Supply Chain Management: A historical perspective

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Contrary to appearances that logistics and supply chain management are byproducts of the industrial era, the earliest recorded reference dates back to the 1830’s. In his book The Art of War, Napoleon Bonaparte staff officer Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini defines logistics by its value to the French military. (Rogers, 2004) Named after the French military title major général des logìs, De Jomini defines logistics responsibilities for establishing camps, supply lines, leading marches and strategic troop locations. (De Jomini, 1862, 1971) While De Jomini’s concept of logistics remains a vital to successful military strategy to this day, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that logistics began to find true application in the academic and business worlds.
In the early 1960’s, Michigan State University became the first academic institution to offer coursework in physical distribution and logistics while other academic institutions began to recognize transportation as a major. (Ballou, 2007) In 1964, the lines of separation began to blur as the idea of managing logistics to manage business activity began to take hold in industry although business, as well as academia, still considered purchasing and physical distribution as managed in parallel with logistics with little to no coordination. (Ballou, 2007) Such activities gave rise to the National Council of Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM) in 1963, now called the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) (Southern, 2011) but the delineation between management of physical distribution and physical supply would prove to be an economically unsustainable model.
In 1973, estimates of logistics costs responsible for 15 percent of the gross national product of the Uni...

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