If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen your share of LEGOs—but nothing like what Jeremy Mann sees each day.
“Our warehouse in north Fort Worth is around 1.6 million square feet,” said Mann, a Tarrant County College graduate and operations supervisor for DHL Supply Chain, a global logistics company that counts LEGO as a client. “We have all the Minecraft sets, the Star Wars-themed sets, the DC Comics-themed sets. We also have the robotic ones for LEGO’s education line and the architecture-themed ones.”
Sound like fun and games? It’s actually big business. Logistics, the process by which products and materials are moved from suppliers to consumers, represents trillions of dollars in the worldwide economy. The field encompasses inbound logistics, the movement of supplies and raw materials necessary for businesses and organizations to operate, as well as outbound logistics, the storage of finished products and their distribution to stores and directly to consumers. Mann helps oversee outbound logistics for DHL’s LEGO business.
“We are the only distribution center for LEGO in all of North America and South America at the moment, so any LEGOs you see on the shelf from Canada down to the tip of South America come from our facility,” Mann said.
Mann stumbled upon the logistics field when he was preparing to leave the U.S. Army.
“I was doing some research on which jobs were growing and had the best earning potential, and logistics was right up there,” noted Mann. “I started to realize that there were so many avenues for logistics. Then I found the logistics program on the homepage of the TCC website. I went to an open house and said, ‘I could do this.’ I’d already been doing similar work in the military.”
TCC’s Logistics & Supply Chain Management program, located at the Erma C. Johnson Hadley Northwest Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transportation and Logistics at Alliance Airport, offers an Associate of Applied Science as well as certificates in transportation management and warehouse management. It is a relatively new program at TCC, with classes beginning in 2013 and ramping up to the full catalog of courses in 2015.
“Virtually every industry needs supply chain professionals, and the demand is increasing,” said Mike Esquivel, Logistics Department chair, who has more than 15 years of experience in logistics. “And as technology changes, the way we move products and materials changes too. Students must have cutting-edge training to be successful in 21st century logistics.”
Technological advances are transforming all aspects of the logistics industry. E-commerce is surging as robotics and automation decrease costs and increase efficiency. Consider Amazon’s acquisition of warehouse automation firm Kiva in 2012. Kiva robots fulfill orders faster than people; what was once a process that took an hour or more has become a 15-minute task, prompting companies across the logistics field to follow Amazon’s lead in robotics. Amazon also pioneered the use of drone technology to deliver products to consumers. The first “Prime Air” delivery took place in late 2016.
“Self-driving commercial vehicles are another technology that will revolutionize the supply chain,” said Esquivel. “There’s a limit to how long humans can drive, but if there’s a way to keep the products moving, that’s huge.”
But make no mistake—humans are still a critical element of the supply chain.
“Technology provides a way to speed up processes and transactions, such as receiving and processing customer orders, and to respond more quickly to customer needs, such as tracking shipments, re-routing shipments and providing real-time information,” said Esquivel. “It is an enhancement to jobs rather than a replacement for labor. The use of automation and robotics will not eliminate the need for humans. But we do have to prepare students for an industry that will constantly evolve.”
To ensure the program stays current with new industry standards, area logistics professionals serve on the program’s advisory committee. Committee members review curriculum and recommend changes and keep faculty apprised of industry trends. The committee meets each semester and stays in touch throughout the year.
“I am trying to help the next generation of logistics professionals understand our industry and the skills required to be successful,” said Richard Jones, general manager of Schenker Logistics Inc. in Garland and a member of the advisory committee. “Helping improve the skill set of future logistics workers also helps me and my peers find and retain qualified talent, thereby reducing our recruiting efforts and monies lost on mismatched new hires.”
Jones says TCC alumni are well prepared for the workforce.
TCC graduates have the potential to stand out against the competition when applying for a logistics position. As a hiring manager, when I see someone has certificates or credentials from TCC’s logistics programs, I have greater confidence this person will fit our needs.
Supply chain professionals will continue to be in demand. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, employment of supervisors of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators will grow more than 22 percent between 2014 and 2024.
Amazon and the growth from that type of online industry is spurring a lot of warehouse growth overall. UPS added a hub facility in Fort Worth’s Alliance area, and it is a response to Amazon coming to Haslet. Logistics is a very strong industry in our region and beyond.
TCC students prepare for the workforce with a wide variety of courses that reflect the breadth of the industry. From traffic management and warehouse and distribution center management to principles of imports and exports, students receive a comprehensive education with hands-on skill building that culminates in a capstone internship for real workforce experience.
Program graduates go directly into entry-level logistics jobs or continue their education. All 60 associate degree credit hours transfer to Tarleton State University, where they apply toward a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in business, and to the University of North Texas, which created a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with a specialization in logistical operations. Jeremy Mann expects to earn his bachelor’s degree from UNT in 2019.
“I have a three-year goal to be an operations manager, then a six-year goal to be a general manager, with the experience to manage and run the warehouse,” he said.
With the foundation he developed as a TCC student, Mann is achieving professional success.
“Everything that goes on in the world has some type of logistics connection,” commented Mann. “If you want a career that is going to boom, logistics is the way to go.”