You wheel your buggy down the aisle, grabbing one bottle of detergent, a half-gallon of milk, and two candy bars before scooting artfully ahead of a full-buggy, coupon-clutching shopper.
One debit swipe later, you’re out the door and speeding home, thankful for logistics management.
Well, maybe not. You may not realize that individuals specializing in supply chain management deserve credit for not only having the product you wanted on the shelf, but for having it priced lower than if you had bought it in, say, Belgium. That’s because a whole science has developed
around the art of getting the right thing to the right place at the right time, and all at the right price.
That science is called Logistics Management, or sometimes Supply Chain Management. And one of the international centers for that science is at the University of Alabama, at the Culverhouse College of Commerce.
Glenn Richey, Ph.D. and Alex Ellinger, Ph.D. are two of those most responsible for making the College synonymous in many minds with distribution and logistics. That’s because Richey, interim associate dean of international business, and Ellinger, professor of business administration and co-director of Supply Chain Institute, are co-editors of the International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management. That’s the leading international logistics journal.
It’s not just significant that these learned men are researching, writing, and editing. What makes tuition-paying parents so happy is that Culverhouse students benefit from their professors’ responsibilities. Richey and Ellinger pass on what they learn from their research. Their information is so cutting-edge that their students don’t need textbooks. Ellinger and Richey share the latest industry information on any particular week, exposing students to what’s being discussed in board rooms all over the world. Those insights are part of what is earning Culverhouse a spot within the top ten supply chain research institutions in the world.
The process of getting inventory to its destination in a time and budget-friendly manner consumes 75 percent of most companies’ revenues, says Ellinger. Although those logistics principles are as old as ancient armies (Alexander the Great might be the greatest logistician ever), executives have only recently realized their importance. Their relatively-recent interest has been prompted by low profit margins, international markets, and competitors that are -- to be blunt -- eating their lunch, because others are moving materials and providing services faster than they are.
(“This has become a more complicated process as companies are sourcing and manufacturing products distantly. They’re moving items 6,000 miles instead of 600,” Ellinger says.)
Guess what that means to students. That’s right. Those with excellent backgrounds in logistics/supply chain management get a lot of attention from recruiters. Culverhouse marketing majors are some of the few business students in the nation required to complete a supply chain management course. That makes them fully aware of how products get from Point A to Point B, whether they’re working for a manufacturer, a retailer, or a service provider.
Culverhouse marketing students are required to become familiar with a real-life distribution center. They must study a real-life company and be able to explain how their logistics systems work – how orders are taken in and fulfilled.
When those students graduate, they are not only readily employable, but primed to consider how they can help their employer compete – to maybe eat somebody else’s lunch. They might figure out how to track that detergent bottle en route, deliver fresher milk, or package candy bars to be rolled directly from loading dock to display.
It could be that Richey and Ellinger will someday study their former students’ innovations, adding to the 120-plus papers they’ve written on these topics.
But there’s more. In our next “Why you should care” blog, we’ll address the 72712 zip code, garment hangers, and elevator services – and why each might be more important to you than you might think.