What is the difference between logistics and supply chain management?

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Supply chain and logistics are two distinct areas of management. These terms are often used interchangeably, particularly within the transportation industry. Transportation, logistics, supply chain management, materials handling, and inventory control are continually evolving and this has led to an exchange of ideas among these functions over the years.

Today, logistics is often viewed as a subcategory of supply chain management. However, these two management areas do require different skill sets, and each focuses on a different part of the process that makes for business success.


Logistics can be viewed as a specialised part of the entire supply chain process.

Using the transportation industry as an example, logistics would focus on the actual transportation and storage of goods. This means dealing with the practicalities of managing inbound and outbound freight, storage and warehousing, reverse shipping, and communications during transit.

Logistics can also cover other aspects of the supply chain, including fleet management, coordination among third-party carriers, and any other activity that directly relates to the actual transportation of goods. For some companies, logistics management also encompasses areas such as price negotiation, technology, communications and customer service relating to transportation needs, third-party integration and procurement, as well as manufacture and packaging.

Supply Chain

Supply chain management, on the other hand, tends to focus on the wider picture. It’s a term for management that covers all aspects of the sourcing and procurement of goods. Supply chain management forms and manages the business-to-business links that allow for the ultimate sale of goods to consumers.

So, logistics can be seen as being a key part of the supply chain, requiring a uniquely focused set of skills relating to a particular area of supply chain management.

Courses available

The University of Lincoln’s Work Based Distance Learning courses highlight the key differences between these two areas of management. It runs BSc (Hons) courses in both Logistics Management and Humanitarian Supply Chain Management.

Humanitarian Supply Chain Management shows that supply chain management needn’t only apply to the world of transportation or big business. Here students are trained to facilitate the supply chain of aid from charities to those in need, in humanitarian crisis areas around the globe. This involves dealing with a range of charities and charity workers, as well as governments.

Every aspect of the supply chain is examined, from sourcing funding via fundraising events, governments, and charities, to delivering goods and services sorely needed on the ground in the event of humanitarian crises. As such, a wide range of management areas is covered by the course, highlighting just how varied supply chain management is today.

As well as focusing on specific, practical skills that enable organisations to deliver aid most efficiently, the course also encourages students to foster the ability to understand and manage complex problems – to see the bigger picture, and the supply chain itself from start to finish.

Its Logistics Management course differs in that it deals specifically with the logistics element of supply chains. Regardless of industry, logistics courses like the University of Lincoln’s WBDL course can be tailored to students and the companies that they work for. This enables students to investigate their own organisation and apply their learning directly to their workplace from day one.

Both courses reflect the interconnected nature of logistics and supply chain management too. On a supply chain management course you will cover the importance of logistics to the supply chain. On a logistics course you will be taught to recognise the way in which the overall supply chain works, from start to finish, with logistics being a vital part. This way, students learn how these two management areas can work together and compliment each other in order to maximise the efficiency of supply chain delivery.

The University of Lincoln Work-Based Learning top-up degrees will help you achieve your career goals and obtain a qualification with a global focus. Find out more about the Lincoln WBDL programmes.


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