Logistics is generally the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. In a general business sense, logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics can include physical items such as food, materials, animals, equipment, and liquids; as well as abstract items, such as time and information. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, material handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security.
In military science, logistics is concerned with maintaining army supply lines while disrupting those of the enemy, since an armed force without resources and transportation is defenceless. Military logistics was already practiced in the ancient world and as modern military have a significant need for logistics solutions, advanced implementations have been developed. In military logistics, logistics officers manage how and when to move resources to the places they are needed.
Logistics management is the part of supply chain management that plans, implements, and controls the efficient, effective forward, and reverse flow and storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet customer's requirements. The complexity of logistics can be modelled, analysed, visualized, and optimized by dedicated simulation software. The minimization of the use of resources is a common motivation in all logistics fields. A professional working in the field of logistics management is called a logistician.
One definition of business logistics speaks of "having the right item in the right quantity at the right time at the right place for the right price in the right condition to the right customer". Business logistics incorporates all industry sectors and aims to manage the fruition of project life cycles, supply chains, and resultant efficiencies.
The term "business logistics" has evolved since the 1960s[ due to the increasing complexity of supplying businesses with materials and shipping out products in an increasingly globalized supply chain, leading to a call for professionals called "supply chain logisticians".
In business, logistics may have either an internal focus (inbound logistics) or an external focus (outbound logistics), covering the flow and storage of materials from point of origin to point of consumption (see supply-chain management). The main functions of a qualified logistician include inventory management, purchasing, transportation, warehousing, consultation, and the organizing and planning of these activities. Logisticians combine a professional knowledge of each of these functions to coordinate resources in an organization.
There are two fundamentally different forms of logistics: one optimizes a steady flow of material through a network of transport links and storage nodes, while the other coordinates a sequence of resources to carry out some project (e.g., restructuring a warehouse).
Cargo, i.e. merchandise being transported, can be moved through a variety of transportation means and is organized in different shipment categories. Unit loads are usually assembled into higher standardized units such as: ISO containers, swap bodies or semi-trailers. Especially for very long distances, product transportation will likely benefit from using different transportation means: multimodal transport, intermodal transport (no handling) and combined transport (minimal road transport). When moving cargo, typical constraints are maximum weight and volume.
Operators involved in transportation include: all train, road vehicles, boats, airplanes companies, couriers, freight forwarders and multi-modal transport operators.
Merchandise being transported internationally is usually subject to the Incoterms standards issued by the International Chamber of Commerce.