When you're in the logistics and supply chain business, you get used to the blank stares. We're talking about the blank stares you get when you try to explain to someone in the outside world what it is that you do for a living.
As we've often noted in this space, logistics and supply chain management suffers from a public awareness problem. Once you step outside your work environment, most of the folks you interact with have no idea what you do, why it matters, how it affects their lives, and, certainly, what the world would look like without logistics and logisticians. Tell someone "I'm a logistics director with a major retailer," and they'll ask "What in the world is that?"
Those passionate about the work they do in logistics and supply chain management might be inclined to offer a big-picture kind of explanation: You are part of the engine that powers global commerce. You deal with incredibly complex issues with an equally complex web of variables. Your mission, in a nutshell, is to see to it that all of your company's stuff gets to where it's supposed to be, when it's supposed to be there, damage-free, and at the right price.
Most non-logisticians will likely smile, nod politely, and say something like "Well, that sounds interesting." But they don't really get it. Most folks do better if you explain it—meaning logistics and its relevance to their daily lives—by way of example. For instance, you might ask them to look around and find something that's never been on a truck, a pallet, or a forklift. When you add that human beings don't count, they're liable to find it more challenging than they might expect.
In a nutshell, there is not much in our world that hasn't gotten where it is because of logistics and logisticians.
A recent report from the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) brought this point into clear focus. Prepared by the global research firm Oxford Economics, the report, "Lifting America: The Economic Impact of Industrial Truck Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers," outlined just how crucial lift trucks are to the nation's economy.
For instance, in the U.S. alone, lift truck manufacturers contribute $25.7 billion annually to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). In conducting their business, these manufacturers support 209,600 jobs in the U.S. Further, for each worker directly employed by the lift truck sector, another 2.5 jobs are supported in the wider economy through dealers, technicians, accessory manufacturers, and lift truck operators employed by the buyers and users of lift trucks.
It doesn't stop there. With annual industrial truck sales of over 200,000 units in the U.S. alone (and over 1 million worldwide), these manufacturers collectively pay $5.3 billion in local, state, and federal taxes.
It doesn't take long to recognize that lift trucks are integral not only to every supply chain in the world, but also to every person in the world.
If you are holding something man-made in your hand, you can be virtually certain it spent some time on a lift truck while making its way to you. Like so many aspects of logistics and supply chain management, these vehicles touch every part of both business and everyday life.
As we prepare to celebrate this year's National Forklift Safety Day (see the special supplement included with our May issue), it's worthwhile noting that things we sometimes take for granted are actually a very big deal. The world would be a very different place were it not for the makers, operators, technicians, and support staff that keep the global industrial truck fleet rolling.
Lift trucks don't just lift "stuff;" they lift the economy.