The job description that follows reflects the trend in physical distribution toward increasing recognition of the field's importance. The description offered is at the most progressive end of a spectrum. The larger companies with well-defined organizations and progressive approaches to physical distribution already have positions similar to those described. Smaller, but still advanced companies, have similar positions but on a less formal basis. Other firms may not have such a position at all; nonetheless, the trend is toward the described responsibilities and the advanced end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum consists of what one manager called a "truck driver in a sweaty T-shirt."
The PDA is above all a manager. Thus, the normal functions associated with management are a major part of the job. These functions include management of people, administration of resources, and coordination of interactions. Furthermore, the functions are conducted on the basis of analysis of past performance, in terms of day-to-day operations, and with regard to the future in planning and goal setting.
The primary task of the PDA is to coordinate the distribution efforts with other departments in the organization. The efforts of the planning and analysis staff are directed at the development and control of systems to enable the departments to work together on a long-range.
Responsibilities consist mainly of processing orders, identifying appropriate storage and transportation rates, examining new equipment purchase details, performing routine financial and inventory control functions. Extensive use of computer-entry techniques. An information source for upper management levels.
Oversees a segment, usually geographic in nature, of distribution centers. Analyzes performance of each distribution center, works with distribution center administrators and planning division in long- and short-term plans, interprets individual distribution center expansion and improvement needs, assures adoption of corporate policy, analyzes regional sales data, and coordinates future distribution flow. Should have a private warehouse to store all the information that flows into this office.
Lives or dies by efficient operation of actual distribution function. Coordinates total distribution system. Analyzes information presented by other logistics segments: inventory control, traffic and transportation, planning and analysis, customer service, and others. Mostly concerned with long-term planning and grave distribution inefficiencies. (Most likely to lose a letter in the mails.)
Has sophisticated automatic retrieval system for sock drawer.
Q - How much time do you spend traveling?
A - Fifty percent of my time is spent on the road visiting all the locations we are working with.
Many times I think our people have become too narrow in their focusing on their academic needs. They have said, "This inventory management (or systems or transportation) course sounds good to me, so I'll attend that program." Most of the time, we find that they do not spend enough time studying marketing, attending social study programs, sharpening their interpersonal skills and communications. Sure, I want them to specialize in systems or transportation. That's what I'm looking for. But I would also like to believe that they've examined who transportation serves, who the systems are serving, and recognize that to achieve success with the company, you need the ability to get along and work well with people.
Personality, energy level, drive, and enthusiasm all say that a person wants to work for you. Some of the skills do not have to be in physical distribution. Exposure to our business and general knowledge of our business are fine. The skills we look for in a college graduate are a degree in a business field. Nonetheless, one of the more successful people in our company did not have a business degree, so even that is not critical, but it is helpful.
I don't think that an M.B.A. is required to progress in distribution. If you are using distribution as a stepping stone to broader management, then an M.B.A. would be more desirable.
I think that there are three areas of important skills: (1) the specialties of transportation, (2) computers, and (3) management of people. While we are making great strides in doing the distribution job with fewer and fewer people and more and more machines, there are still an awful lot of people involved, and you need to have the ability to handle people.
Being able to solve a problem and appreciate a set of circumstances are important skills. You are doing the same thing day in and day out, but you run into variations. On a given day, the priorities keep changing, so the decision that you make at 9:00 in the morning may be right at that time, but at 12:00, it may not look right because things have changed. So you have to be flexible, but once you start a certain task, you can't be bouncing around back and forth.
Financial background is quite important, particularly when you look at the financial resources that are involved in distribution. In situations such as ours, where we have the responsibility of the receivables and inventory, the amount of resources involved may be greater than the total net investment in the business.
I am not certain just how to define it properly, but leadership is a required skill in any managerial position. It is a function of many things, including energy and a willingness to take reasonable risks. In fact, there are so many dimensions to leadership that we sometimes fail to give it proper recognition. Another and very important skill is the ability to deal with change. This is particularly true today in the international arena. Along these same lines, good quality contingency planning is an important phase of any business. We just cannot say enough about the necessity for good operational and directional planning.