The globalisation of the world economy requires the movement of goods and people in even greater volumes and efficiencies. This would not be possible without the application of well-developed management skills and the harnessing of the latest technology.
The transport sector plays a major role in the UK's economy and is a significant contributor at both the national and local level. It underpins the economy, enabling the movement of goods and services as efficiently as possible. Employing over two million people, the transport and logistics sector accounts for 14% of all employment in the UK.
It is a very diverse sector which impacts on all of us every day. It can be broken down into the following main categories:
- surface transport, which includes road, rail and pedestrian transport; - air transport; - sea transport.
The various mode of transport facilitate trade and travel via the movement of people and goods. An effective transport network is essential for social and economic well being of society.
Until recently the car was the main emphasis of transport and infrastructure was built to accommodate demand. Today, however, there is an understanding that the current levels of car usage are not sustainable and there is now an emphasis on restricting it and encouraging public transport usage. Some of the methods currently being used and considered are:
- congestion charging and road tolls; - limits and restrictions relating to car use and infrastructure provision placed on new developments; - developments in public transport such as bus lanes.
There are many organisations involved in the provision and planning of transport. These can be divided into the following:
- national and European government; - local authorities; - private consultancies; - modal associations, such as the Automobile Association; - pressure groups; - safety groups.
The main influences in the transport sector are the European Union. They set the framework for policy and law at a European level. In the EU, the Directorate DG TREN (Directorate - General Energy and Transport) is responsible for transport policy. Nationally, the Department for Transport is responsible for transport policy. At regional level, government offices and regional planning bodies have responsibility for the development of regional transport strategies. Local authorities prepare local transport plans. In London the responsibility for transport rests with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.
As an occupational area transport management has been around for many years. In the last twenty years the industry has been subject to change across all modes - air, sea, rail and road. For instance on the passenger transport side, deregulation saw bus services move into the hands of private operators. Some of the bus companies which previously only operated in the UK now are also active in mainland Europe. The rail sector too is now under the control of private companies - many of which are now also bus operators.
The transport landscape is changing dramatically. The graduate planners and operators of transport systems of the future will be working to provide systems that are integrated and efficient, safe and profitable as well as being kind to the environment and accessible by all.
Many people think of the transport sector as stuffy and boring but it is far from it. Its impact on the economy, the effects of government policy and its importance at the local level combine to produce a fast moving and 'current' sector. The new buzzwords in the industry are integration, efficiency, profitability and safety.
Logistics management is a new relatively new occupational area, which has emerged within the past two decades, though its roots lie in military strategy. Many companies employ logistics management techniques while not necessarily calling it by that name. The function covers more than distribution - it has responsibility for the management of the whole supply chain, which includes everything from the purchasing for raw materials through to customer service. Logistics is a key function which enables a company to get its products to market.
A supply chain is not really a chain but a complex network. Every company is a part of another company's supply chain and in general all companies have multiple supply chains. Logistics managers and directors, often referred to as logisticians, are responsible for managing the supply chain. They are in charge of co-ordinating all the actions that ensure that the customer's needs are satisfied. This link between supply chains and logistics management means that term logistics manager and supply chain manager are often interchanged.
Whichever term is used, the management of supply chains is now recognised as one of the most important factors in making companies efficient and competitive in today's global economy.
The logistics and transport professions are currently facing severe skills shortages at all levels. The drive by companies to improve their supply chains and the government's "Ten Year Plan" for transport are two of the main factors behind the growing demand for people to enter the professions. The industry deals mainly with manufacturing, processing, mining, warehousing and product delivery, but many graduates will enter into the planning and management side of the business.
This is one sector that offers great job satisfaction and a real sense of achievement. You will be expected to be extremely organised and level-headed as your clients depend on you with their important cargos. Languages are also in demand and a illingness to travel is of course very important.
The transport industry faces many issues. The trends depend on which sector the company operates in. However some of the general issues facing the transport industry, whatever sector, private or public include:
- Multimodal transport operations and application of Internet technology to offer real-time information for travellers and leading to the delivery of a seamless journey - Growth in the use of consultancy services and implications for project management skills - Improving the image of public transport and encouraging increased use - Encouraging people to use alternative modes of transport to the private car, which has implications for the location of amenities, more widespread adoption of congestion charging, etc
There are many organisations that recruit transport specialists. Specific Government departments will recruit graduates and those with some experience or a Masters degree in a relevant subject. Local authorities will take on graduates, either onto their graduate training schemes or into the various areas covering transport, such as planning and transport policy. Generally a relevant degree will be useful here, such as geography and town and country planning, but degrees such as economics, management and sociology, for example, can also be relevant.
Transport consultancies are generally the largest employers of graduates onto their graduate training schemes. Again, they are likely to look for a relevant degree or a postgraduate qualification in transport, planning or engineering. However, it is worth checking as this is not always the case. Working for a transport consultancy you will be undertaking project work. Each project could last from just a few months to several years and could be anywhere in the world. You may find yourself working on the traffic generation modelling for a new Tesco store one minute and developing plans for a new metro system in Singapore the next.
Graduates work for airport authorities running many of the major airports, such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh. However recruitment has decreased in light of the events of September 11th and a general downturn in the industry. Working for an airport authority can be very varied. You could be taken on to work in the airport operations field, where you will be trained to ensure the safe landing and take off of all aircraft and all regulatory aspects of running an airport. Alternatively, you could be recruited into the business side where you could be trained in areas such as marketing, web development and human resources. Due to the varied nature of the work carried out at airports applications are welcomed from all degree types.
Air travel is the UK's fastest growing transport sector for both people and freight with the number of passengers trebling over the past 20 years. As with airports, airlines have been suffering economically over the past few years and, as such, many have put a hold on their graduate training programmes. However, it is likely that these programmes will start again once the air industry picks up. Almost all the major carriers offer graduate training schemes where you can specialise in a number of areas such as finance, human resources, marketing, etc.
As a graduate entering the logistics sector you could work for a variety of organisations, such as:
- retail firms; - charities; - defence related companies; - LSPs (logistics service providers); - supply chain consultancies.
As trainee you will be working your way up the ladder to become a logistics manager. A logistics manager is responsible for the total operation. Beneath this person will be a team of logisticians with different responsibilities and specialist skills, for example, information specialists, warehouse and transport managers, inventory planners, mechanical handling engineers, training and human resource managers and others, depending on the size and complexity of the operation. Through the interrelationship of these functions, it is the responsibility of the logisticians to make sure that:
- the right goods are available; - in the right place; - at the right time; - in the right quantity and quality; - at the right price.
The process of manufacture and the delivery of the final product can be long and pressurised. You have to account for many variables and be flexible in order for it to run smoothly. Other skills required include communication and organisational skills to maintain good relationships with a range of customers from managers and warehouse staff to lorry drivers, and make sure that the product is delivered on time. The industry very much depends on the cost and efficiency philosophy. It involves shift work so you must be prepared to work long hours, day or night. You will have to be multi-skilled, able to deal with problems and setbacks and able to prioritise and juggle tasks.
The 'supply chain logistics' approach to managment is now accepted and used by many of the world's leading companies. As a result their is very strong demand for well trained graduate logisticians to deisgn, manage and improve supply chains. Logisticians, whether working in retailing, manufacturing, LSPs or specialist consultancies, have to respond to constantly changing business demands and react to external factors imposed by national or international governments. Logistics managment cannot operate in isolation - it is an ever changing dynamic environment.
As a fast moving environment, especially now there is increasing use of the Internet and real-time information, predicting accurately what will happen is a challenge. Underlying trends in this sector remain focused:
The enormous variety of businesses and areas of operation in which logistics and transport managers can be found means it is difficult to make generalisations about salaries and rewards. The salaries offered by all employers vary greatly depending on the sector, size of organisation and geographic location. As a general rule of thumb, currently most salaries fall within the usual range for graduates of between £15,000 and £24,000. In transport management, it would be fair to say that the better salaries are likely to be offered to new graduates starting in transport consultancies than with operating companies or local government.
Qualifications and skills needed
There is a general misunderstanding that logistics and transport management is only for technical graduates with engineering degrees. While a technical background will not hold you back it is by no means a prerequisite for all jobs. Indeed in both logistics and transport there is a demand for many of the skills associated with the social sciences, such as economics, politics and sociology.
There are specialist degree programmes in logistics and supply chain management, transport management and transport planning. Those graduating in these degree disciplines are in demand by many employers, but this is not the only route into the professions. Most employers put new members of staff through an extensive company-specific training programme, lasting up to two years in some organisations. This process ensures new employees gain the knowledge needed to carry out the tasks within the organisation.
As a management trainee you are likely to spend time in many departments around the organisation before you start to specialise. Therefore adaptability is a good quality to possess. Mobility is another factor to be considered as the different departments could be in another town or even overseas.
The personal qualities and core competenceis that employers look for can be broadly categorised into the following areas:
- technology related; - people based; - and general management skills.
IT plays a key role in both logistics and transport. PC literacy is a minimum requirements for any manager nowadays. In some cases advanced aptitude will be very helpful. for example in computer modelling or in project management. Information flow is essential so new graduates need to rise to the challenge.
Many employers are looking for candidates who can work as team players, delegate, explain and promote ideas and projects well. People management and leadership skills are highly valued. There is also a strong emphasis on the importance of customer care across both sectors, and an ability to see the picture from both sides is useful. Graduates should be able to look for new opportunities and solutions to problems because the success of a business depends on employees having such qualities. Project management qualities are of growing importance as people increasingly work in cross-functional teams.
If your degree isn't centred specifically around transport and logistics and you're eager to break into the field, you may want to enrol in some extra courses or get additional training. In addition many graduates are also encouraged by their employers to take specialised courses to increase their skill sets and underpin knowledge specific to the sector in which they are employed.
In addition you may be expected to undertake further study for professional qualifications and in some cases may be encouraged to pursue chartered status with a relevant professional body.