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What Can Logistics Learn from the Military?

Desiree Michels

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The rigid discipline, commitment, teamwork and hard work of the military can be extremely influential in many aspects of business. This is certainly true in the haulage industry, and there is plenty more that I believe supply chain/haulage managers can learn from the army.

This was a topic that was recently explored by Sean Farrington, who is UK MD and RVP Northern Europe at Qlik, as well as a former Army officer. Specifically, Farrington worked for the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) – these are a crucial sector of the army who provide constant support, whether it is supplying food and water or ammunition. Whatever the army requires, the RLC supplies this in the right place and at the right time; this ensures that military operations all around the world are sustained and recovered.

The Similarities

Farrington suggested that the RLC does for the army “what the combination of Shell, Sainsbury’s, EDF and say Thames Water do for civilians, only on a greater scale, with even more elements to navigate”. It is clear that an efficient supply chain is extremely important in both military and business logistics.

It could also be said that the army also faces the pressures that modern day businesses face in managing their supply chains. This is through the need to be able to react quickly and efficiently with the demands of the customer/army changing so rapidly, all whilst attempting to cut costs at each corner. Farrington likened this to the army rapidly downsizing following the end of the Cold War and entering peacetime, only for the Gulf War to begin and the army entering a wartime situation where demand is urgent and the stakes are high.

What Lessons can Military Logistics Teach the Business World?

It is this need to be able to react quickly with changing demands where the military can teach a lot in the haulage industry and the entire business world. The army recognised, even at that time, that implementing technology of the highest standard was crucial for logistics and figuring out what was needed where and when. This technology was being used even when the internet was in its infancy, which put the army ahead of the curve and revolutionised data analysis.

The military can also teach the business world about people management and teamwork. The RLC and the entire military have a collective sense of purpose where people rise up and take on large roles and responsibilities, even at the last minute. This is about getting the job done for the good of the team and it is something that spills over into supply chain and other areas of business.

Instilling this sense of mission within all employees, and combining this with the best technology available, will keep customers happy and ensure that you have a positive reputation. Nowadays there is very impressive data analysis technology, so when this is combined with driven employees working for the good of the team, it can have an enormous impact on business supply chains.

The parallels between the military (specifically the RLC) and efficient supply chain are certainly intriguing and I believe that there is a lot that the haulage industry can learn from army logistics.

Author Plate

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a valuable service for the haulage industry , matching delivery work with available vehicles. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe ‘wholesale’ environment.


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