February 25, 2013

Why veterans make great warehousing and logistics employees

Military veterans offer a diverse array of experiences that make them attractive candidates for employment in warehouses and distribution centers.

By Jason Dozier

Military veterans offer a diverse array of experiences that make them attractive candidates for employment in warehouses and distribution centers. In particular, these veterans typically have broad experience in both operations and logistics, skills that are instrumental in the day-to-day operations of warehouses and DCs across the country.

Overseas-deployed military veterans, for instance, have extensive experience managing the accountability of equipment and assets across several different locations and facilities while under duress in a fast-paced, dynamic work environment. Even veterans who may not have an extensive background in logistics have broad experience with freight management and distribution while overseas.

For instance, a typical experience for an infantryman in Iraq would include the inventorying, containerization, and loading of assets valued at millions of dollars at a forward operating base, and then securing and escorting those assets across more than 20 highway miles to Baghdad's airport and primary distribution hub, where they are then unloaded and stored for distribution throughout the country. Those assets would then be received by other military personnel who have specialized responsibilities managing and supervising the distribution operations of unimproved airstrips, large field logistics terminals, shipping docks, storehouses, warehouses, and other distribution centers. They would deploy those assets to other bases, where they are received, secured, and utilized by other groups of military personnel.

While those experiences are typical in a deployed environment, these same processes are routinely repeated in [at military installations] at home, ensuring that a wide range of military veterans have a uniform understanding of operations, logistics, and the allocation and maintenance of military assets. Many military veterans are trained and provided with forklift operator certifications, which allow them to move, load, and unload equipment even though they may not be in military logistics occupation specialties. A typical military duty is the inventorying and loading of freight in container yards, where these assets are then containerized, loaded onto trucks, transported to rail yards or flight terminals, offloaded and secured into new vehicles, and then transported to the point of destination, where the process is completed in reverse.

From a technical standpoint, the equipment used in these operations differs somewhat from that found in the average DC. While civilian warehouses typically use electric narrow-aisle reach trucks with load capacities of up to 4,500 pounds and electric sit-down, counterbalanced trucks that can handle up to 6,000 pounds, military veterans are trained in the maintenance and operation of an array of diesel-powered, variable-reach rough-terrain forklift vehicles that can handle loads of up to 10,000 pounds. Although these vehicles serve similar functions as their civilian counterparts, they are larger in size, have more moving parts, and require a greater degree of training and maintenance in their operation.

Furthermore, many military personnel are trained to use tools like the Army's Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA) system, which provides on-time, integrated logistics data and information analyses similar to the IntelliTrack and HighJump warehouse management systems that are popular in DCs across the country.

These characteristics, along with a myriad of supervisory, leadership, and accountability experiences, make military veterans a great resource for warehouse and DC managers.

Jason Dozier is a veteran transition specialist at the nonprofit Hire Heroes USA and a former U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq.

More articles by Jason Dozier

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