A Guide to Logistics Acronyms

Every profession has its own acronyms, and they’re a great way of quickly communicating a profession-specific phrase or reference. The logistics and supply chain profession is certainly no exception to this, so in this post, we explain more than 50 of the most common supply chain and logistics acronyms in use in the UK today.

These are just the ones that are in regular use, we don’t doubt that we could get this supply chain acronym list to 100+!

3PL: Third-Party Logistics Provider

A provider of outsourced logistics services, predominantly referenced to transport and warehouse providers who supply and/or manage logistics resources on behalf of their clients. Well-known 3PLs include DHL, XPO, Kuehne + Nagel and Ceva.

4PL: Fourth Party Logistics Provider

A 4PL is usually a non-asset based ‘organiser’. A 4PL orchestrates the alignment of resources and technology of 3PLs in order to provide a logistics service to an end client. In essence, they are the main contractor for the service provided.

ABC (‘Analysis’ or ‘Classification’)

Not actually an acronym, and not to be confused with Activity Based Costing. ABC refers to classifying products according to their sales volume, frequency, value, or strategic importance in order to manage inventory levels effectively or efficiently locate stock in a warehouse.

AEO: Authorised Economic Operator

AEO is an internationally recognised status and quality mark for logistics operators. AEO status confirms that the operator’s customs controls are standardised and compliant, and also gives the operator access to simplified customs procedures. There are two elements to AEO: operators can have Authorised Economic Operator Customs (AEOC) or Authorised Economic Operator Security (AEOS). When an operator has both of these, the general mark used is AEO.

API: Application Program Interface

In the context of logistics operations, API often references the protocol for the interface between an ERP system and an operations management system i.e. a Warehouse Management System (see WMS).

APICS: American Production & Inventory Control Society

APICS’s role is now somewhat broader than the acronym would suggest. APICS  is a professional association for supply chain management and provides international research, education, and certification programs in supply chain management. It merged with the Supply Chain Council in 2014 and is still quite US-centric. However, it also operates through regional partners including the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK.

ATO: Assemble-to-Order

ATO is a ‘supply chain postponement’ strategy to minimise finished goods inventory, reduce customer lead times, and allow for product customisation. This is achieved by holding component stocks and assembling those components into the finished product when the customer order is received.

B2B: Business-to-Business

Sometimes referred to as a business strategy, but more closely fits with a simple classification of the market that the business sells to i.e. to other businesses (B2B) or consumers (see B2C).

B2C: Business-to-Consumer

As with B2B, B2C is sometimes referred to as a business strategy, but is more a simple classification of the market that the business sells to.

BI: Business Intelligence

A generic term for a technology platform that enables data analysis and presentation of large volumes of information. This information is usually derived from a company’s Enterprise Resource Planning system (see ERP).

BOM: Bill of Materials

The BOM refers to all the material that is required to manufacture or assemble a finished product or component part. Put simply, it’s the product’s ingredients.

CMILT: Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics & Transport

For election to the level of Chartered Member, members must either hold the Institute’s Advanced Diploma or an exempting qualification such as an accredited degree, along with at least five years’ relevant experience with a minimum of two years at a senior level.

COG: Centre of Gravity

In logistics terms, COG refers to the optimal geographic location, usually of a Distribution Centre (see DC), where the inbound and outbound transport time, distance and/or costs are minimised. A COG analysis will usually consider both the inbound (supplier) and the outbound (customer) transport movements.

DC: Distribution Centre

Put simply, a DC is a warehouse that distributes goods outside of a company’s internal supply chain or to its retail estate. When a warehouse is used to support a company’s internal manufacturing, it is usually referred to as a warehouse, not a DC.

EDI: Electronic Data Interchange

EDI is the automated transfer of data between systems. In logistics, EDI is commonly referred to in the context of client Enterprise Resource Planning systems (see ERP) connecting with the Warehouse Management Systems (see WMS) of 3rd party logistics providers (see 3PLs).

EOQ: Economic Order Quantity

The EOQ is a calculation of the optimal quantity of goods to purchase in order to minimise carrying costs and ordering costs. It is sometimes known as the Wilson formula and was devised in the early 20th century. The original formula for EOQ is now widely recognised as ineffective for modern supply chain management, as the advent of technology means the cost of ordering is negligible (compared to the early 20th-century ordering processes that required higher levels of staffing).

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

ERP refers to a software platform that allows a company to use a series of integrated software modules to manage their business. Modules within the ERP will usually include supply chain, manufacturing, finance, and human resources among others. The most common ERP systems in the UK are SAP, Infor, IFS, and Oracle.

FCILT: Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Logistics & Transport

Chartered Fellow is the highest grade of Institute membership and requires at least seven years’ experience in a relevant position of high responsibility within the logistics industry.

FCL: Full Container Load

FCL is a container shipping term. Contrary to the term, it does not necessarily indicate a full container, but rather a container with only one shipment for a single destination. Consequently, the container can be part-full and FCL just indicates that it has not been consolidated with other shipments.

FLT: Fork Lift Truck

A generic reference to any type of forklift truck i.e. reach, counterbalance, sideloader etc.

FMCG: Fast Moving Consumer Goods

FMCG refers to high-volume, high-throughput consumer goods that are usually relatively low cost. This includes most food and drink products, and many of the products you will find for sale in supermarkets. FMCG is most often a term used to classify a business sector as opposed to an individual product.

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IBP: Integrated Business Planning

IBP is a relatively new term and is an evolution of Sales & Operations Planning (see S&OP). Whereas S&OP historically referred to balancing supply and demand by creating a consensus view between sales and operations, IBP expands on this approach by incorporating wider business functions such as finance and marketing.

IDW: Irregular Dimension and Weight

IDW is a term referring to products that may require specialist handling within the logistics network due to their size and/or weight. These types of products are also referred to as ‘ugly freight’ and include items such as kitchen worktops, mattresses, and some sanitaryware products. Specialist logistics providers in this sector include DX and Tuffnells.

ISO: International Standards Organisation

ISO is an international non-government organisation that develops international standards for products, services, and systems. In the logistics industry, ISO standards help facilitate efficiency by creating standard coding, identification, and marking of transit media such as shipping containers.

KPI: Key Performance Indicator

A KPI is a quantitative measurement, taken periodically, to ascertain business performance. KPIs within logistics vary widely but typically include inventory accuracy, inventory ageing, order picking accuracy, and dock-to-stock time.

LCL: Less-than-Container-Load

LCL is a container shipping term indicating that the volume of the shipment is less than a full container. LCL loads are usually passed to a consolidator who then fills containers with multiple shipments and separates at the destination port.

LSP: Logistics Service Provider

LSP is a term less commonly used for 3rd Party Logistics Providers (see 3PL).

LTL: Less-than-Truckload

LTL is a road freight delivery that only requires a part of the vehicle’s full capacity, but is greater than a parcel i.e. a pallet. In the UK, LTL is predominantly undertaken by pallet network providers. In the UK, LTL is also sometimes referred to as LTFL (Less Than Full Load).

LLOP: Low Level Order Picker

Low-Level Order Pickers are powered pallet trucks where the forks are behind the driver. Often referred to in the warehouse as “Lollops”, they are used for picking from low levels in warehouses with fast-moving picking operations.

MAD: Mean Absolute Deviation

MAD is a common measure of forecast accuracy. The calculation is relatively simple – it is the average variance between forecast and actual (with each variance expressed as an absolute number).

MAPE: Mean Absolute Percentage Error

MAPE is the same forecast accuracy measure as Mean Absolute Deviation (see MAD) but expressed as a percentage. To calculate MAPE you calculate the average percentage variation between forecast and actual (with each variance expressed as an absolute).

MILT: Member of the Institute of Logistics & Transport

Member of is the first grade of full membership of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK). To become a member usually requires at least 3 years’ relevant experience and relevant professional qualifications.

MOQ: Minimum Order Quantity

The Minimum Order Quantity relates to the minimum number of units a supplier will sell on a specific order. MOQs are usually introduced to avoid sub-optimal production runs, or to avoid cost inefficiencies in picking and transportation.

MRP: Materials Requirements Planning / Manufacturing Resource Planning

MRP is a system, or set of procedures, to ensure sufficient material and resources are in place to manufacture against product demand. Usually, MRP processes relate to the order-book and a short-range forecast of up to 3 months. Beyond 3 months, horizon planning is undertaken at an aggregate level and is usually planned through a Sales & Operations Planning process (see S&OP).

MTO: Make-to-Order

MTO refers to producing a product only when the customer order is received. This is efficient in terms of reducing finished goods inventory, but has potential impacts to resource levelling in manufacturing and increased lead times, compared with the customer buying from stock.

MTS: Make-to-Stock

MTS refers to a product that is manufactured and placed into stock so it is readily available for customer orders. MTS indicates that there is a ‘decoupling’ point in the supply chain i.e. supply and demand are not synchronised, and consequently a stock buffer is required. Usually, an MTS product will have a set Reorder Point (ROP) and a manufacturing replenishment order will be made once the stock has reached the ROP.

NDC: National Distribution Centre

As with a Distribution Centre (see DC), an NDC is a warehouse that distributes goods outside of a company’s internal supply chain or to its retail estate. However, the ‘National’ prefix implies that it also transfers goods to Regional Distribution Centres (see RDC).

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer

OEM refers to a company that manufactures and supplies component parts that are then assembled into an end product by a separate company. For example, in the automotive industry, Magna supplies a range of component parts to Jaguar for its finished vehicles. In this context, Magna is considered an OEM.

POD: Proof of Delivery

POD is the requirement for a logistics provider to be able to demonstrate, on request, that a delivery has been received by the intended recipient. POD is now commonly captured electronically, although paper-based systems are still in regular use by some smaller logistics providers.

RDC: Regional Distribution Centre

As with a Distribution Centre (see DC), an RDC is a warehouse that distributes goods outside of a company’s internal supply chain or to its retail estate. The ‘Regional’ prefix usually implies that the RDC is part of a warehouse network and it is supplied from a National Distribution Centre (see NDC) in order to better service a local region.

RFID: Radio Frequency Identification

RFID is a method of identifying and tracking products and assets within the supply chain. An RFID tag contains electronically stored data which is read by strategically positioned readers using electromagnetic waves. RFID is considered an evolution from bar code scanning as RFID tags and readers do not need to be within line of sight.

ROL: Reorder Level

ROL is an inventory policy that dictates that a replenishment order is placed when the inventory reaches a predetermined level (see ROP – Reorder Point).

ROP: Reorder Point

The ROP is the level that inventory must reach, or be forecast to reach, before a replenishment order is made within a Reorder Level inventory policy (see ROL). It is sometimes referred to as just OP (Order Point).

ROP: Reorder Period

Where ROP refers to Reorder Period, it implies that the inventory policy is to replenish at regular intervals as opposed to when inventory reaches a certain level. The ROP is the frequency of replenishment i.e. daily, weekly etc.

ROQ: Reorder Quantity

The ROQ is the number of items that need to be ordered to replenish an existing inventory. ROQ is used within both a ROL policy (see ROL) and a ROP policy (see ROP – Reorder Period).

S&OP: Sales and Operations Planning

S&OP is a process, first conceptualised by Richard Ling in the 1980s, that facilitates supply and demand balancing on the mid-to-long-term planning horizon (usually 3 to 18 months). Its purpose is to ensure that sales requirements and operational resources are aligned and that all plans have consensus and harmonisation. It has now evolved to include wider business functions such as finance and marketing (see IBP).

SCOR: Supply Chain Operations Reference Model

SCOR is a supply chain framework that links processes to performance metrics. SCOR focusses on 6 process areas that are referred to as ‘Level 1’; they are: Plan, Source, Make, Deliver, Return, and Enable. SCOR was developed by management consultants in the 1990s and endorsed with the Supply Chain Council, which is now part of APICS.

SLA: Service Level Agreement

A Service Level Agreement is a contract, or informal agreement, that defines the service required between a supplier and a customer. For the supply of physical products, it will usually include supply lead times, contingency arrangements, and customer support requirements.

SOP: Standard Operating Procedure

SOPs within logistics are normally simple step-by-step instructions used to inform operational staff on how specific tasks should be undertaken. The aim of SOPs is to ensure conformity and efficiency in areas such as warehouse picking, vehicle loading, stock replenishment, etc.

SKU: Stock Keeping Unit

A SKU is a physical item that has a unique set of attributes distinguishing it from any other item. For example, if a company sells A4 paper, then A4 paper may be the product family, but ‘A4 paper 80 gsm’ will be a SKU and ‘A4 paper 100 gsm’ will be a separate SKU. Separate SKUs can also be created where the same product is sold in varying pack configurations.

TMS: Transportation Management System

TMS is a generic term for a system that enables planning, execution, and reporting of transport movements within the supply chain. TMS functionality can include route planning, vehicle tracking, and metrics reporting.

VMI: Vendor Managed Inventory

VMI is where the vendor of a product agrees with the customer to maintain a level of inventory at the customer’s premises. The vendor is responsible for monitoring inventory levels at the customer’s premises and providing replenishment in line with the agreed inventory targets. VMI should not be confused with consignment stock, which is a stock at the customer’s premises that is owned by the vendor and isn’t paid for by the customer until it is consumed.

WIP: Work in Progress (or sometimes Work in Process)

WIP is an inventory of goods that are not yet fully manufactured and consequently are still in progress.

WMS: Warehouse Management System

WMS is a generic term for a system that facilitates the key warehouse fulfilment activities, from goods receipt to storage, picking, and despatch. The WMS will also manage sub-processes such as replenishment, inventory checks, resource management, and quarantine.

If you would like to know more about how Paul Trudgian can help your logistics operations, then be sure to check our logistics consultants page. Alternatively, you can contact our team directly either by phone or email

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