It’s best to be clear right away, the ideas, knowledge and science of logistics is developing fast. From having been something only the military cared about, logistics today has become a way to drive business from an efficient flow perspective. That’s why what you are about to read of today’s logistics might already be history by tomorrow. Or later on today. That’s how fast things move. But we will at least try to give you a brief history.

There’s no doubt about the fact that logistics has its origins in the military. Napoleon is said to be one of the first to have understood the importance of controlling, securing and streamlining the supply of goods early on. In time, he became the emperor of France, and during Napoleonic rule, the French army also set up the Générale de Logistique, freely translated as “logistics general”.


It’s pretty obvious why logistics developed within the military. Securing deliveries at the right time and place was and is not only cost-effective and environmentally friendly – but a matter of life or death. This is one reason why logistics is of crucial importance to whether rescue operations succeed or not in the event of natural disasters. Then great effort is put into planning and calculating transport carefully. The word logistics comes from the Greek word logos, meaning reasoning, before it was used in French as logistique – the art of calculating.

”I don´t know shit about
this thing called logistics,
but I for sure want a
hell of a lot of it.”

George Patton (1885–1945)
American Commanding General of the Armoured Division during WWII.

During World War II, logistics developed rapidly, especially in the USA. At the end of the war, the business community embraced the knowledge, and concepts such as “industrial logistics” and “business logistics” were preached in boardrooms everywhere. Over time, the focus shifted to more than just technology and physical product flows – strategic and organisational aspects also became part of the logistics concept. Since the 1950s, logistics has developed at a furious pace and has become increasingly important for businesses and society. Today, logistics for all types of flows is a natural and integrated part of all companies’ operations.


Of course, there are considerably more achievements of history, not just those linked to military logistics, that form the basis of today’s logistics. For example, the development of infrastructure, means of transport and manufacturing have been of greater importance – from the Greek rowing vessels that entered history around 300 BC, to the steam engine’s revolutionary effect on industry and society, to Malcom P. McLean’s invention of the 1956 sea container, and on to Toyota’s manufacturing philosophy as a strategic weapon in the automotive industry. Which Western industry leader hasn’t taken a peek at what Toyota is doing or had The Toyota way hidden in their desk drawer? Because of course, logistics is ultimately about what Toyota’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda said in 1938: “Just-in-time is my plan’s basic principle. The rule is that no goods should be transported too early or too late ”.

Excerpt from the book Logistics, text Anders Nygren