July 5, 2017
thought leaders | The Rainmakers

Who are the Rainmakers?

Who are the Rainmakers?

Each year, DC Velocity honors a select group of supply chain professionals who have helped move profession forward. We call them the Rainmakers. Read the interviews with this year's honorees.

By DC Velocity Staff

Some measure success by salaries and titles. Others use a different yardstick altogether. Take the eight professionals selected as our 2017 Rainmakers, for example. When asked about their proudest professional accomplishments, two spoke of the rewards of nurturing talent within their organizations and the satisfaction of watching protégées go on to achieve greater glory. Another pointed to his work developing a professional organization that's relevant and offers practical value to today's supply chain practitioners. Yet another spoke with evident gratification of being told how he had changed peoples' lives and careers.

So who are these Rainmakers and how were they chosen? As in the past, DC Velocity selected the 2017 Rainmakers in concert with members of the magazine's Editorial Advisory Board from candidates nominated by readers, board members, and previous Rainmakers and DCV Thought Leaders. This year's selections represent different facets of the business—from practitioners to consultants to service providers. But as the profiles that follow will show, they're united by a common goal of advancing the logistics and supply chain management profession.

If you'd like to nominate someone for our 2018 Rainmakers report, please fill out our online nomination form by the March 15, 2018, deadline.

Ken Ackerman
Ken Ackerman
Rick Blasgen
Rick Blasgen
Ben Cook
Ben Cook
Joanne Marciano
Joanne Marciano
Jett McCandless
Jett McCandless
Jack Samson
Jack Samson
Hobey Strawn
Hobey Strawn
Art van Bodegraven
Art van Bodegraven

Ken Ackerman Ken Ackerman

If anyone could be considered a supply chain veteran, it would be Ken Ackerman. He's been active in logistics and warehousing management for his entire career.

In nominating Ackerman for this recognition, a former Rainmaker had this to say about him: "Ken Ackerman is truly a man for all seasons. He is one of the veteran supply chain practitioners that has helped lay the foundation of the supply chain as we know it today."

Ackerman provides management advisory services to companies throughout the world through the firm he founded, The Ackerman Co. Before entering the consulting field, he was chief executive of Distribution Centers Inc., a public warehousing company that is now part of Exel Logistics USA. He has also worked in the management consulting division of Coopers & Lybrand.

Ackerman has been a longtime supporter of industry organizations. He is a founding member of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) and has served as president of both that group and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), which honored him with a Distinguished Service Award in 1977. He is also the first person ever to receive a lifetime membership in CSCMP, WERC, and the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA).

A graduate of Harvard Business School, Ackerman is the author of hundreds of articles and books on the supply chain and is a much sought-after speaker.

Q: You've had a long and distinguished career in supply chain. What has kept you in the profession so long and motivates you to go to work each day?

A: My primary talent is writing and teaching. Our company's monthly subscription newsletter, "Warehousing Forum," is a constant work in progress. In addition to providing management advice in supply chain, I lead an executive peer group for [executive coaching organization] Vistage International. All but one of my group members are in other work besides supply chain. Helping others forces me to keep learning and teaching.

Q: With your many years of experience in the profession, what has been the biggest change or advancement that you've seen in the industry?

A: E-mail has replaced the telephone. I once spent hours on the phone each day—now telephone time is measured in minutes, and sometimes, there are no incoming calls all day. At the same time, written communication replaces the human touch, and that can be a cause of trouble. A growing number of managers ignore or reject the networking opportunities represented by conferences organized by groups such as WERC and CSCMP, including their local branches. They think they can learn everything needed by using the computer or cellphone.

Q: What is your proudest professional achievement?

A: My proudest professional achievements are as follows:

1. Developing an Ohio-based family-managed public warehouse into a multistate logistics service provider with a professional management team and an outside board

2. Converting that firm from a 100-percent IBT [International Brotherhood of Teamsters] operation to totally union-free with an employee stock ownership plan

3. A career in writing that spans nearly five decades, including a newsletter that's now in its 31st year, several books about warehousing, and bylined articles in The New York Times and Harvard Business Review.

Q: As a consultant, what do you see as the biggest challenges supply chain professionals face today?

A: The challenge of change. The younger generation has a different work ethic. Senior management is reluctant to accept sensible changes.

The greatest opportunity is training. Thousands of warehouse supervisors are former forklift operators who were promoted because they are great workers. However, they do not know how to change from doer to leader because nobody has taught them.

Q: You've been a very active member of several industry organizations. Why is that important to you?

A: All of these have provided a network, and this has allowed me to stay busy as a management adviser without any significant sales effort.

Q: What advice would you give to someone just entering the profession?

A: Your development as an executive can be closely tied to teaching and learning. If you like to write, start doing more of it and offer your writing to others. If you enjoy presenting and teaching, look for opportunities there. Your ability to develop your replacement is the necessary key to your own promotion. Finally, always act with integrity. If you cannot be trusted, your career will be limited.

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Rick Blasgen Rick Blasgen

As a former supply chain executive, Rick D. Blasgen, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), is well positioned to understand his members' needs, wants, and aspirations. Blasgen began his career with Nabisco, working his way up through positions in inventory management, customer service, order processing, and transportation and distribution center management at a time when the food industry was undergoing an unprecedented period of consolidation. After serving as vice president, supply chain, at Nabisco; vice president supply chain for Kraft; and senior vice president integrated logistics for ConAgra Foods, he was named to his current position in 2005.

Blasgen is a past president of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) and past chair of the Grocery Manufacturers Association Logistics Committee. Currently, he is a member of Northwestern University's Transportation Center Business Advisory Council and chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness.

Q: How many members does CSCMP have?

A: Currently, we have about 9,000 individual members in 50 countries as well as 125 corporate members. We expect about 3,000 attendees from 40 countries at our annual conference, CSCMP Edge, which will take place in Atlanta in late September.

Q: You have a degree in business and finance. How did you get involved in logistics and supply chain management?

A: When I graduated college in 1983, I got a job offer from Nabisco as an inventory analyst. I didn't know a lot about it, but I thought, "Let's see where this takes me." Little did I know that a career had been born! I progressed through all kinds of jobs and functions within the supply chain; along the way, I learned a lot about logistics and supply chain operations and strategies, became more financially astute, and developed leadership experience. I think this kind of career path has a lot of benefits. When I talk to students, I often tell them there's no substitute for experience ... [and they should use it to] develop leadership, managerial, and interpersonal skills.

Q: How would you describe CSCMP's mission and your own role in furthering that mission?

A: CSCMP promotes thought leadership, and it's a place to make connections and learn from each other, challenge existing ideas, and develop new ways of doing business. It has always been a current you can plug into when you need to develop your skills, or when you're looking for a new career path or a solution for a problem, whether at the annual conference or in your local roundtable.

I'm a consensus builder by nature, so bringing people together is something I enjoy. A lot of my time is spent on using our financial, human, and education resources to deliver the best possible results for our members and for the profession. I do that with help from our staff and from our unwaveringly dedicated volunteers.

Q: Why is it important to become involved in industry and professional groups?

A: These groups help you stay current in a business that's always changing—it seems almost minute by minute. They offer you a place to think about what you're trying to do and to test it, and to find out from others who have gone down a similar path what made them successful or what roadblocks they encountered. It's a penalty-free place to get honest feedback and acquire knowledge.

Q: Are there any professional achievements you're particularly proud of?

A: In my professional career, I'd say it was navigating through food industry mergers, acquisitions, and divestments while staying focused on the customer and also taking care of our employees. I had to make decisions during a period of constant change, knowing that the organization needed to be strong coming out the other end, and I had to use what I learned to drive the organization's future success.

At CSCMP, it was evolving the organization to make sure it maintains relevancy for supply chain professionals in the future. That's one of my most important jobs. We can't live or develop our professional lives online or in one-minute videos or seven-second Snapchats. We want to make sure we continue to help supply chain professionals spend their time in meaningful ways and to ensure that healthy professional conversations continue to take place.

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Ben Cook Ben Cook

Ben Cook, senior vice president for global logistics, inventory allocation, and replenishment at Target Corp., has a track record of cutting costs and reducing complexity in the name of speed, according to his boss at the Minneapolis-based retail giant.

At Target, Cook is responsible for the optimization of the company's inbound and outbound supply chain processes, including carrier transportation and last-mile delivery. He also oversees inventory allocation and replenishment, merchandise planning operations, and global logistics.

Before joining Target in 2016, Cook was director of logistics and supply chain strategy for Apple Inc., where he led the transformation of the consumer electronics firm's logistics operation to support an omnichannel distribution model. Previously, he held operational roles at Kimberly-Clark and The Home Depot. Cook also serves on the Global Supply Chain Institute advisory board at the University of Tennessee.

Q: What's your proudest professional achievement, and why?

A: I've gotten to do some pretty incredible work over the years. But the thing I've been most proud of is the teams I've worked with and coached along the way. Seeing teams rise to the occasion and achieve breakthrough results has been the most rewarding part of my career and is what keeps me coming back day after day.

Q: You've worked for years at retail and global consumer product companies, including Target, Apple, Kimberly-Clark, and The Home Depot. What first drew you to the field of logistics?

A: During the late '90s, as e-commerce began heating up and more companies were shifting production offshore, I saw the critical nature of supply chain in firms' long-term success. I saw a real need to understand global commerce from a supply chain point of view and recognized the importance that supply chain played in reducing leadtimes and optimizing the first mile. I also saw the role that the last mile would play in digital profitability and guest delight. These trends excited me and drove me to pursue an M.B.A. in logistics and supply chain at the University of Tennessee. And the experiences I've had at incredible brands since then have continued to fuel that passion in this field.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen during your career?

A: The biggest change over my career has been the expectation of the customer. Historically, the customer has been happy with a "calendar" view of delivery, where we measure in days. Today, the "calendar" has morphed into the "stopwatch," where we're measuring in hours. It's all about instant gratification.

The skill sets required to build a career in supply chain have changed a great deal as well. In a world of algorithms and data science, college graduates and entry-level associates now need a much greater mastery of data analysis and problem solving. In addition, the need for supply chain teams to collaborate across the enterprise is much more of a requirement. We've moved from focusing on product supply and cost to delighting consumers and growing market share. That's where we can make a significant impact for the business.

Q: What hasn't changed?

A: Optimizing for a total customer experience and cost. Reducing leadtime and variability. Rightsizing inventory. Driving increased speed to market. These are all common across every company I've worked for, and, even as the consumer has changed, these continue to be a real challenge.

Q: What are some of the truisms that should be forgotten? In other words, what rules do companies need to break?

A: The notion that the supply chain is a cost center absolutely needs to go. It's actually a force to be reckoned with! It should be held accountable for creating value for the end consumer and, as a result, the business.

Q: What advice would you give someone just starting a career in supply chain management?

A: I like the idea of "bold humility." The concept is that as a new entrant in the field, you're going to have ideas that no one else has. You will see things in a new way. So be bold in sharing that perspective. However, you can only influence others if you recognize that you don't know everything. So seek mentors who have lots of industry experience and learn from them, while also speaking up and sharing your ideas. It takes a balance of boldness tempered with humility.

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Joanne Marciano Joanne Marciano

Joanne Marciano, senior vice president of operations at apparel retailer Vineyard Vines, is known for her customer-first approach to creating a seamless omnichannel experience. Wherever the customer wants to shop the Vineyard Vines brand, she makes sure the right product is there, at the right time, at the right location, and in the right quantity to create the best consumer experience.

Marciano's career spans more than 25 years and includes retail merchandising, merchandise planning and allocation, and operational leadership experience. Prior to Vineyard Vines, she spent several years in inventory management and buying leadership roles for Cole Haan, Williams-Sonoma, Old Navy (Gap Inc.), and Talbots.

In the past three years at Vineyard Vines, Marciano has drawn on that expertise in leading the warehouse, logistics, inventory management, IT, and facilities teams, with an emphasis on creating a collaborative environment.

Q: You have extensive merchandising and inventory management experience. What would you say are the biggest challenges you face as you move from omnichannel to a unified commerce platform?

A: The retail industry continues to change very rapidly, and the retail operational function wasn't built to be omnichannel. Our biggest challenge is how do we, in a cost-effective way through productivity and speed, become nimble in the ever-changing retail world where the customer wants immediate gratification and a personalized experience? In other words, how do we establish a unified platform from an operational perspective so that the brand is received by that customer in a consistent way? We are attempting to unify and rebuild our infrastructure to support our goal of providing a superior customer experience wherever that customer might be, either online or in the store.

Q: Looking ahead, what excites you about the future of retail?

A: I'm excited our 3PL (third-party logistics) partners and supply chain technology are creating ways to work faster so we can provide the speed. From a retail standpoint, the customer demands are changing, and I thrive on change. If we are stagnant too long, I'm not thriving. What are stores today? Are they just selling avenues for a brand? I would say no. Our store, we believe, is a place where people want to buy from us, not for us to sell to them. I'm excited to see how we evolve the brick-and-mortar piece while everyone is reaching to online. We are looking for ways to stay ahead of our competition online by creating a storytelling interactive website that welcomes customers to our brand. We want to offer the same brand message and experience on our website as we do in our stores.

Q: How do you ensure the customer experience is consistent across all consumer touch points?

A: It's important to understand the business and customer needs and apply [those insights] to our strategies from an operational, infrastructure, and technology perspective. An example would be when we send product to our stores in multiple boxes because our warehouse is having an issue. Instead of thinking "They got their product, great," we examine how they received 1,000 pieces in 800 boxes. It's not OK to just ship a box; that's not good customer service. We need to factor in the labor to open the boxes, the workload, the payroll costs of that labor, and the experience of the sales associate who had to pick through every single box to get a stack of T-shirts on the table.

Q: Teamwork is essential to your company's success. How do you foster a collaborative environment among your teams?

A: First, I communicate with all our teams so they can understand what they are seeing in the business today, what the major issues are, and how this changes our long-range strategy. It's important to hire talented individuals that thrive on change and have the skill set to navigate the waters of change. I strive to empower each individual so they make the right decisions, while motivating and creating a fun environment. We are all in this together. It's a team effort to create a unified commerce operation. You can't just say "I shipped them the product and they got it." It's how did it get there and how did they receive it? It brings it all back to who that customer is and putting the customer needs first.

Q: What is your proudest professional achievement, and why?

A: At the end of the day, I'm always proud to see the individuals on the team grow throughout their career. I still mentor many today that have left my team and gone on to bigger and better things in other companies. They still reach out to me wanting advice, and I do the same with my mentors. The biggest achievement is seeing people succeed along with the business and the brand.

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Jett McCandless Jett McCandless

Jett McCandless is one of logistics' endangered species: a tweener. McCandless joined the field at the turn of the century, when the industry was mired in manual processes or, at best, primitive technology. He first mastered the ins and outs of the physical side, so when the time came to seize opportunities in IT, he had enough knowledge of the business of moving stuff to create solutions to improve its performance and reliability.

Two years ago, McCandless, 38, founded project44, a firm specializing in a platform called an application programming interface (API), which is designed to handle data transmissions faster than is possible with the legacy technology systems—electronic data interchange (EDI), rate bureaus, e-mails, faxes, FTP, spreadsheets—that have been the standard for decades.

Q: You paid your dues on the physical distribution side of the house. Was it always your intent to gravitate to IT?

A: Yes. In the early days, we would sleep in warehouses in order to get crucial projects back on track. Twenty-four-hour dock shifts were a regular occurrence. The IT side revealed itself to me almost immediately. It was always obvious that people were wasting time tending to manual tasks that should be automated.

On my first day in trucking, in 1999, I sat at my [IBM] AS400, staring at the green screen, confused by how complicated the technology seemed. It took me less than a day to realize my job existed because of how terribly inefficient EDI and other legacy technologies (FTP, fax, rate bureaus) were. I spent most of my day answering phone calls for "important customers" to verify that an EDI 204 [a load tender transaction] went through. It was clear there was a massive opportunity for growth.

At each step during this period, the problems became apparent: Manual processes were wasting valuable employee resources, and shoddy technology was costing money and causing turnover. The people weren't the problem. The technology was. The industry was ripe for a change.

Q: Do you think the IT types entering the field understand the physical aspects of the business? Do they even want to or feel the need to?

A: It's tough to give a yes or no answer that covers every case. There aren't many people with both skill sets, since the logistics industry has relied on legacy technology for so long. In most cases, you have to bring in top IT talent and bring them up to speed on the physical aspects of the industry.

Companies that don't understand the asset side of the business have won most of the funding in the logistics space. There will be winners and losers with both backgrounds, but the most successful companies will be those that find the right balance.

Q: The API model has gained significant traction in the past couple of years. How much runway is left for this?

A: We are still less than 1 percent of the way down the runway. As more retailers, e-commerce companies, suppliers, and third-party logistics service providers integrate with APIs, we'll see a period of extreme acceleration. Those who aren't embracing APIs will be crushed during the next bear market, and there won't be many non API-focused companies emerging in the next bull market.

Q: There has been an explosion of new entrants in the IT space, and we are also seeing a large number of alliances and partnerships spring up. Is there a glut of players, and are these partnerships part of the marketplace's move to consolidate in response?

A: There is a lot of momentum in funding of logistics startups. I've seen estimates that in 2016, there were 315 deals involving logistics tech companies valued at more than $5 billion. That represents annual highs in both deals and dollars—a trend that will likely continue through 2017. But most of these deals have nothing more behind them than marketing. Only a few of these companies have market-ready technology. Even fewer have robust solutions that can make an immediate and widespread impact on how the industry functions.

When it comes to partnerships and alliances, those are healthy so long as both sides share a common vision. Partners that align their goals will emerge as winners. Companies that don't will alienate and confuse the people that matter the most—their customers.

Q: You are old enough to have experienced two eras of logistics. Is there anything that today's professionals can learn from the generation that came before them?

A: Three things new professionals in logistics should know: Never burn a bridge. Innovation will always upset the establishment. And we are at the beginning of rapid change.

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Jack Samson Jack Samson

Jack Samson, vice president fulfillment, returns, manufacturing, and logistics at L.L.Bean, doesn't just work for the iconic clothing and outdoor equipment retailer, he lives it. The Maine native enjoys camping, fly fishing, and other outdoor activities, and is a volunteer firefighter and licensed emergency medical technician (EMT). He's received the "Bean's Best" award from his co-workers four times in his 30-year career with the company—perhaps because he believes in following his father's advice to "treat people the way you would want to be treated, and then treat them a little better."

While he respects tradition, Samson devotes most of his time these days to helping L.L.Bean prepare for the future. Currently, he's a project lead for a team that's focused on strengthening the 105-year-old company's omnichannel retailing strategy and practices. Previously, L.L.Bean had managed inventory and fulfillment for its various sales channels separately; the new approach creates a single pool of inventory for its retail store, e-commerce, mobile, and mail-order catalog businesses. The ongoing initiative also includes a redesigned distribution center that serves all channels as well as replacements or upgrades for Bean's warehouse management, warehouse control, inventory management, labor scheduling, and financial management software.

Q: How has the omnichannel initiative affected L.L.Bean's logistics and supply chain strategies and operations? Has it affected your own work?

A: This has been a long process, almost three years, and it isn't quite finished—we're in the process of installing the new WMS (warehouse management system), for example. We continue to make improvements, but the baseline for the entire project is a focus on how we can better serve the customer. Being an omnichannel retailer will allow us to do that from the standpoint of service, inventory, and delivery.

Previously, we had one DC for retail and one for direct-to-consumer sales. Now, we've moved all of the processing work into one location. We're still using both warehouse spaces, but not the same way we did before. A big benefit is that the combined warehouse provides visibility into all of our inventory. When we kept inventory separate, a sales associate for the catalog business, for example, didn't have visibility into retail stock. Now, by being able to look at one combined pool, anyone can see whether any inventory is available for any customer. This improves both service and product availability. Another major advantage is that we're able to do things like combine shipments, combine physical space, and manage inventory in a much more efficient way.

Change can be very stressful, but it's provided great opportunities for the company and for me personally to learn how to make our business better. For me personally, the biggest benefit has been that we've updated our old processes and 20-year-old technology. All this frees up time for me to develop and work with our people.

Q: Your nomination mentioned that you have "a proven ability to form highly engaged teams." How do you choose the right people for those teams?

A: There are three key things for me. Because this initiative revolves around a focus on customer service, it's important to select team members who really understand how what we do impacts the customer. They also need skills that match well to the task. The third thing is passion. That makes someone stand out. If people have the skills and understanding but not a passion for the mission, they're not necessarily going to be my first choice.

It takes a lot of time to build a strong team the right way. I have found that if I take the necessary amount of time up front to be sure I have the right people, I usually don't have to make many changes to the team.

Q: You're a firefighter and an EMT, and you also hold other volunteer leadership positions. Have those experiences shaped your approach to your work at L.L.Bean?

A: Being an EMT means you're dealing with life-or-death situations. You have to make a lot of very quick decisions, and they have to be accurate decisions. That has definitely enhanced my leadership skills.

In operations, logistics, fulfillment, and manufacturing, you constantly have to adjust to changing situations, like unexpectedly high orders, bad weather, and problems with trucking capacity. I was a fire chief for many years; you don't have a lot of time to react and to make decisions that can impact peoples' lives. The decisions I make here affect people too. It's not life and death, obviously, but the right decisions need to be made and carried out in a timely manner.

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Hobey Strawn Hobey Strawn

From his job description, you might reasonably assume that Hobey Strawn is a lifelong logistics guy, but he actually started out in engineering—a background he says has served him well when it comes to carrying out his current responsibilities. Strawn is vice president of operations for the Americas at TTI Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas-based distributor of electronic components with over 100 locations worldwide and 13 major distribution centers globally. In his present position, he is responsible for the company's distribution operations and logistics functions, including all activities related to receiving, inventory management, order fulfillment, shipping, transportation/freight, and trade compliance.

A proven leader with a long track record of accomplishments in logistics, manufacturing, and engineering, Strawn has overseen a number of complex capital-intensive projects, including construction of a new distribution center and the introduction of new semiconductor manufacturing processes. He is also proficient at change management, having implemented large-scale programs like Lean manufacturing and numerous Six Sigma improvement projects.

Strawn holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in physical science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Texas Christian University (TCU) business school's Center for Supply Chain Innovation.

Q: Lots of kids want to be firefighters or pilots when they grow up, but no one starts out wanting to be a logistician. How did you wind up in the logistics profession?

A: That's a great question, because you are right about that. My educational background was initially in electrical engineering. I was an electrical engineer—I worked in products, quality, and ultimately process engineering because that was where my interests lay. I got an M.B.A. to learn more of the business side and then I got my current opportunity while I was still leading operations on the manufacturing side.

Q: What drew you to logistics?

A: I like problem solving. I like the complexity. I like the competitive nature of it. I like the fact that it is very easy to measure your performance, whether it's from a customer-experience standpoint or an efficiency standpoint. All of that was attractive to me. It was something different after having done manufacturing for so long.

Q: Were a lot of foundational skills from your manufacturing days transferable?

A: Yes, absolutely. There is so much more to what we do than you would traditionally think of in terms of logistics and supply chain. Whether you're on the management side, the operational side, or the technical side, you'll find yourself doing a lot of industrial engineering-type activities. Even if you're not necessarily an engineer, you will find yourself embedded in that. So yes, the foundation from an engineering perspective was critical.

Q: A lot has changed since you entered the business, not the least of which are rising customer expectations. What do you see as the biggest logistics-related challenges in meeting escalating expectations?

A: The challenge at least in the world we live in today is that our customers' demands only get more complex and they get more customized in a world where you are competing on cost and efficiency. Customization is often the enemy in terms of achieving those types of goals, but at the same time, that is how you add value. So what comes into play is the requirement to implement both an organization and an operation that can be competitive, agile, and fast yet still meet the client's customization requirements and value-added requirements because we don't just take a box off the shelf and ship it to somebody.

Q: What advice would you give someone just starting a career in supply chain management?

A: You have to remember that in the end, relationships are what matter. It is not your technical prowess; it is about building relationships. Everything else is details.

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Art van Bodegraven Art van Bodegraven

Editor's note: Long-time DCV contributor, supporter, and friend Art van Bodegraven died on June 18, shortly after this profile was prepared. But his voice has not been stilled. He left behind many months' worth of unpublished blog posts, which DC Velocity will continue to run. You can read them here. And you can watch a video interview with van Bodegraven.

Although he calls himself a relative newcomer to the field, Art van Bodegraven is something of a legend in the supply chain profession. After spending the first part of his management consulting career specializing in manufacturing, information systems, and organizational performance, he switched his focus to supply chain/logistics some 25 years ago and never looked back.

During his 55-year consulting career, he has worked with more than 150 clients in a dozen industry verticals, earning a name for himself as the "go-to guy" for projects requiring complex solutions to multifaceted management challenges. Following stints at Coopers & Lybrand Consulting (now IBM), The Progress Group (now Crimson & Co.), and S4 Consulting, van Bodegraven opened his own practice in 2009. Today, he is managing principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and founding principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. His continuing passion remains talent and skills development in the supply chain profession.

Throughout his career, van Bodegraven has been actively involved in professional organizations, serving as a speaker, track chair, and topic chair for conferences organized by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), among other groups. He has also developed programs and courses for a number of universities, private corporations, and government/public-sector entities.

In addition to being a consultant, teacher, and leader, van Bodegraven is a writer and blogger, applying his trenchant observations and keen wit to supply chain topics of every stripe. His writing has included industry-leading columns (DCV's BasicTraining column), the book Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, and blogs ("The Art of Art" blog). Through his blog posts, he continues to explore topics like new technology—the IoT (Internet of Things), robotics, and automation—and leadership.

Q: What is your proudest professional achievement?

A: My proudest moments have come from being told how much I've changed peoples' lives and careers, and their perspectives. Running a close second is the satisfaction of helping clients overcome challenges so complex they required precise sequences and interdependencies of solutions—both people and processes.

Q: You are in the late innings of your career. With the benefit of historical insight, what advice would you give someone just starting out in the supply chain management profession?

A: For those starting out—or those who are gathering steam for a mid-career reset—here's what I'd suggest: Master the core elements of supply chain management (SCM), dig into drivers of enterprise performance, gain experience with SCM functionality, develop people and communications skills, understand global strategies and operations, and, most important, decide and define what you want to be—and dedicate everything you do to that end.

Q: Of all the things that have changed during the 55 years you've been in the business, is there one that stands out? What hasn't changed?

A: When it comes to supply chain management, a few things stand out as far as change. One is the extent and pace of growth of SCM. Another is the role of logistics within the greater world of SCM. A third is the sophisticated application of technology (automation, IT, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things) to planning and operations.

As for what hasn't changed, I still see organizations clinging to last-century operations and management paradigms, and refusing to abandon a siloed operations mentality and adopt an integrated, synchronized world view.

Q: How did you become interested in supply chain management, and what keeps you interested in the profession?

A: The lures into the profession (how I got hooked) included the opportunity to develop and implement top-down SCM solutions for major corporations as well as to implement logistics functions to solve immediate problems.

What keeps me in the game are the challenges arising from the field's continuing growth and broadening span of responsibility; the application of technology to operations and planning (some of which works, some of which doesn't); and the need for effective leadership. Then there are the challenges and opportunities brought by globalization and the need for creative sourcing as well as providing education and professional development opportunities for elevated performance.

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