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Divided by a common language . . . just what do you mean by logistics?

By Steve Geary | 12/27/2013 | 10:46 AM

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”  That observation has been attributed to a number of folks, but I’ll go with George Bernard Shaw, the great Irish writer.  The same observation can be made for commercial and defense practitioners of supply chain and logistics management.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) says that “supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.”

CSCMP also says that “logistics management is that part of supply chain management that plans, implements, and controls the efficient, effective forward and reverses flow and storage of goods, services and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet customers' requirements.”

Okay, in the language of CSCMP logistics is a subset of supply chain, and that is commonly accepted in the commercial space.  The distinctions are well understood by most.

Official definitions are very common and necessary in the military.  It’s the only way to communicate effectively:  there must be an authoritative and unambiguous vocabulary. 

The military has an official definition of logistics.  “The core logistics functions are:  supply, maintenance, deployment and distribution, health services (HS), logistic services, engineering, and operational contract support (OCS). Logistics includes planning and executing the movement and support of forces as well as those aspects of military operations that deal with:

(1) Materiel acquisition, receipt, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation, and disposition.

(2) Patient movement (PM), evacuation, and hospitalization.

(3) Facilities and infrastructure acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition.

(4) Logistic services (food, water and ice, contingency basing and hygiene).

(5) OCS (synchronization of contract support for operations and contract management).

(6) Infrastructure assessment, repairs, and maintenance.

(7) Common-user logistics (CUL) support to other US Government departments and agencies, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other nations.

(8) Detention compounds (establish and sustain large-scale to support enduring detainee operations).

(9) Host-nation support.

(10) Disposal operations.

(11) In-transit visibility (ITV) and asset visibility (AV).

(12) Engineering support.”

- Joint Publication 4.0:  Joint Logistics, October 13, 2013, published by the Joint Chiefs of Staff

That is a pretty massive scope, pulling in things like engineering, facilities, and even establishing detention centers like Guantanamo.

The military defines supply chain management as, “A cross-functional approach to procuring, producing, and delivering products and services to customers. The broad management scope includes sub-suppliers, suppliers, internal information, and funds flow.”  Source: JP 4-09

So, in the commercial world, according to CSCMP, logistics is a subset of supply chain.  In the defense world, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supply chain is a subset of logistics.  Are you confused yet?

When you hear the terms “supply chain” or “logistics,” make sure you know where the speaker is a native.  They may not be saying what you think they are saying. 

Sometimes you need to be bilingual, even when you think you are speaking the same language.



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About Mike Rudolph

Mike Rudolph

Mike Rudolph is a recently retired Marine Colonel with over 30 years of operational experience, proven leadership, and management success in the logistics and supply chain management fields. He is an executive consultant with ROSE Solutions and the Supply Chain Visions family of companies - consultancies that work throughout the government sector. Mike led the Marine Corps Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management Center at Marine Corps Logistics Command - responsible for supply chain and life cycle management of all ground weapon systems, equipment, and reparable components, the depot maintenance program, and equipment prepositioning program. During 2004-2008, he served two tours of duty in Anbar Province, Iraq as the G-4 for Multi-National Force – West, supporting all combat operations and coalition efforts to revitalize Iraqi economic development and stability. Mike's efforts were recognized with the Bronze Star for his first tour and the Legion of Merit for his second. He was widely recognized as a visionary and innovator in the Marine Corps logistics community.


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