||Alan Harrison, Remko van Hoek
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It is a real pleasure to introduce such a quality text as Logistics Management and Strategy, now in its third edition, which helps to enhance our understanding of this important area of business today. It is a field that is rapidly gaining importance and focus as businesses like Reckitt Benckiser address the challenge of meeting increasingly demanding customer expectations in all five continents. Reckitt Benckiser is rightly famous for the excellence of its products - but product excellence must be supported by logistics excellence so that a broad range is always available for the end-consumer to buy. One challenge is obviously to ensure this availability to the consumer while complying with the requirements of trade customers. Another challenge is to achieve all of this at a low cost in order to be able to offer products to the consumer at reasonable prices. Answering these challenges is the aim of the Reckitt Benckiser network and, more specifically, of our logistics organisation. At Reckitt Benckiser we describe ourselves as a 'truly global company passionately delivering better solutions to consumers, with operations in 60 countries, sales in 180 countries and net revenues in excess of £5 billion'. The logistics task in fulfilling our objective, with such a business scope, is immense. We have 44 factories around the world and produce several hundreds of different products from food to home and personal care. We have grown by over 70% over the last five years, which poses further challenges for our logistics systems and people to meet. On the one hand, we need to optimise our systems and minimise costs; on the other hand, we must support the growth of the business and ensure product and process innovation. For us to succeed, it is becoming increasingly important to excel in the management of logistics, which becomes a strategic function and a source of differentiation and of competitive advantage. This means that managers in all parts of the business must understand their impact on, and role in, the logistics task.