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History of Logistics and Its Progression in eCommerce


Mayank Nailwal

Content Marketing Specialist @ Shiprocket

November 7, 2019

5 min read

In a world where the human race pines to unearth the origin of an Egg – it is obligatory to dig deep into the history of Logistics. As one of the world’s largest industries – logistics encompass half-a-dozen sectors starting from the road, rail, air, maritime transport, warehousing, and storage. Logistics experts have defined it as the cost-efficient process that comprises shrewd planning, implementation, and control over the storage and movement of goods from the manufacturer to the end-user.

Logistics, at present, is both an intricate and advanced process. However, its beginning was singular and significantly low-key. Let’s unravel the history of logistics and its impact on worldwide trade from scratch:

What Is The History Of Logistics?

The three-syllable word ‘Logistics” originated in the late 19th Century. It was the French term “Logistique” that gained fame through Antoine Henri Jomini’s book “The Art of War”, making way for its English-translated version to become globally popular in the years to come. The denotation of “Logistique” in Jomini’s book referred to the means of supplying a theater of war with soldiers and ammunition. The French used this term throughout the time of World War and later on, it was re-pronounced as ‘Military Logistics’.

Equivalent to the numerous logistics specialists working today, the military officers back then were enunciated as ‘Logistikas’. They shared similar KRA’s, ensuring seamless management of the supply chain, albeit for the soldiers to efficaciously move forward and take charge.

Before the inception of the term ‘logistics’, a related process was used, encapsulating comprehensive supply systems, road transportation, and warehouses. This system was in place long before modernization, specifically during the middle ages, which we have studied in school. That time, the forts, and the castles used to serve as warehouses, while horse-drawn vehicles and boats used to act as a means of transportation.

The definition of the supply chain consistently evolved from the middle age to the prevailing digital age. However, it is during this transitional phase where logistics dawned and garnered a name for itself.

Evolution From Military To Business Logistics

Considering ‘logistics’ authoritatively incepted during World War 1 (1914-1918), military logistics was the first to come into the picture. ‘Logistikas’ were supervising the movement and storage of resources before World War but post-war, the term became widespread as ‘Logistics Officers’ replaced ‘Logistikas’.

Military logistics was primarily concerned with the movement of ammunition and relevant war equipment to the places they were required. It dealt with numerous variables ranging from prediction of total cost, consumption of materials, and the likely requirements in the future.

Business Logistics, on the other hand, surfaced with the rising complexities in supply trade during the 60s and states having the right item in the right quantity at the right time, right place,  right price, right condition, and ultimately, to the right customer. 

Opposed to military logistics, which has remained largely static in its process, business logistics has consistently evolved since its emergence, giving rise to multiple complexities (operating a worldwide supply chain), and likewise, necessary accretion (supply chain logisticians).

Progression Of Logistics In eCommerce

The last 50 years revolutionized the logistics industry. Before the Internet, in the year 1970, numerous retail stores were taken over by direct deliveries. Direct deliveries referred to goods getting delivered directly from the suppliers or wholesalers instead of the retailers. This new module of trade warranted a change for retailers.

A decade later, during the early 80s, the retailers began centralizing store deliveries via the creation of their distribution centers. This increased reliability on robust transportation and supply chain management allowed the logistics industry to grow exponentially.

In 1990, the global trade of non-food articles ventured in, allowing retailers to establish their import centers for a hassle-free deliverance of imported goods. The supply chain was already challenging enough until this point when the notion of eCommerce arrived a few years after.

Once eCommerce surfaced, the retailers were compelled for further rework on their distribution system for keeping up with the gradually rising demand of the end customers.

The idea of making purchases online and getting products delivered to home enticed the end-customers. It was the outcome of their outrageous demand and the impeccable services of logistics providers that eCommerce is now in full swing.

The industry witnessed an increase in sales every year and the economy has reached a point where the prevailing mechanism of eCommerce seems inconceivable without dependable logistics services.


The eCommerce industry is taking the world by storm and experiencing growth in almost every sector of its diverse variety of consumer goods, varying from fashion commodities, clothing, electrical items, to consumable goods. Booming and grooming logistics service providers are at the center of this industry, serving as the heart of the eCommerce system, propelling the supply chain to flow seamlessly as it should, reminiscent of its time of origination.

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