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19th Annual Masters of Logistics Study: Efficiency remains top priority

The findings of our annual study reveal that shippers have not significantly changed how they manage their logistics and transportation activities over the past year. However, we find that the Masters are moving to a more defined organizational structure and are putting more 3PLs to work to help them gain significant cost advantage once the recovery finally kicks in.
By Mary C. Holcomb, Ph.D., and Karl Manrodt, Ph.D., Contributing Editors
September 10, 2010

Last year we reported that the economy had leveled the playing field for all firms with respect to competitive advantage that can be built through transportation and logistics. In essence, the significant performance and organizational structural differences between the Masters (firms with sales greater than $3 billion) and other firms that was built from 2006 to 2008 was largely eroded as the economy slid into a global recession in 2009.

The main focus for every firm became surviving the difficult economic times, and many began an unrelenting quest to reduce costs across all areas including transportation and logistics. The advent of 2010 brought hope and anticipation that the economy would begin its recovery from the recession; but to date, the economic signals have been mixed.

This uncertain environment is also reflected in transportation and logistics practice across firms of all sizes according to the results of the 19th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends (Masters of Logistics). In short, shippers report that they have not significantly changed how they manage these activities, and reducing costs remains the primary objective. A deeper look at the study results suggests, however, that while the playing field remains on equal ground relative to transportation, this may only be an intermediary gear for the true Masters of Logistics.

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About the Author

Mary C. Holcomb, Ph.D., and Karl Manrodt, Ph.D.
Contributing Editors

Mary Collins Holcomb, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Logistics and Transportation at The University of Tennessee.  Dr. Holcomb was also a member of the faculty in Transportation and Logistics at Iowa State University, Ames.  She holds B.S., MBA, and Ph.D. degrees from The University of Tennessee.  Her professional career involved some eighteen years at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in transportation research and policy issues for the U.S. Departments of Energy, Transportation, and Defense.  Dr. Holcomb’s background also consists of various industry experience with the former Burlington Northern Railroad, General Motors, Milliken & Company, and two years of collaborative research with Procter & Gamble.  She is a principal researcher in one of the longest running annual studies – Logistics and Supply Chain Trends and Issues – that has been conducted for more than 14 years.  Dr. Holcomb is the former editor of the Transportation Energy Data Book, author and co-author of numerous reports and articles in the area of transportation policy and logistics systems design.

Karl Manrodt, Ph.D., serves an Associate Professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and Logistics and Georgia Southern University, located in Statesboro, Georgia.  Prior to joining Georgia Southern, he served as the Executive Director for the Office of Corporate Partnerships and the Supply Chain Strategy Management Forum in the Department of Marketing, Logistics and Transportation at the University of Tennessee.  Degrees include a B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology, Wartburg College, M.S. in Logistics, Wright State University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee.  He is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Citation for Professional Promise, the Walter Melville Bonham Dissertation Scholarship, both at the University of Tennessee, and the E. Grosvenor Plowman Award awarded by the Council of Logistics Management.


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