Guide to Becoming a Chief Logistics Officer

Two businessmen with digital tablet in warehouse.

The supply chain has shifted over the years, and careers in supply chain management have a positive outlook. In addition to traditional C-suite roles such as chief information officer, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer, supply chain executives have expanded their role in the leadership team. One position that has become critical to the overall success of an enterprise is the chief logistics officer. A chief logistics officer provides executive and logistics support for a company.

Here we further explore the position of a chief logistics officer: how you can become one, the necessary education and skills required to do the job, and the important role it plays in the supply chain.

What does a chief logistics officer do?

A logistics role within any business industry is typically describing the implementation of a complex organizational strategy. In chain management, logistics planning refers to the process of getting a finished product or service accurately distributed from a supplier to a customer. A logistics manager must rely on their expertise to ensure that the correct products are being shipped in accurate quantities to the right person within the established timeframe. There are many moving pieces with respect to shipping patterns and strategies, especially when a company is undergoing a supply chain split. Therefore, logistics professionals in the supply chain industry must be equipped with the proper knowledge and skills to handle complex issues that arise from the logistics process.

So, what does a chief logistics officer do? Often reporting directly to the chief executive officer, and working in concert with other C-suite executives such as an executive vice president and chief financial officer, the chief logistics officer maintains responsibility for all logistics operations within an enterprise. The chief logistics officer also provides logistical support to senior management concerning challenges that the company may face, including issues surrounding international shipping and trade. The chief logistics officer may also have to work as a liaison with other logistics companies that may contract with their company.

According to WSI Supply Chain Solutions, there are five major challenges that logistics managers will deal with in 2019:

  1. Truck driver shortage: There is a major driver shortage, as reported by the American Trucking Association. Suppliers must get creative in their efforts to hire and retain drivers, but it doesn't look like the issue will be fully resolved in the near future.
  2. Tariffs: The US-China trade war has resulted in numerous tariffs on both sides of the enemy line. This has already left a significant mark on the supply chain and will continue to impact every business until the trade war is resolved.
  3. Technology: Companies are moving toward automation and they are taking the supply chain along with this trend. Executives are pushing to use more AI and machine learning when creating logistics strategies, and many continue to desire the implementation of blockchain technology.
  4. Distributed inventory and reshoring: The "Amazon Effect" is taking over retail sales and customers expect quick shipping and delivery. Company warehouses are being divided into distribution centers so quick delivery is simplified.

All of these challenges can be managed and overcome with the leadership of a highly trained, educated, and skills chief logistics officer.

Steps to becoming a chief logistics officer

If you're interested in exploring the steps to becoming a chief logistics officer, it's helpful to first ensure you have an understanding of what the logistics operations role entails, which industry you could work in, and the average salary.

As a chief logistics officer, you will be required to have high emotional intelligence, as the job moves at a very fast pace, and you will be required to make sound decisions under stressful circumstances. You must have the ability to manage both inbound and outbound delivery operations and strategies, and not shy away from innovative solutions, such as the growing popularity of using the blockchain in logistics. You also need to be able to quickly identify logistics issues and propose financial solutions to either the chief executive officer or the chief financial officer.

Some chief logistics officers begin their logistics career as an operations manager. Within this role, you can learn the logistics and shipment process from the ground up, which will be useful when you are managing from the executive level.

A chief logistics officer is part of the C-suite, so logistics professionals should evaluate their resume to determine the best career path to make it to this level. Chief logistics officers are in-demand in a variety of industries. It's important to understand the role these executives play and the types of companies they work for when planning your career. The following chief logistics officer appointments will allow you to gain an understanding of the fields that are hiring for this role and the goals they aim to accomplish:

  • Haines: In February 2017, Haines appointed Douglas Drews as chief logistics officer. According to Floor Covering Weekly, Drews will "play a key role" in the company's operations as they "build the most cost-effective, value-added services."
  • Waitr: In August 2019, Waitr promoted their current chief logistics officer Adam Price to chief executive officer (CEO). According to the press release, Price said, "I look forward to working closely with the entire team and executing on our vision to be the most convenient way to discover, order and serve great food in local communities. Food delivery is in its infancy and having clear market leadership in most of our markets in addition to a well-regarded brand with restaurants, consumers and drivers sets us up well for future growth."
  • Target: In August 2018, Target appointed John Bauer as their new vice president, global inventory management. According to the press release, Bauer's most recent role was chief logistics officer, and in this new role, "he will lead the teams responsible for ordering, inventory positioning, global trade and domestic transportation."
  • Swiss Automotive Group: In February 2019, Swiss Automotive Group named Wojciech Milewski as their new chief logistics officer. According to the press release, Milewski "has a deep knowledge of logistics within the IAM sector and will lead the operation to the next level together with his team."

Education needed to become a chief logistics officer

To be a successful chief logistics officer, you must be able to successfully execute the following within the supply chain:

  • Maintain strategic logistics, limit the use of resources, and create efficiencies
  • Communicate effectively across multiple departments
  • Practice good time management and be deadline-driven
  • Provide the necessary resources for supply chain management teams to carry out their duties in the most efficient manner
  • Develop creative solutions and resolve problems quickly
  • Be an excellent negotiator

The education needed to become a chief logistics officer will enable you to develop and expand upon these skills. Most companies will require that you possess a bachelor's degree, but a growing number of enterprises are also requiring a master's degree. Possessing a master's degree in a related field proves that you completed intensive training in order to become a more effective leader. Furthermore, if your bachelor's degree was completed in an unrelated field, a master's degree in a supply chain discipline will be helpful in either just starting out in the field or expanding your career.

The chief logistics officer career path can go through a variety of exciting and lucrative roles, from a warehouse manager to the director of supply chain management:

  • A warehouse manager earns an average salary of $52,516 per year, with an average of $5,000 per year in bonuses and $10,000 per year in commissions.
  • An inventory manager earns an average salary of $52,624 per year, with an average of $3,000 per year in bonuses and $5,000 per year in commissions.
  • A supply chain analyst earns an average salary of $59,297 per year, with an average of $3,000 per year in bonuses and $17,500 per year in commissions.
  • A logistics manager earns an average salary of $65,149 per year, with an average of $3,000 per year in bonuses and $17,500 per year in commissions.
  • A purchasing manager earns an average salary of $65,927 per year, with an average of $5,000 per year in bonuses and $6,500 per year in commissions.
  • A head of logistics earns an average salary of $79,327 per year, with an average of $15,000 per year in bonuses.
  • A supply chain manager earns an average annual salary of $81,412 per year, with an average of $8,000 per year in bonuses and $8,000 per year in commissions.
  • A supply chain consultant earns an average salary of $84,044 per year, with an average of $6,000 per year in bonuses and $26,000 per year in commissions.
  • A chief operations officer earns an average annual salary of $115,662, with an average of $18,000 per year in bonuses and $10,000 per year in commissions.
  • A director of supply chain management earns an average annual salary of $123,505, with an average of $18,000 per year in bonuses and $15,000 per year in commissions.

Best programs for becoming a chief logistics officer

If you're interested in starting or growing your career by becoming a chief logistics officer, there are a number of educational facilities that offer training in the field. If you've already completed your bachelor's degree, you may consider finishing a master's degree, such as the online MS in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM) from the UT Haslam College of Business. The best programs for becoming a chief logistics officer are those that will teach you the following:

As a chief logistics officer, you must be able to respond quickly to the latest trends in the field. An online MSSCM from Haslam will enable you to respond to modern business challenges when you start your new job from day one. At Haslam, the Global Supply Chain Institute is known around the world and is led by the same expert faculty that teaches online MSSCM courses. While it's often a result of a healthy economy, trends have reported that supply chain costs are increasing for the following reasons:

  • The growth of ecommerce. Online purchasing is growing dramatically. While this is great for sales, it can create logistics issues unless innovative solutions are implemented, such as automating warehouse picking.
  • The "Amazon Effect." Companies continue to compete with Amazon, and with the increase in distribution centers, a company's leasing costs will increase as well.
  • Truck drivers and warehouse workers. Trends are showing that wages for truck drivers and warehouse workers are increasing.

Furthermore, chief logistics officers should receive the proper training and education to implement solutions that have been tested and proven to deliver positive results. According to Entrepreneur, business owners can grow their logistics business in the following ways:

  • Quality of service: The quality of service is a huge factor in the success of a business. Focusing on the customer and being open to new technologies will help improve a company's service quality. One of the most important aspects of delivering quality service is to establish branded goals—such as lower prices or quick shipment—that are communicated to customers so they know which areas you promise to go above and beyond.
  • Delivery of product and service timelines: Technology and the amount of available data has completely shifted the rate at which customers expect things to occur. Everyone wants things done instantly, and for products and services to be available with the touch of a button on a smartphone or tablet. The market demands require chief logistics officers to come up with technology-driven solutions to meet the needs of the customer.
  • Shipping costs: The cost of both local and global deliveries is trending down, with most retail companies now offering the option of free shipping. Logistics managers must be subtle in the way they make up for these incurred costs.
  • Getting products and services cleared across international borders: Something as simple as proper documentation, acquisition of clearance certificates, and providing estimated delivery dates are a great way to create efficiencies in the clearance process.
  • Tracking shipments: Giving customers the ability to track and trace shipments is an enormous benefit for the company, as it influences customer satisfaction. New technological advancements and tracking systems allow warehouse managers to maintain proper inventory, and also communicate the status of an order to the customer.

Completing an online MSSCM from Haslam will allow you to advance your supply chain management and logistics skills and ultimately land you a job as a chief logistics officer. Pursuing the role of a chief logistics officer results in an exciting and lucrative career. It's also a career that will allow you to make a difference in the lives of those involved in the supply chain around the world.

Start your supply chain career at the UT Haslam College of Business

If you're interested in advancing your supply chain career, consider pursuing an online MS in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM) at the University of Tennessee, Haslam College of Business. The program offers excellent guidance beyond graduation, so you have access to support as you integrate yourself into the workplace. The program is taught by the same expert faculty members that are recognized through the Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI) as industry experts, and the program is taught entirely online, so you don't have to put life on hold while advancing your career.

The GSCI maintains more corporate partnerships—with Fortune 100 companies such as Amazon, Dell, FedEx Services, Pepsico, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Walmart and more—than any other supply chain management program, and hosts the Supply Chain Forum twice per year.

Finally, Haslam also offers a robust Executive MBA in Global Supply Chain to leaders looking to expand their role, deliver more impact for their company’s global supply chain strategies, and complete the course in less than a year.

Learn more about the Executive MBA, GSCI and Haslam's online MSSCM today.