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The Job of a Physical Distribution Analyst

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The job of the physical distribution analyst is to reduce the costs of PD through calculating performance evaluations. The analyst plays a staff role and reports to the PD administrator, providing information and recommendations for action. Communication is, therefore, a critical skill in providing the administrator with the necessary analyses.

As with other areas of physical distribution, the task of the analyst widely varies from company to company and from industry to industry. At one end of the spectrum is an organized, consolidated assault on system-wide structures, and at the other end is a form of guerrilla warfare on isolated cost inefficiencies.

Generally, the responsibility for systems design and evaluation belongs to the PD analyst. For example, if continuing analyses show evidence that public warehouses could be employed rather than company-owned facilities and that costs could be reduced while maintaining customer service, it is possible (probable) that the company-owned facilities would be dismantled.

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of PD analysts to identify and evaluate the state-of-the-art technology in equipment, transportation, packaging, facilities design, and information processing. This responsibility extends into making recommendations for and installing new technology. Computerization of order entry, inventory control, facility location analysis, and automated warehousing are examples of technology-related changes under the authority of PD analysis.

Control of existing programs, systems, and activities is also a responsibility in the sense that much of the necessary information is developed through the analyst position. Performance evaluation of rate costs, transportation costs, inventory levels, facilities' utilization are examples of ongoing information-reporting duties. Furthermore, the interpretation of information in creating budgets; forecasts for equipment, personnel, and facilities' requirements; service levels; and strategic (PD) planning is the responsibility of PD analysts.

A variety of different subjects studied by PD analysts include (among others)
  1. lease-buy options

  2. demand trends

  3. shipping patterns

  4. segmentation studies

  5. equipment requirements

  6. personnel requirements

  7. facilities' utilization

  8. site location

  9. configuration and layout of facilities

  10. packaging options

  11. security

  12. optimum inventory and customer service levels
The PD analyst position is typically mathematical, computerized, and advisory (staff). Both ongoing and special project analyses are the responsibility of the analyst. (In a nutshell-for the "Star Trek" fans-the analyst is the "Spock" of physical distribution. You can keep the Captain from making stupid errors, but the Captain may ignore your input entirely and be blasted into nothingness by the Klingons.)


Question - How did you get started in distribution?

Answer - Many people have gotten out of graduate school and gone right into a logistics function. I know many people who entered it as I did, without much awareness about the field; but once they got into it, they found that they liked it and stayed with it. The benefit of coming through the computer side of the business is that you have those types of skills to depend on and you've had the exposure to that area.

Question - Could you explain your organizational structure and where you are in that structure?

Answer - The distribution department is made up of the director of distribution, the traffic department, planning and analysis, a finished products department, and six distribution centers.

We have a department manager of inventory operations. There are two sections within the inventory operations department-houses a housing section and a planning section. The warehousing section is led by the operations manager, who is responsible for all the warehousing operations and for actually executing the shipments we plan.

The planning side is my area. I am the senior planner in charge. Reporting to me is another senior planner and another regular planner. Each of them has two hourly people working for them.

Question - Where would an individual start his or her career path?

Answer - College students would probably come in as a supervisor, but they may come in as a planner or analyst. Typically they would be doing number crunching on the planning side, product location, and product planning.

Someone coming out of college with an undergraduate degree in logistics or something similar would probably start at the level of a planner and from there work up to a job in the field to get some more experience and to get the big picture as far as how things really operate.

Trainees spend some time at the distribution centers as well as here in the main office working on product allocation and inventory control until they are able to understand our system. Initially, they wouldn't really get too involved in trying to change or improve the system. The training would last six to nine months.

Question - How do you spend an average day?

Answer - Most of the time I am tied up with special projects, either policy revisions or projects that are coming along, and data analysis. No day is exactly like any other day. I go to almost every meeting here because of the nature of my role, so I spend a lot of time in meetings. It is a unique kind of job.

I spend probably 20 percent of my time in meetings where planning issues are discussed, assignments are given, and progress is reviewed. I spend about 10 percent of my time in travel, visiting warehouses or some of our customers. I spend about 10 percent of my time in supervision. Another 30 percent of my time is spent in doing basic analyses, whether coordinating analyses with support areas like data processing, or management sciences. I might have to roll up my shirt sleeves in a session with another person trying to work through and develop a model or analysis, or I might sit at my desk trying to analyze and think through some things myself. I'd say the other 30 percent is spent doing routine things like miscellaneous correspondence and keeping various records, and files, and up-to-date communications with my boss.
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