Logistic Inspiration from Alexander the Great


Ancient logisticians were innovative, ingenious masterminds. Responsible for transporting cumbersome supplies across tremendously difficult terrain and spanning vast distances, premodern transportation experts were brilliant strategists who have laid the groundwork that powers commerce and Pallet Shipping today.


According to the Supplychainsrock blog, the seven most brilliant historic logisticians were:

  1. Alexander the Great
  2. Hannibal
  3. Sun Tzu
  4. The Duke of Wellington
  5. Genghis Khan
  6. Winfield Scott

People remain fascinated by the military career of Alexander the Great. He famously said, "My logisticians are a humorless lot. They know they are the first ones I will slay if my campaign fails."

Clearly, they did their jobs well-- 2,300 years after the life of Alexander the Great, he remains a person of reverence. At age 21, shortly after assuming the Macedonian throne, young Alexander embarked on a conquest across Asia that would last the remainder of his life. He led 40,000 soldiers and 6,000 horsemen to Asia Minor, and did with a meager supply of food.

Alexander carefully planned the timing of the sea journey to Asia Minor-- he made sure that his 30 days of rations would last 10 days beyond the harvest date in the country he was attacking, which provided him with a seamless supply of food and water until he conquered a city or kingdom. On land, his army could only carry a 10-day supply of food. They covered 19 miles per day, hurtling across Persia and India with a group of men that would eventually exceed 90,000.

Alexander's success was largely in part due to his detailed logistical planning. Detailed knowledge of terrain, the opposing armies, and harvest calendars gave him an advantage over his unprepared opponents. He eliminated the usual retinue of servants, wagons, and spouses from the marching army, allowing his men to move quickly across terrain. And, perhaps most importantly, Alexander developed alliances with conquered and friendly locals who provided his army with an uninterrupted stream of supplies.

Fortunately, we now have modern transportation that leaves very few places untouchable. Moving supplies, merchandise, and components across vast distances has become easy and profitable. But there are some takeaways that everyone can learn from Alexander the Great:

1. Be aware of the calendar. Just as Alexander made a point of knowing harvest dates, know what's going on in current events and use that to your advantage.

2. Build alliances. Connecting yourself with an LTL transportation group that can ship goods across nations quickly is always a good idea.

3. Know your competition. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors is crucial to success, especially if you apply that knowledge when you look in the organizational mirror.

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