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It’s official: Amazon distribution is coming to New Jersey. The massive online retailer recently announced plans to open a new 1 million-sq.-ft. fulfillment center in Robbinsville in 2014—its first distribution facility in the state—that will create hundreds of new full-time jobs. This and other distribution facilities, which are prominent in New Jersey, store and ship products to their destinations. At the facility, Amazon employees will pick, pack and ship smaller items to customers who order them online—anything from books to DVDs. Amazon fulfillment center jobs pay on average 30% more than traditional retail jobs, says the company, and include health care and other full-time benefits.
Amazon is one of the most high-profile retail businesses involved in the high-tech game of logistics, getting merchandise from manufacturer to store shelf—or in this case, directly to the customer. As you may well know following a busy December, logistics is as essential to the holiday season as the Christmas tree and the menorah—and as evident if you know where to look. Highways crowded with 18-wheelers, UPS trucks double parked on busy streets, Fed Ex vans pulling in and out of your neighbors’ driveways, even those Amazon boxes stacked atop your daily mail delivery. Logistics is about moving the right product in the right quantities to the right place at the right time—and the right time is whenever a business or a customer needs it.
While logistics is fundamental to the retail industry in terms of stocking store shelves and providing products to customers, it is also an important business process for many other industries, whether it involves getting parts to a factory for assembly, or for service that happens after a product is sold. For instance, networking giant Cisco Systems’ after-sales service group delivers hundreds of thousands of spare parts to the company’s manufacturing facilities. “If you can’t coordinate to get the right part to the right place at the right time, then you have shortages, delays and dissatisfied customers, and eventually you go out of business,” says Morris Cohen, a professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania who specializes in supply chain, operations management and logistics.
Supply chains involve the network of facilities and activities associated with making things, all the way from the procurement of the raw materials and the assembly of the components to the distribution. Logistics is the flow of material within the supply chain. “Logistics is an essential component of any effective supply-chain strategy and has become critically important as our economy has become globalized,” adds Cohen. “A lot of manufacturing has been outsourced to foreign locations and suppliers are located in [other parts of the world].”
Even before those package-filled trucks hit the highways to deliver products to businesses and consumers, a crucial step in the logistics lifecycle is fulfillment and distribution, which typically involves a warehouse where an order that has been stored is filled and from where a product is packaged and shipped out (exactly what will happen in Robbinsville). Warehouses are critical links in the logistics process and have become even more important with the rise in popularity of e-commerce, or buying products over the Internet.
Perhaps you were one of the 20 million shoppers to order online on November 26, otherwise known as Cyber Monday—a huge day in terms of logistics. Online sales boomed this year on Cyber Monday, many of them captured by Amazon, which brought in 50,000 seasonal workers to deal with the demand. After consumers place orders, Amazon’s 80 fulfillment facilities around the globe go to work to get those products to consumers’ doorsteps. The company’s largest warehouse—the size of 28 football fields—is in Phoenix, Ariz., and new logistics hubs are being built in California, France and now New Jersey—to name just a few locations.
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on Advice 101 column’s “View All” feature and selecting “The Amazing Amazon.”
Transportation and logistics often go hand-in-hand when discussing what makes the world go ’round. According to a 2011 New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development report on transportation and logistics—one of the state’s most important industries—the dense population and higher income level of the state and surrounding region make it a prime location from which to distribute goods to consumer outlets. “With airports, seaports, rail lines and easy access to the Interstate Highway system, New Jersey’s proximity to major cities and its central location among the Mid-Atlantic states gives the Garden State an ideal location for a strong transportation, logistics and distribution (TLD) industry cluster,” notes the report.
A few more key facts:
Logistics and transportation offer varied opportunities for employment. For one, a new generation of young, eager truck drivers is in great demand. According to an Associated Press article from November, trucking accounts for 80% of how cargo is moved in the country. U.S. companies are expected to create more than 115,000 truck driver jobs per year through 2016, but the number of Americans getting trained to fill those jobs each year is barely 10% of the total demand. Many companies need good workers. Take, for instance, NFI, a logistics, transportation and distribution company based in Cherry Hill. The company, with more than 100 transportation and warehouse locations around the country, employs truck drivers, diesel mechanics, logistics coordinators, inventory control clerks, material handlers, forklift operators and warehouse operations supervisors, to name a few positions.
Other transportation and logistics jobs include shipping and receiving clerks, air cargo supervisors and many more technology-heavy positions that incorporate robotics and automation. Think logistics managers, logistics analysts and IT logistics specialists. Production specialists involved in the manufacturing process are in high demand. “Logistics’ importance is growing and therefore its employment will grow,” notes Morris Cohen, a professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania who specializes in supply chain, operations management and logistics. “There is real-time monitoring of conditions and solving complex challenging technical problems about how to manage logistics that involve very sophisticated methodologies and advanced computer algorithms. People might say, ‘I don’t want to be a truck driver.’ Well, there are all kinds of opportunities that involve management and decision-making and that have a strategic impact [on business]. It’s a great place to look.”
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on Advice 101 column’s “View All” feature and selecting “Wheels in Motion.”
When Francesco Lotito was a sophomore at Toms River High School, he made a realization: a future behind a desk was not the best choice for him. “I enjoy being under a car and getting my hands dirty,” says Francesco, a 2012 graduate of the high school and of the automotive technician program at Brick Center Vocational School.
So after graduation, Francesco joined an Automotive and Diesel Technician Apprenticeship program that is part of the International Association of Machinists union. He spends two nights a week taking automotive electronics and steering and suspension classes and soon anticipates getting a job with either a Honda car dealership or as a diesel mechanic in Edison working on small trucks. Eventually, he will work on 18-wheelers. “As an apprentice, for four years I’m going to school and my union guarantees me a job of 40 hours a week. I work five days a week and go to school two nights a week. As soon as I start working, after six months I get full benefits,” says Francesco, who moved from Italy to New Jersey with his family when he was a boy. “My dad, Domenico, was in this business when he was younger in Italy and when we came over here he was working in a Honda dealership. I went to his job one day and liked it.”
According to the apprenticeship program website, trained technicians can earn $60,000 to $100,000 or more per year. With an estimated need for 60,000 new auto technicians each year over the next few years, the United States Department of Labor ranks auto technicians as one of the top 10 high growth jobs for the future.