As logistics demand is directly tied to general economic conditions, transportation demand has been relatively stable for the past couple of years. Because the industry is currently in a state of relative stability, now is a time to ponder the next significant logistics innovations. Logistics is constantly evolving and innovating, but not all innovations are game-changers, or radical innovations. What will they be?
Perhaps the radical logistics innovations will include the expansion of use of liquid natural gas (LNG) fuel for multiple modes, or the serious consideration of high speed cargo trains. Or perhaps we will be working with more incremental innovations like ongoing efforts to reduce the forecasted shortage of truck drivers by efforts such as multiplying the number of distribution centers. These incremental logistics innovations may include the expansion of intermodalism to cargo which is not usually containerized: tanktainers for liquids and gases, and the containerization of dry bulk cargo such as grains and coal, for example.
While discussing the future of the logistics industry, the forecasted shortage of logistics employees is also at the forefront of industry issues. Demand for employees currently and dramatically outpaces the supply of qualified workers and is forecasted to become worse. According to Georgia Center for Innovation in Logistics, current national educational completions are able to cover only about 28% of logistics jobs per year! Fortunately for the industry, there are several logistics programs in technical colleges, four year colleges, and universities.
I teach in one such program in a university in the southeast which has 280 logistics majors, all juniors and seniors. Many of them find the logistics industry as exciting as I do, and are attracted to the industry for sound reasons. In general terms, they are thinking very rationally about their job choices and are attracted to logistics because they see it as an expanding field with growing numbers of jobs which withstand, to some degree, economic fluctuations. Students also feel that logistics allows them to explore several different modes and functions, allowing them some flexibility in terms of job duties and tasks over the span of their careers.
Unfortunately, however, as a university and an industry, we aren’t drawing in enough students to satisfy industry demand. We aren’t attracting enough of them with news about the growth potential of the industry. The current recruitment is insufficient to cover the needs of the logistics industry. How can we, as educators and professionals, solve this problem together?
First, how can we, in industry and education, attract more students into educational programs and entry-level jobs? How can we attract more qualified workers into logistics jobs?
Second, what radical or incremental logistics innovation(s) do you foresee as changing our industry?
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