The “modern” automobile is less than 130 years old. The logistics services industry is much younger. Long haul freights used to take place on trains. The interstate highway didn’t even exist before 1945. The evolution of American Logistics Services has transformed the way goods and products are transported domestically and globally.
Dating as far back as the pyramids, logistics has been evolving and enabling humankind to revolutionize the way products are moved. The pyramids are a marvel that still seems inconceivable when one considers the complexity of the systems required to lift and place the massive materials used to build them.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used logistics to fight wars and to supply their fighting armies. Early Europeans, Arabs, and Africans used large wooden vessels to make trade with other nations which required logistical know-how to move their materials.
Yet there is no need to even go back that far to understand just how revolutionary the evolution of logistics services has been. In modern history, the freight train, automobile, highway systems, bridges, steamboats, and planes were the driving forces behind modern logistics.
The first and second World Wars created the need for expansive logistics services to move heavy artillery and equipment from the U.S. to Europe. Unlike in previous years when there was no air force to speak of or tanks and artillery vehicles, the mechanisms used to move heavy equipment became the foundation for modern logistics services.
War however was not the only cause for better logistics. Henry Ford’s assembly line is one of the most well-known innovative forms of logistics. It signaled the start of the consumer society where average people stopped making their own clothes and shoes and started buying them from retailers.
The mail order catalogue made it possible for shoppers to order items from the comfort of their own home. It was the earliest version of online shopping. With those changes came the need for better ways to get those products to the consumer.
In the 70’s trade with China was opened up providing new opportunities for U.S. businesses to sell their goods abroad. It required a coordination of air, ground, and sea transport to accomplish it sparking the new logistics services of the 80’s.
The term “supply chain management” came into being during the 80’s coined by one of the major military consultant and logistics firms, Booz Allen Hamilton. Global trade made logistics less of a military term and more of a commercial term.
NAFTA continued to expand global trade facilitated by the advent of the internet. Since that time, logistics has become a part of every industry from wedding coordinator services to humanitarian aid in war torn parts of the world.
Today, the management and transport of resources knows no bounds. The global economy thrives on logistics services. A company can ship a t-shirt ordered online in California today and have it arrive in Bangkok just two days later.
Even now the evolution continues. Smartphone technology provides data in real-time so that a customer can check the status of their order directly from their mobile device. The shipper can alert the recipient of delays before they happen. And drivers can speed up delivery by avoiding traffic delays and bypassing weigh stations using app technology.
As technology continues to proliferate into further reaches of the globe so will the means to deliver goods and services to those locations. The onus continues to be on savvy companies to adapt and utilize these advances to stay competitive.
Who knows what new technologies will change the way that businesses operate just five years from now. These changes have been great for the average consumer who not only expects but demands faster, better, more reliable service.
That means that businesses will have to deliver otherwise be outworked by the one who can. With the pace at which the evolution of logistics services has occurred over the last few decades alone, the possibilities are mind blowing.
Just two years ago 3-D printing seemed like a technology that would evolve in maybe five years. Today manufacturers are using it to limit inventory costs and create small parts right at their facilities instead of ordering parts from elsewhere and shipping them out.
Drone technology that was only viewed as a military tool is now being tested as an automated package delivery service. The future of logistics services is limitless. Whether businesses take advantage depends on getting ahead of those changes now.