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Tuesday, 21 February 2012






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Evolution of logistics and transportation

"Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics."

- Tom Peters

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics..."

- Sun Tzu

"My logisticians are a humourless lot ... they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."

- Alexander the Great

The above quotations exactly give an insight knowledge to military logistics. Logistics are the centre point of winning battles.

Therefore, employment of knowledgeable and experienced logisticians are vital to wage wars, in other way this core competency should be embedded in the soldiers at all levels. The fighting of arms has no bearing in logistic but logistic battle is a soldier's individual skill which decides winning.

Evolution of logistics

Evolution of logistics has gone back to the days of Alexander the Great, King Ashoka and to the eras of Julius and Augustus Caesar. Basically, logistics started with military campaigns. There were many phrases given by prominent military strategists about the logistical importance of battles.

There was a famous saying that "all the historic battles were won by logisticians". That particular phrase shows the importance of logistics in military. Subsequently, this word and concept moved towards the civilian administrative/management systems at the end of the 70s.

The particular word basically used for administration in the maritime sector. Further, it moved through to land transportation and air transportation. Now the word ‘logistics’ is more prominent with the three dimensional transportation system with the introduction of intermodal transportation.

Military component

The military has different ways of logistics, specially, talks about forward logistics and backward logistics. Forward logistics considers as movement of consignments to the theatres and the backward is from the theatre to the rear areas of battle. This system works as a cycle.

There are many subjects taught in the army in terms of two segments, i.e. peace time logistics and theatre logistics. In Sri Lanka, these two words are used in peace time administration and administration in the field and the procedures for both are extremely different. The most important factor is all military logistics has a three dimensional effect. Because theatre has many restrictions for logistics, mainly due to enemy interferences. Therefore, the logistics chain is going through different modes to find the final target/destination.

Hence, the planning of military logistics is quite different from civillian logistics because enemy threat is one of the important areas to evaluate the system. Therefore, military logistics comes under the system of combined warfare which is a combination with Army, Navy and Air Force.

There are many logistics jobs / employments falling under the purview of military establishments. In order to conduct these functions, separate directorates are established under the military organizations.

Some of them are directorate of ordinance, directorate of supply and transportation, directorate of movement control and the logistics command. Furthermore, following are some of the functions conducted by the above directorates and commands.

Purchasing of equipment
Inventory management
Logistics movements
Troop movements
Transportation management


Medical/ casualty management etc.

All these functions are been practiced at different levels in different sectors from sub units upto brigades and divisions. The Brigade Commander is responsible for movement of troops, movement of weapons and ammunition, movement of rations, movement of equipment, management of salaries, inventory and other related areas.

This is a meticulously planned job because the Brigade Commander is commanding around 3,000 troops, equipment, transportation and weapons which are needed for battle.

All officers and soldiers move through this system from their enlistment to retirement at various levels from peace situations to battle field administration, immaterial of the role of individual regiments. Also, the three dimensional aspect is the most exclusive part that is embedded in the system unlike civilian logisticians.

Especially, the conversion knowledge and the current situations of the present logistic scenario and the new concepts like third party and fourth party logistic systems should be enhanced in order to get a better output from the HR.

In conclusion, what is envisaged is that although the core function of the military is fighting with the enemy, there is a great deal of logistics needed in order to win the battle and keep the momentum of fighting.

Due to that the ratio of military has been segregated from three to one, i.e. to support three fighting soldiers, one administrative soldier is appointed in the system. Basically, in international military language it is "teeth to tail ratio".

Therefore, those in every level in the army are trained in logistics in different scales, in order to achieve the concept.



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