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18th century logistics in an engraving by Daniel Chodowiecki

The logistics is both an interdisciplinary science and an industry or a company function in organizations that deal with the planning , control , optimization and implementation of Goods - information and - people deal flow.


These flows include transport , storage , transshipment , order picking , sorting , packaging and distribution . In the case of piece goods, one speaks of the material flow . In part, the entirety of these planning or implementation processes is also referred to as logistics. In addition to this so-called process or flow-oriented view of logistics, there are also other viewpoints that you consider as an instrument of corporate management , as well as the view that all phases in the product life cycle are considered by logistics ( life cycle-oriented view ).

The logistics industry consists to a large extent of forwarders and warehouses as well as transport companies and has become increasingly important since the end of the 20th century due to the distribution ( relocation ) of productions to numerous locations ( globalization ). In Germany it is now the third largest industry in terms of number of employees with a comparatively low specific added value. Economics and engineering dealt independently with the various aspects of logistics. This includes, for example, supply chain management as well as traffic or material flow technology . The corresponding sub-disciplines have now grown together to form a new interdisciplinary science . In organizations there are often independent areas that deal with logistics. In the military this is the logistics team , in hospitals it is hospital logistics and in companies it is logistics departments with different scope of tasks.

The origin of logistics lies in the military sector, in the 1960s and 70s it also spread to the economy. The majority of modern specialist literature deals with the logistics of companies. The concept of logistics was expanded over the following decades. Initially, this only meant the distribution of goods ( sales logistics ), soon also procurement logistics and production logistics . The focus was on transport logistics , handling and storage. Modern interpretations not only consider the cross-sectional function within a company across procurement, production and sales, but also the entire supply chain and value chain across several companies.

Development trends

In the automotive and aerospace and aerospace industries in particular, logisticians are increasingly taking on outsourced production stages for the pre-integration of assemblies (exhaust, axles, seats, cable harnesses, loading devices, tanks). A special feature is usually the delivery to the production line not only just-in-time , but also just-in-sequence for flexible production .


The word logistics was first used by the French military theorist Antoine-Henri Jomini in 1830 . He defined it in his writing Summary of the Art of War ( Précis de l'Art de la Guerre ), which in the 1830 edition was titled Analytische Tafel ( Tableau Analytique ) and directs, (l'art) logistique '(, the art of troops to quarter ') from the French word' logis' ('accommodation'), which in turn goes back to the ancient Germanic * laubja- ('shelter'). The historical derivation of the word shows the reference to the military supply system from which logistics originates. The word formation is analogous and is homonymous to the ancient Greek word λογιστική ( logistikē, 'practical arithmetic'), but goes back to a Germanic root.


Historically, logistics has its origins in the military. Even a Roman legion had a train to supply and replenish the troops. A military road (Via Militaris) as a type of Roman road was specially planned and built not only to move troops quickly, but also to be able to supply them more easily. In later centuries and with the modernization of wars, many of the Roman ideas were revived ( Napoleonic Wars and European Wars of Liberation ). During the First World War , all warring parties moved enormous amounts of material; it is considered the first 'industrialized war'. It was marked by material battles ; likewise the Second World War . Since the beginning of the 20th century, military and civilian transport has been increasingly motorized. Modern replenishment relies on trucks , trains and airplanes.

Many military logisticians found work in the economy after the Second World War, so that the term logistics spread there as well. The first work by American scientists from the 1960s came from Smykay , Bowersox , Mossman and dealt with the distribution of goods. The example of a larger company that was able to increase its sales by almost 50% by building what was then ultra-modern high-bay warehouses around the world in order to achieve shorter delivery times, word quickly got around in the economy.

In the 1970s, the classic tasks of logistics - transport, handling, storage - were performed as part of a separate logistics department. This perspective expanded step by step in the years that followed. After the logistical optimization potential in the demarcated department was exhausted, the rise of logistics in the corporate hierarchy followed.

In the 1980s, logistics was presented as a cross-sectional function of a company. Your task changed to the optimal design of all logistical processes from incoming goods to outgoing goods in a company. This enabled the companies to implement further process optimization.

In the 1990s, the idea of ​​optimizing entire value chains , the supply chains , arose . The logistical optimization idea now went beyond company boundaries and considered the complete value creation cycle from the source (the raw material) to the sink (the disposal of a product).

Around the year 2000, the academic view of logistics changed again. The fixed supply chains gave way to the idea of ​​loose logistics networks, whose various participants each strive for a local optimum in the logistics processes in order to generate advantages for the entire network.

Logistics as an industry

With a turnover of 222 billion euros and 2.9 million employees in 2011, logistics is the third largest industry in Germany. In Europe, almost 900 billion euros were turned over in 2009, with global sales of 4200 billion euros. The German logistics market is the largest in Europe, followed by France, Great Britain and Italy. Around a third is implemented through transport.

The industry is characterized by a large number of different companies - over 60,000 in Germany. These include freight forwarders , transport companies, warehouse service providers, port and airport operators , shipping companies , airlines , rail transport companies , bus and taxi companies , courier, express and parcel services (CEP services), the post office and manufacturers of technology that are known as intralogistics have merged into a sub-branch. Many of these companies act as logistics service providers to their customers .

Logistics as a science

The economic sciences deal with the economic relationships and laws of logistics.

In business administration , for example, process costing is used to determine the costs of the individual processes in a system, but also influencing factors of the individual flows and their effects. In addition, key figures and analysis functions such as cost-benefit analysis and utility value analysis are used to control and optimize processes. In operational practice, logistics is very closely linked to production planning and control . The boundaries between these areas have become increasingly fluid.

The Economics examines the logistics especially as an industry. However, it also investigates which properties the logistics market must have in order to function optimally. Globalization in particular has brought about major changes in this area.

The engineering sciences deal with the technical implementation of the transport facilities and the design of the transport network structures . Its disciplines include conveyor technology , the material flow technology , the storage technology and the traffic operation technology . Information technology and telematics are used to monitor and control the change of location processes. Automation technology allows logistic processes to be automated .

The Operations Research has many mathematical models developed motivated by logistical problems. For example, location models are known: They usually try to place a company location on the level so that the resulting transport costs are minimized. These include the Steiner-Weber model and the warehouse location problem . In the case of a transport problem, the locations of the warehouses and customers as well as their supply and demand quantities are known. However, it is still to be decided which customer is to be supplied from which warehouse. Other models are looking for the shortest routes, round trips or tours . Graphs play a major role : locations are usually modeled as nodes and connections (streets) as edges.

Basics of logistics


The goals of logistics are the provision of a high quality service, quality and cost reduction. This creates conflicting goals. For example, a high stock level will reduce the shortage costs and increase the readiness for delivery, but this automatically increases the storage costs. The logistics cost accounting serves as an instrument for determining the optimum.

In general, attempts are made to avoid unnecessary transport. It is possible that a supplier assembles several parts together, because the bottom line is that less transport work is involved. When distributing goods, it can make sense to commission a specialist company (a shipping company ) to do this . This then also has other clients. In some cases, modern fleet control solutions are used and can thus better avoid expensive empty trips.

As soon as this part works smoothly, it is obvious to link the scheduling with the ordering of the preliminary products and the dispatch of the finished products. All specialist departments have the same information base thanks to a merchandise management system. Finally, all processes are evaluated from an accounting perspective.


The task is formulated pragmatically by Reinhardt Jünemann (1989): “The logistical task consists in finding the right amount of the right objects as objects of logistics ( goods , people, energy, information) in the right place (source, sink) in the system at the right time, in the right quality, at the right cost. ”This target is commonly known as the 6 Rs of logistics .

Logistics tasks include a. Transport, handling, storage, provision, procurement and distribution of goods, people, money, information and energy and their management, control and optimization. The task-oriented structure of logistics is a common form, as it is used in many sub-logistics areas (including procurement logistics, production logistics and distribution logistics).

A logistical task is u. a. the transport of goods from the producer to the customer or from the seller to the end customer. Another task is u. a. the internal transport of goods / material and information, e.g. B. to transport goods from the warehouse to the production site, to provide employees with information and work materials, etc. The various specialist disciplines of logistics are more or less dependent on the efficiency of the infrastructure of the companies, cities, etc. but also on the technological systems.

One of the tasks of distribution logistics is timely planning based on general traffic bans, public holidays and time restrictions. It is supplemented by the preparation of the transport documents by the dispatcher in compliance with the social regulations in road traffic and the securing, provision and control of goods or goods during storage . Another task is the transport of heavy loads (freight goods that are not dimensionally and / or weight-correct) or the transport and storage of dangerous goods for which certain extended statutory provisions exist. This includes special permits and the provision of escort vehicles including the correct provision of danger signs on the vehicle that is to carry out this transport. In addition to customs regulations, CEMT permits are required for other areas . Intra-Community delivery has a special focus .

The dispatcher also decides whether piggyback traffic or intermodal or multimodal traffic makes sense, or which mode of transport should be chosen via which traffic route .

Areas of logistics

Logistics provides customer and process-oriented solutions for entire and subsystems in companies, groups, networks and virtual companies. Logistics (in the business sense movement of goods ) connects the operational areas of storage and transport . Under the pressure of wage costs and with the help of an inventory management system , it was necessary and possible to combine these two areas under a common strategy.

Functional areas

Freight transport over the motorway
  • In-house transport
  • External transport
  • Handling (loading, unloading and reloading)
  • Warehousing / inventory management and order picking
  • Goods inspection and handling
  • packagings
  • Information logistics : information contrary to the flow of material. This information must be optimally made available. Upon delivery, the information about the goods runs parallel to the material flow.
  • Warehouse logistics : planning and operation of warehouse systems (warehouse location, warehouse technology, warehouse organization, etc.)

Specialist disciplines in logistics

Logistics subsystems

In business administration, logistics in the narrower sense are divided horizontally into the four subsystems:

  1. Procurement logistics : optimal and timely delivery and procurement of required goods. Part of inbound logistics
  2. Production logistics: planning, control and monitoring of the internal transport, handling and storage processes
  3. Distribution logistics (sales, sales logistics): Distribution or delivery or sales of goods, also called outbound logistics,
  4. Disposal logistics (reverse logistics): taking back waste and residues for disposal or recovery, recycling

Sub-areas of logistics

Warehouse logistics: includes the planning, implementation and control of all logistical measures relating to the selection of the warehouse location, the design of optimal warehouse systems and warehouse organization as well as warehouse technology.

Transport logistics: deals with the physical movement of goods between different locations within logistics networks.

Depending on the type of activity, a distinction is also made between warehouse logistics ( warehousing ), packaging logistics and transport logistics . The term intralogistics often appears in this context , which generally summarizes the entire logistical processes at a location and, depending on the company, represents a combination of production logistics, warehouse logistics and packaging logistics.

Hospital logistics: deals with the specific logistical processes and transport flows in hospitals

Contract logistics : TUL processes (transport / handling / storage) within the framework of a contract between service provider and customer, whereby a certain added value is to be achieved through certain work such as order picking, invoicing, packaging and so on.

Pharmaceutical logistics : Pharmaceutical logistics is a special sub-area of ​​logistics and basically comprises all logistical processes in the pharmaceutical industry and its subordinate distributors. This ensures the availability of drugs and the active ingredients and ingredients required for the manufacture of these drugs along the entire supply chain . The availability of pharmaceuticals is based on the procurement and distribution strategies of market participants such as pharmaceutical companies , wholesalers and pharmacies .

Information logistics: includes the strategic planning and development of all information systems and processes required for business process management and the exchange of information as well as ensuring high quality and continuous availability of the information provided.

Spare parts logistics : includes ensuring the serviceability of the sold products through replacement or maintenance products and is a sub-area of ​​distribution logistics. For the capital goods industry, spare parts logistics for after sales service is of great importance.

Globalized logistics: A not insignificant factor in international logistics is the bureaucracy involved in cross-border procurement. Country-specific regulations should be checked before a sale is concluded. Necessary export and import licenses, certificates of origin etc. must be obtained before the disposition.

Labor market and training

Logistics has developed into a professional field for industrial and commercial professions as well as for engineers and business administrators at an academic level. Activities in logistics are very diverse and range from forklift and truck drivers , warehouse clerks , order pickers and dispatchers to forwarding agents , buyers and supply chain managers, to designers, logistics planners and controllers . The Logistics Performance Index 2014, a study by the World Bank , sees the training of logistics specialists and supply chain management specialists as one of the most important tasks for the functioning of the global economy.

Senior management positions in middle or upper management require an academic degree. There are numerous universities that offer Bachelor's or Master's programs specializing in logistics and supply chain management . A high proportion of logistics can be found in the industrial engineering courses , with an average of 12 semester hours per week (SWS) and in business administration (10 SWS), business informatics and transport (9 SWS each). Mechanical engineering (6 SWS) follows at a certain distance.

In 2012, 2.7 million people found work in logistics in Germany. Employers are freight forwarders, rail companies, ports and airports, freight centers, bus companies and manufacturers of technical equipment.

Logistics optimization approaches

Modern concepts such as efficient consumer response , just-in-time production , supply chain event management , category management or Kanban can make logistics more efficient. A prerequisite for this is adequate (information) technological support such as B. EDI ( Electronic Data Interchange ), RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), barcodes , Enterprise Resource Planning - or Advanced Planning and Scheduling systems as well as tracking & tracing systems.

Sustainable logistics

The demand for sustainable management has also arrived in logistics since 2009 at the latest. However, when it comes to pollutant emissions, logistics is seen as a cause of problems and not as a problem solver. The approach of green logistics tries to counter this paradigm. It is only recently that the term “sustainable logistics” with all three dimensions of sustainability has been given more attention. Experts suggest a variety of approaches, such as: B. technical innovations, sustainable logistics systems and process optimization within the logistics chains.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Logistics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Edmund Klatt, Dietrich Roy: Langenscheidts Pocket Dictionary English . 21st edition. Langenscheidt, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-468-11123-1 .
  2. lodge | Origin and meaning of lodge by Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved March 17, 2020 (English).
  3. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . Munich / Vienna 1966.
  4. Isermann (Ed.): Handbook of Logistics . 2008, pp. 882-885.
  5. ^ Krampe, Lucke, Schenk: Basics of logistics . 4th edition. 2012, p. 17.
  6. ^ Krampe, Lucke, Schenk: Basics of logistics . 4th edition. 2012, p. 27.
  7. ^ Clausen, Geiger: traffic and transport logistics . 2nd Edition. 2013, pp. 7–15.
  8. Carsten Deckert (Ed.): CSR and logistics: areas of tension between green logistics and city logistics . Springer-Verlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3-662-46934-7 , pp. 4 .
  9. Wannewetsch: Integrated materials management and logistics. Procurement, logistics, materials management and production . Springer, 4th edition. 2010, p. 1.
  10. Wilmjakob Herlyn: PPS in the automotive industry. Production program planning and control of vehicles and assemblies . Munich 2012, p. 131 ff.
  11. ^ Domschke: Logistics . (3 volumes) or Klaus Feigel: Model-based decision support in logistics .
  12. Reinhardt Jünemann: Material flow and logistics . 1989, p. 18.
  13. Professions in Logistics, accessed on May 15, 2019.
  14. Hildebrandt, Roth: Executives for Logistics . In: Baumgarten (ed.): The best of logistics , Springer 2008.
  15. ^ Clausen, Geiger: traffic and transport logistics . 2013, 2nd edition, pp. 7–15.
  16. Change to green: fields of action and perspectives for sustainable logistics and business processes . 2009, ISBN 978-3-937711-95-9 .