Prof. Alan C. McKinnon, PhD

Professor of Logistics

Honorary Senator

Prof. Alan C. McKinnon, PhD

Professor of Logistics

Honorary Senator

From 1979 to 1987, Alan McKinnon lectured and researched in economic geography and transport at the University of Leicester in the UK. Between 1987 and 2012 he was based at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and appointed full professor there in 1995. During his time at Heriot-Watt he established a research center specializing in logistics and a master’s program in logistics and supply chain management. In 2014, he was appointed an Emeritus Professor of Heriot-Watt University. Prof. McKinnon has an MA degree in geography from the University of Aberdeen, an MSc in transportation studies from the University of British Columbia and a PhD from the University of London (UCL).

Prof. McKinnon has been lecturing, researching and advising on logistics since 1979. His PhD, on physical distribution in the food industry, was one of the first doctoral studies conducted in the UK on logistics. He has conducted over fifty studies for numerous public and private sector organizations, published extensively in the logistics and transport literature and generally supported the development of logistics as an academic discipline. He has edited two journals and is currently on the editorial boards of five others. In 1996 he was one of the six founder members of the Logistics Research Network, which has its own journal, organizes an annual conference and awards prizes and research grants. In 2003 he received the highest distinction of the UK Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, the Sir Robert Lawrence award, for his long track record in logistics research and education. In 2015 the European Logistics Association awarded him a Fellowship ‘in recognition of his contribution to developing the body of Logistics knowledge’. Prof. McKinnon has or has had visiting professorships at universities in Australia, Malaysia, China, Italy, Sweden and South Africa and has lectured in over 40 countries.

Prof. McKinnon has held various high-level positions with international organizations. In 2010 he was appointed chairman of the World Economic Forum’s industry council on logistics and supply chain management. In 2016 he became a member of the WEF’s Council on the Future of Mobility. In 2012 he was one of two academics appointed to the High Level Group on Logistics established by the European Commission to advise the EU Transport Commissioner on logistics issues. Between 2014 and 2016 he was Chairman of the Transport Advisory Group for the EU Horizon 2020 research program. In 2016 he was chairman of the planning committee for a major symposium jointly organized by the European Commission and US Department for Transportation on the adaptation of transport systems to climate change. Prof. McKinnon has also undertaken projects for the World Bank, United Nations and OECD.

Prof. McKinnon has undertaken research on a broad spectrum of logistics topics. His early work introduced logistical concepts into the modelling of freight flow, examined the logistical strategies of retailers and explored the logistical penalties of peripherality. In the 1990s he pioneered new approaches to the measurement and benchmarking the efficiency of road freight operations and investigated the relationship between economic growth and freight transport externalities. Other studies have examined the changing land and energy requirements of logistics, the outsourcing of logistical activities, the impact of traffic congestion on logistics performance, the links between logistics and economic development, the logistics of online retailing and the possible supply chain impacts of new technologies such as 3D printing and drones. A long term interest in the environmental impact of logistics has culminated in recent years in research on the opportunities for decarbonizing logistics and need to adapt logistics systems to climate change.

Prof. McKinnon has written several reports for government agencies and industry bodies on the measurement and reduction of carbon emissions from freight transport. He was a lead author of the transport chapter in the 5th Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2014.

Much of Prof. McKinnon’s research has informed public policy at both UK and international levels. In 2011, for example, he was appointed by the European Commission to three expert groups examining EU funding of transport research, the development of transport technology and the promotion of sustainable logistics. He has also advised several parliamentary committees and government departments in the UK and international organizations on issues such as freight transport policy, truck size and weight limits, road charging and supply chain resilience.

Alan McKinnon joined KLU in January 2012 as Dean of Programs and Head of Logistics. His terms of office as Dean and department Head ended, respectively, in April 2014 and January 2016. In 2015 he won the KLU Best Teacher award and continues courses on the fundamentals of logistics and sustainable logistics. He has played a lead role in major KLU research projects for Unilever / Kuehne and Nagel and the World Bank and uses his extensive networking with businesses, international organizations and academia to promote the university’s activities worldwide.

For more details about Alan McKinnon, including downloads of research articles and white papers, you can also visit his personal website at

Up Close & Personal

“For me, climate change is more than just an academic subject, it is something about which I feel very concerned as a citizen. So much off my time is spend looking on what can be done to decarbonize logistics.”
– Prof. Alan McKinnon, Ph.D.

Academic Positions

Since 2012

Professor of Logistics at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg


Head of Logistics at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg


Dean of Programs at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg

1987 - 2011

Lecturer, Senior Lecturer (1991), Reader (1994) and Professor (1995) of Logistics
Associate Head of School of Management (1998-9)
Director of Research in the School of Management and Languages (2005-6)

1979 - 1987

Lecturer in Geography, University of Leicester



Ph.D. University College London: thesis title ‘Spatial Structure of Physical Distribution in British Food Industry’


MA  Center for Transportation Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada


MA Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK

2015 - Fellowship of the European Logistics Association

In May 2015 Professor McKinnon was made a fellow of the European Logistics Association, only the fifth person to receive this honour since the Association was founded in 1984. ELA is a ‘federation of 30 national organisations, covering almost every country in Central and Western Europe’.  The award of the fellowship was in recognition ‘his contribution in developing the body of logistics knowledge’.

2003 - The Sir Robert Lawrence Award

Alan McKinnon received the Sir Robert Lawrence Award, the highest distinction of the UK Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for making a ‘major contribution to transport and logistics over a sustained period’.

2002 - The Herbert Crow Award 

Alan McKinnon received the Herbert Crow Award from the Worshipful Company of Carmen in the City of London that ‘recognises an individual who has significantly furthered transport knowledge and development through study, publication, analysis, research, training or systems’.