

Finished goods or components are then shipped to the end customer using various modes of transportation. Logistics professionals may also provide shipment tracking information and updates to the end customer throughout the shipping process.

Logistics plays a critical role in getting materials to the end customer by managing the transportation, storage, and delivery of goods and materials throughout the process. By ensuring that materials are delivered to the right place at the right time, logistics help to optimize good supply chain performance and improve consumers' satisfaction.


Types of Logistics Organizations

There are many different supply chain organizations and various logistics organizations, each with its unique focus and functions and often comprising interconnected activities related to each other's overall goals.

One example is Third-party logistics (3PL). 3PL providers are external companies that provide logistics services to other companies. 3PL providers offer a range of services, including transportation, warehousing, and inventory management, and can help businesses to optimize their processes and reduce costs.

Fourth-party logistics (4PL) organizations specialize in providing a comprehensive range of services. In addition to the services provided by 3PL providers, 4PL logistics providers deliver products and also manage the entire supply chain for a company, including coordinating all logistics activities with suppliers and customers.

Freight forwarders are companies that specialize in the transportation of goods. They act as intermediaries between shippers and carriers and help to coordinate the movement of goods across different modes of transportation.

Carriers are companies that are responsible for the physical transportation of goods. They can include trucking companies, airlines, shipping lines, and railroads.

Warehousing and distribution companies provide warehousing and distribution services to businesses. They are responsible for storing goods, managing inventory, and distributing products to customers.


Jobs in the Industry

Supply chain management is a vast field involving various jobs and positions across different industries. Some of the typical job roles include:

Procurement Manager

An individual in this position is responsible for managing the sourcing and purchasing of goods and services, negotiating contracts with suppliers, stock management, raw materials handling, and ensuring the procurement process is efficient and cost-effective and ready to meet customer's requirements.

Supply Chain Analyst

This role involves analyzing supply chain data to identify trends, inefficiencies, and opportunities for improvement.

A supply chain analyst may be responsible for creating reports, developing forecasting models - as well as supply chain troubleshooting and identifying areas for cost reduction.

Efficient reporting is a key component of supply chains. An individual in this role often reports to a supply chain manager.

Operations Manager

This job oversees overall supply chain operations, including procurement, production and logistics. An operations manager is responsible for ensuring that all processes run smoothly and are optimized for maximum efficiency and profitability.

Supply Chain Coordinator

This position involves coordinating the different aspects of the supply chain, such as transportation, warehousing - along with inventory planning and management. A person in this role ensures that all parties involved in the whole supply chain organization are working together effectively to deliver products to customers.


This role tracks and coordinates the delivery of materials while holding suppliers to contractual obligations. An expediter will continually communicate with suppliers and logistics providers to ensure that supplies arrive on time at their destination while keeping internal customers advised of status.

There are many different jobs available in logistics and reverse logistics, ranging from entry-level positions to executive roles which demand planning and organizational skills. Some of the most common jobs in logistics include:

Logistics Manager

This career involves managing the transportation, warehousing, and distribution of goods. A logistics manager is responsible for ensuring that products are delivered to customers on time and in good condition while minimizing transportation and storage costs.

Other inputs logistics managers must consider are transportation costs, inventory levels, lead times, supplier performance, customer demand patterns, order processing times, customs regulations, quality control measures, packaging requirements, and compliance with environmental and safety standards.

Inventory Manager

This position involves managing inventory levels to ensure enough stock to meet demand while minimizing excess inventory and associated costs. A person in this role typically inputs logistics information into a database.

Distribution Center Manager

This role involves managing the operations of a distribution center, including receiving, storing, and shipping goods.

Inventory control specialist

This job is responsible for managing inventory levels, tracking stock movements, and analyzing inventory data to optimize stock levels and minimize waste.

Transportation coordinator

This role is responsible for arranging and coordinating the transportation of goods between different locations, including managing logistics providers and negotiating shipping rates.

Logistics analyst

This individual is responsible for analyzing supply chain data, identifying trends and opportunities for improvement, and making recommendations to optimize supply chain performance.

Logistics coordinator

A person in this role is responsible for managing the logistics of inbound and outbound shipments, including coordinating with carriers, preparing shipping documents, and tracking shipments.

Freight broker

This role is responsible for arranging transportation for goods between different locations, including negotiating rates and coordinating with carriers.

Warehouse associate

This job is performed by a person who is responsible for receiving, storing, and shipping goods in a warehouse or distribution center.


A Growing Industry

There are some key differences between the fields, but the fields of logistics and supply chain management each continue to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the logisticians job outlook is expected to grow by 28% between 2021 and 2031.

Transportation professionals will be required as more finished goods are moved from place to place. Additionally, with stakes so high in this field, security functions (including in house logistics control) also come into play.

As different supply chain organizations and supply chain wholesalers emerge, a smooth supply chain process starts with picking the best supply chain partners and supply chain and logistics personnel. Supply chains are here to stay, and with the advent of drone deliveries adding to the supply chain order and production planning - the field will likely expand further.


American Public University's Bachelor's Degree Programs

American Public University offers a comprehensive Bachelor of Arts Degree in Supply Chain Management designed to equip students with a strong foundation in logistics, procurement, and supply chain operations.

This online degree program emphasizes real-world applications and provides students with relevant skills such as strategic sourcing, inventory management, and transportation planning. The University's curriculum is regularly updated to reflect current industry trends, which helps students prepare for a rapidly evolving global supply chain landscape.

With experienced faculty and flexible scheduling options, the University's supply chain management program is an ideal choice for students interested in this interesting and challenging industry.

Additionally, American Public University offers a robust Bachelor of Arts Degree in Transportation and Logistics Management that prepares students for rewarding careers in the transportation and logistics sector.

This online degree program focuses on developing essential skills in transportation economics, strategic management, and global logistics operations. American Public University's curriculum is designed to cover a wide range of transportation modes, including air, maritime, and ground transportation. By incorporating real-world case studies and practical projects, students gain valuable insights into the intricacies of this dynamic field.


American Public University's Master's Degree Programs

American Public University's Master of Arts Degree in Supply Chain Management program provides students with advanced knowledge and skills in logistics, procurement, and global supply chain operations.

This online degree emphasizes strategic decision-making and analytical abilities, helping to prepare graduates for possible leadership roles in the ever-evolving supply chain industry. With flexible scheduling and experienced faculty, this program is an excellent choice for professionals seeking to expand their knowledge of the industry.

Additionally, American Public University's Master of Arts Degree in Transportation and Logistics Management program delivers an advanced understanding of the transportation and logistics sector.

Through this online degree, students develop leadership skills, strategic management abilities, and expertise in multimodal transportation systems.

About the Author
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC, is a faculty member of the Reverse Logistics Management and Government Contracting and Acquisition programs at the University. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles; a master's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix; and a doctoral degree in management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in information technology project management, information technology security and logistics management from American Public University.

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