For our 2019 Rainmakers, success isn't about fame and fortune. It's about making a contribution to the logistics field and advancing the profession. Each day, we'll reveal another one of this year's eight Rainmakers.
Some measure success by salaries and titles. Others use a different yardstick altogether. Take the eight professionals selected as our 2019 Rainmakers, for example. When asked about their proudest professional accomplishments, several cited the satisfaction of seeing protégés go on to achieve greater glory, while another described her work supporting humanitarian relief efforts as "the best job in the world." Yet another spoke with evident gratification of being thanked by strangers for helping them learn something new about supply chain management.
So who are these Rainmakers and how were they chosen? As in the past, DC Velocity selected the 2019 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 association executives to port officials, consultants, and academics. But as the profiles on this page 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 2020 Rainmakers report, please send your suggestions to DC Velocity's editorial director, David Maloney, at email@example.com.
Anyone who's been an exhibitor at the highly successful ProMat or Modex shows organized by MHI has bumped into Tom Carbott at one time or another. Carbott, who was MHI's senior vice president of exhibitions before retiring at the end of last month, was the main force behind the shows for more than 20 years.
Carbott joined MHI in 1992 and worked his way up the ladder, serving in progressively more responsible positions in professional development, marketing, industry group management, and exhibition sales and operations. During his tenure, ProMat rose to number 51 on Trade Show Executive magazine's "Top 100" list of the largest expositions and Modex moved up to number 70. In 2018, he was named "Show Manager of the Year" by The Expo Group, a marketing services company.
Q: ProMat and Modex have both been extremely successful shows. To what do you attribute their growth and success?
A: I credit the staff at MHI who help support these events as well as the MHI member companies who are constantly developing leading-edge innovative solutions that are helping [customers] achieve productivity gains worldwide.
Q: How has the mix of exhibitors and attendees changed in the years that you've been managing the shows?
A: The shows have a very good balance of existing solutions and emerging technologies. For example, at ProMat 2019, you saw a very high level of automation and mobile robotics that wasn't present just five years ago. Yet you still see innovation being deployed to traditional products like racks, lift trucks, conveyors, and controls, which keeps these products in the forefront of the solutions options as well.
Q: Over the years, you've fielded some unusual requests from exhibitors. Can you share an example?
A: One that stands out was a request by an exhibitor at ProMat 1999, who wanted to display a live caged Bengal tiger as part of his booth. Although I'm originally from Detroit and a big Tigers fan, I had to say no to that one.
Q: You have just retired. What will you miss most about the supply chain industry?
A: The people I have been blessed to meet and work with along the way. I have been privileged to work alongside MHI staff and MHI members who have been with me in good times and bad, and who always went the extra mile. I think that the people in our industry are incredibly good people ... staff, members, and show attendees.
Q: What advice would you give someone who's just entering the profession?
A: Get engaged with the people, industry, and associations. So much knowledge is out there, and most people are willing to share their personal insight. In my opinion, it is the people you meet along the way that provide the rewards. These relationships can have a huge impact on a successful career.
The book publishing industry has been rocked by a series of disruptions in recent years, from the shift to a digital marketplace to the displacement of printed volumes by e-reader editions.
The publishing conglomerate Penguin Random House (PRH) has survived the turmoil, thanks in part to the efforts of Annette Danek-Akey, the company's senior vice president, supply chain. A lifelong reader, she says it has been a "joy" to help bookstores and fellow book lovers through her work.
Danek-Akey, who has a master's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University, started out in the publishing business as an industrial engineer before moving into supply chain management. Today, she manages the company's distribution, transportation, customer service, and fulfillment systems, overseeing an operation that employs more than 1,700 people and ships an average of 1.5 million books per day.
Colleagues say she will roll up her sleeves and confront any obstacle, displaying a willingness to contribute in any capacity that belies her senior position. They also describe her as equally comfortable interacting with top company executives as with hourly warehouse associates.
In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, Danek-Akey is committed to giving back to the profession. In April, she was appointed president of the board of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), where she serves as a mentor to women working in the warehousing and logistics profession.
Q: What drew you to the field of logistics?
A: Utilizing my degree in industrial engineering, I found that logistics was the perfect intersection of people and process. I have a process-improvement mindset, and there is always something to improve.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen during your career?
A: I've seen enormous change and evolution in WMS and TMS and ERP systems during my career. It used to be that you might have to adjust a process to fit a system, but today, if you can dream it, you can code it.
I've also seen more women enter the logistics field over the past few decades. I've had the pleasure of being mentored by some awesome women and have, in turn, convinced many young women that logistics is a great career choice.
Q: What hasn't changed?
A: People remain the most important asset a company has, and with advancements in technology, those people are truly working smarter, not harder. Also, peoples' love of the written word and stories is extremely stable.
Q: What are some of the truisms that should be forgotten?
A: One is that you can't find good people these days. If a company says it is having trouble recruiting talent, it should evaluate its policies. Companies need to truly honor their employees and evaluate and update the benefits offered. In the 21st-century workplace, people need more than two weeks' vacation. PRH offers our employees four weeks' vacation after two years of service. Proper paid time off, sabbaticals, health benefits, parental leave, and so forth ... these programs help us maintain and motivate our loyal and dedicated work force.
Q: What advice would you give someone just beginning a career in supply chain management?
A: I am a huge advocate of continuing to learn—particularly in the supply chain field. You can't end your education in our industry because the warehousing and logistics space is changing so fast. Make it a practice to learn one to two new subjects a year.
Q: How is PRH dealing with the ongoing shortage of DC labor?
A: In logistics we like consistency, but we've found that offering flexible schedules is a great retention tool. By broadening our definition of the work week beyond the traditional Monday through Friday, PRH has been able to offer our employees alternative work schedules that let them choose what works best for them.
Flexible schedules have allowed us to be more inclusive—as an example, our fulfillment work force is close to 60 percent female. The management teams can create on-demand flexible shifts through a work-force management app. We expected that this app would attract younger workers, but we've seen more interest from stay-at-home parents or people with full-time jobs who are looking for a flexible second, part-time job. Also, in continuing to offer the very best in healthcare programs and making it as affordable as possible for them, we've been able to retain our dedicated and loyal employees year over year.
For most supply chain professionals, dealing with disaster is a remote possibility. For Kathy Fulton, it's a full-time job. As executive director of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), she leads an organization that stands ready to provide supply chain assistance for humanitarian relief efforts whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Prior to joining ALAN, Fulton was senior manager of information technology services at contract logistics specialist Saddle Creek Logistics Services. In 2010, she was "lent out" to ALAN by her employer to help the aid group assess its IT needs—a gig that eventually led to her becoming a full-time employee. She took over the reins of the organization in 2013, when Jock Menzies, ALAN's chairman and co-founder, died in an accident.
Her peers laud Fulton for her collaborative style, humility, and dedication to the cause. One of the executives who nominated her for this recognition wrote, "With her 11 years of experience at Saddle Creek Logistics prior to her eight with ALAN, she could work for a larger organization, with a high-powered title and more money. Instead, she chooses to work at the intersection of supply chain and emergency management, motivated by her passion to help others."
Q: What led you to the position you are in today?
A: I often feel like my career has been a trip where I've taken the back roads and stopped at a lot of interesting roadside attractions rather than taking the interstate. The great thing is that at each of those stops, I've had incredible mentors and co-workers who believed in me and encouraged me. Working in information technology at Saddle Creek opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of global supply chains. Then being asked ("voluntold") to help ALAN with its IT needs and having a chance to work with people like Richard Sharpe, Mark Richards, and Jock Menzies showed me how businesses can leverage the same capabilities and expertise they use to make money to help make a difference.
Q: Dealing with an endless stream of disasters could get pretty depressing, yet you've been quoted as saying you have the best job in the world. Why is that?
A: The side of disaster that most people see is the destruction and damage. I see that too, but I also get to see the people who respond with compassion and serve those who've been affected. I get to help the helpers! As supply chain professionals, when we see a truck driving down the road, we might think about the cost of the fuel or the impact of tariffs. I also think about what's in that truck and where it's going. Maybe it's bringing a blanket or hot meal to a family that lost its home to a fire and is living in a shelter. In instances like that, the supply chain is moving more than commodities—it is delivering comfort, and dignity, and hope. I get to be part of that. And that's why I have the best job in the world.
Q: With all the catastrophic events of the past few years, do you think logistics professionals have gotten better at preparing for and responding to disaster?
A: I think there is much more awareness of the vulnerability our supply chains face due to disruptive events, but I'm not sure how well that awareness is playing out in preparedness actions. We still build in vulnerable areas.
But when it comes to response, I do think businesses are making strides. Unfortunately, some of that is due to the sheer number of disruptions we've experienced in recent years. Our supply chains are quite practiced at finding alternate routing and providers, and continuing to deliver even in dire circumstances.
Q: In the same vein, where do you see room for improvement?
A: I think that even as supply chain professionals, we sometimes fail to foresee the ripple effects of supply chain disruptions. Who would have thought that a hurricane on a territorial island in the Caribbean would disrupt surgeries in the continental U.S.? But that's exactly what happened after Hurricane Maria destroyed a saline-bag manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico, causing widespread shortages.
Also, we continue to see misguided attempts at generosity. People really want to help, but sometimes what they're offering is not what's needed—maybe it's inappropriate (fur coats in Florida) or impractical (medicine that requires specialty equipment to dispense) or is being offered without the benefit of transport to the location of need.
Nonprofit organizations are loath to turn these donations down because they don't want to sour a relationship. But dealing with these donations takes time and resources—especially logistics resources—that may be in short supply following a disruptive event. Solving this challenge requires raising donor awareness of the situation, including what is useful at the time and what will slow the response. Our best advice is always to donate financially to an organization that aligns with your business's core values so that it can use those funds when and where they are needed most.
Q: Has your view of ALAN's role in humanitarian relief changed over the past eight years?
A: ALAN has always been about making a difference in a big way, but at the beginning, we thought that it would be easy! There are so many variables that we just didn't understand back then. It seemed like a pretty easy two-party transaction. After all, businesses move supplies around the world every day, so why would trying to do something during a disaster be more challenging?
Now, we realize that most of our work involves four or five or more components—from donors to the nonprofit recipient to the government agency overseeing the response to the group handling distribution to the disaster survivors themselves. So our mission is really a lot less about logistics than we thought it would be, and a lot more about relationships.
Q: What's your proudest professional achievement, and why?
A: I've had some really amazing moments working for ALAN—from watching the flight tracker as the first planeload of personal-protective equipment touched down in Liberia during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreaks to sitting in the basement of a building in Washington, D.C., packing relief supplies for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
But my proudest moment has to be launching our Humanitarian Logistics Awards in 2017. All of those amazing moments would not have happened if a business hadn't agreed to ship or store or handle the supplies or share the information. It is the businesses that donate their time and resources to help others during disaster that deserve the credit, and it is a privilege to be able to recognize their work.
Thomas Goldsby doesn't sit still for long. As a national-caliber endurance runner, he can often be found breaking the finish-line tape at masters (over 40 years old) races ranging from the mile to the marathon. But if you can get him to slow down and talk business, you'll find that the race results are not a fluke. He applies a similar laser-focus on his academic research interests: logistics strategy, supply chain integration, and the theory and practice of Lean and agile supply chain management strategies. He has published more than 50 articles in academic journals and co-written five books on transportation, logistics, supply chain management, Lean operations, and sustainability.
Today, Goldsby is the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Professor and chair of the department of marketing and logistics at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. Colleagues say he delivers a top-rank performance as a leader, editor, scholar, and professor.
Outside of Fisher College, Goldsby has served since 2015 as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Business Logistics and holds positions such as associate director of the Center for Operational Excellence (COE), research fellow of the National Center for the Middle Market, and research associate of the Global Supply Chain Forum.
Q: What drew you to the field of logistics?
A: Like so many others, I would say logistics is a field that found me, rather than the other way around. I studied economics and finance as an undergraduate at the University of Evansville (Ind.). That led to a graduate fellowship in transportation during my M.B.A. studies at the University of Kentucky, an assignment with the Transportation Research Board in D.C., and, later, a job as logistics analyst for Valvoline. I found that transportation was an exciting application of economics. I got caught up in the "action" of transportation and logistics—and the rest is history.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen during your career?
A: [A former professor] spoke of a "logistical renaissance" occurring in business, where more change was taking place due to globalization, computerization, deregulation, and the like than at any other time in modern history. Certainly, those forces are instrumental in where we find ourselves today, but I would point to the emergence of logistics and supply chain management as go-to competitive weapons for reaching the market, building customer loyalty, and, ultimately, winning or losing in business. We are no longer merely "a cost of doing business."
The advent of online shopping is taking this premise even further, as it extends our focus from business-to-business engagement to competing on the basis of customer experience at the consumer level. The truth is, we are far from understanding how to manage the provision of "eaches"—including the economic, environmental, and societal impacts of last-mile fulfillment and delivery operations. It's going to continue to be a wild, interesting ride!
Q: What hasn't changed?
A: Logistics has long been known as a "people business." Even though there is increasing interest in robotization, artificial intelligence, and autonomous operations, people still buy from and sell to other people. Inherent in these transactions is the notion of trust and reliability—that promises made are going to be kept. Logistics is the function that literally delivers on these promises.
Q: What are some of the truisms that should be forgotten? In other words, what rules do companies need to break?
A: Logistics is often regarded as a function of trade-offs: better service means higher cost; satisfying customers relies on high levels of inventory... and the like. As a student of Lean thinking for two decades now, I've come to appreciate that trade-offs are not absolute. It is possible to improve service and reduce costs, for instance.
Q: What advice would you give someone just beginning a career in supply chain management?
A: Be ready for continuous disruption—both big and small. Sometimes, you'll be the disrupter; at other times, you'll be disrupted. The best way to maximize the former and mitigate the latter is to constantly learn. Don't assume that a degree or certification marks the end of the learning. Consume information through formal and informal means perpetually.
Q: How is the industry doing at addressing the labor shortage in distribution centers?
A: The industry is adopting an array of strategies to address the labor shortage: enhanced recruiting and retention tactics, creative use of flex employees, and robotization as a complement to or substitute for labor. It's clearly a top-of-mind challenge when the economy continues to expand and pressures for shorter order leadtimes drive greater decentralization in operations. I will stop (well) short of wishing for an economic slowdown, but another unpopular option that the economist in me looks toward is ... pay. The law of demand suggests that when supply is low and demand is high, there should be an upward adjustment in price to reach equilibrium. Arguably, the skills gap is closing between warehouse work and [competing jobs], so I think we can expect the trend of raising wages to continue—absent an economic slowdown that scatters the labor pool.
With 20-plus years of experience, Adrian Gonzalez has a lot to say about the logistics industry. Described by the 11 professionals who nominated him as "a breath of fresh air in a sector where so many have so little to say," Gonzalez dedicates his time to advising young professionals and executives, training and coaching organizations on how to improve their positions within the market, and bringing analysis and research to the larger supply chain community through his blog, TalkingLogistics.com.
Gonzalez is president of Adelante SCM, which means "forward" and "move ahead" in Spanish. The company's mission is to move supply chain and logistics leadership forward by making it easier for industry professionals to share ideas, knowledge, and advice with one another. Prior to founding Adelante SCM, he held various leadership positions at the consulting firm ARC Advisory Group and managed the development and market introduction of new products for Motorola, Clare, and Polaroid.
Gonzalez earned his bachelor of science degree in materials science and engineering from Cornell University and a graduate certificate in supply chain management from Northeastern University, where he has served as an adjunct instructor in its executive M.B.A. program. He speaks frequently at industry events, is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, and is considered a LinkedIn Influencer with his more than 243,000 followers.
Q: What drew you to the logistics field?
A: Like many people, I entered the logistics field by chance. I'm a materials science engineer, and I began my career in new product development and manufacturing at Motorola and Polaroid. I was looking for a career change, so I applied for a job at ARC Advisory Group, a market research and advisory services firm. They hired me to help build their semiconductor and Latin America practices (I am fluent in Spanish), but on my very first day, I was told "As part of your training, you're going to do a market research study on transportation management systems," a topic I knew absolutely nothing about. Well, I did a good job on it, and 20 years later, I'm still researching the TMS market, along with other supply chain and logistics topics.
So I wasn't really drawn to the logistics field; I was dropped into it. But I've never looked back. There's never a dull moment in this industry—so much change, so much innovation, so many great people, always something new to learn. All those things and more keep me here.
Q: What are some of the top trends you're seeing in the industry, and what are some challenges facing logistics and supply chain professionals today?
A: One trend that is disrupting the status quo and serving as a catalyst for innovation is companies placing customers at the center of their supply chains. According to research we conducted recently, "To deliver an enhanced customer experience" is the top factor driving supply chain innovation at many companies today—more so than cost reduction! Another is the amount of money being invested in supply chain and logistics companies, including technology companies and service providers. Simply put, investors see a bright future in this sector, and they are making many bets. Relatively few of them will pay off, but the ones that do will certainly drive change and innovation in the industry.
In terms of challenges, we still have a data-quality problem in supply chain management—the classic garbage-in garbage-out problem. And it's getting more challenging to solve because of all the data we're generating today. So, even though there's a lot of talk about the benefits of big data, analytics, IoT (Internet of Things), and machine learning, we will never fully realize them until we solve this data-quality issue. Another big challenge is finding and retaining labor, especially in transportation and warehousing, which is why driverless trucks and warehouse automation are getting so much attention today.
Q: You work with young professionals. What advice would you give someone just entering the supply chain profession?
A: Three things. First, don't stop learning. The industry is changing so much, so quickly. Whether it's technology, regulations, mergers and acquisitions, or the competitive landscape—you have to stay on top of what's happening in order to develop into an effective leader.
Second, work on improving your communication and relationship-building skills. Supply chain management is, after all, a relationship business. It's about people working together to get things done, especially when things don't go as planned, which is the norm these days in every aspect of supply chain management. Unless you earn the trust, buy-in, and respect of the people you depend on to manage your supply chain effectively, especially in times of crisis, you're not going to get very far as a leader.
Third, you can be an entrepreneur within your own company. Don't sit around waiting for opportunities to come to you or for your manager to assign you your next project. Be proactive—identify an opportunity for innovation, do the research, build the business case, and then present it to your management team and say, "I am ready to lead this effort." Not all of your ideas will get the green light, but a company that encourages and supports this type of internal entrepreneurship is a company worth working for.
Q: Beyond logistics and supply chain management, you've been heavily involved in charitable causes. Can you talk about your efforts to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes and why it's so meaningful to you?
A: In October 2011, while I was at the CSCMP Annual Conference in Philadelphia, my oldest daughter (age 11 at the time) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (TID). I had never heard of T1D and there was no history of it in our families, so the diagnosis was a complete shock to us. Unlike type 2 diabetes, T1D is a chronic autoimmune disease. People with T1D produce little or no insulin, a hormone essential for breaking down carbohydrates to feed the body, so they have to monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day and take insulin, either via injections or a pump, to keep their blood glucose levels in a healthy range.
In December 2015, I got up in the middle of the night to test my daughter's blood sugar. I had a hard time pricking her finger to draw a drop of blood, and when I looked closely, I saw why: All of her fingertips were scarred from the thousands of times she had pricked them to test (over 12,000 times by my conservative calculation). I decided then and there that I needed to do more to help find a cure for this disease. So, I came up with a big audacious idea: assemble a team of riders from the logistics industry to join me for a 100-mile bike ride in Death Valley, California, to benefit JDRF, the leading nonprofit organization focused on T1D research. What started out as an idea became a reality thanks to the generous support of our founding sponsors. Since 2016, thanks to our sponsors and donations from family and friends, our Logistics Leaders for T1D Cure team has raised close to $150,000 for JDRF!
This past March, we also launched an "uncommon" market research community for supply chain practitioners called Indago. Our members share practical knowledge and advice with each other while giving back to charitable causes, including JDRF, American Logistics Aid Network, American Cancer Society, Feeding America, and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Q: What is your proudest professional achievement, and why?
A: My proudest professional achievement is starting my own company. It's been almost nine years since I left the comfort of a relatively secure job and paycheck. My father was an entrepreneur; he and my uncles came from Cuba with nothing, and through much hard work and sacrifice, saved enough money to buy a bodega in Brooklyn and become their own bosses. My father passed away from lung cancer in August 2008. In one of our last conversations, he reiterated something he had been telling me for years, something I had already been thinking about: If you see an opportunity to be your own boss, take it—be the master of your own destiny.
That's what I did, and even though I'm still rolling that boulder uphill, I am grateful for the trust and support I've received from clients and partners over the years. When someone I don't know approaches me at a conference and thanks me for helping them learn something new about supply chain management via a post we published or a video we produced, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Derek Hornsby is a seasoned supply chain professional who has made a specialty of helping retail companies adapt to rapidly shifting market conditions. He spent 11 years at Target, the last seven as director of distribution, as well as six-plus years at Ulta Beauty, where he served as chief supply chain officer. Just recently, Hornsby took on the challenges of grocery retailing, taking over as executive vice president and chief supply chain officer at Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh-based grocery chain. His areas of responsibility include distribution, transportation, procurement, inventory planning, and fresh-food manufacturing.
Q: You have just started a new job as chief supply chain officer for the Giant Eagle grocery chain. What made this position attractive to you?
A: First of all, it was a very hard decision to make. Ulta is an absolutely amazing company, and I know it is going to continue to do great things. I could not be prouder of the team we built there, and it was so cool to see one of my direct reports, Elliott Rodgers, named my successor.
Now back to Giant Eagle .... While the dynamics are changing rapidly across all sectors of retail, grocery may be the most challenging. In my discussions with senior leaders at Giant Eagle, it was very apparent that they had a great vision for the future and knew the supply chain was ripe for transformation. I really enjoy building and transforming a business, and it was particularly encouraging to have Laura Karet [Giant Eagle's CEO] and the rest of the senior leadership all aligned on the need to evolve.
Q: Many people feel the grocery market is ripe for change, especially with the growth of e-commerce and home delivery services. How has your experience prepared you to address these challenges?
A: When you work in an environment like Ulta's, where you're supporting an operation with 60-plus percent year-over-year e-commerce growth and still opening 100 stores a year, you learn to be adaptable. We were able to test a "learn" quickly and put those "learnings" into action quickly. I think that is what a lot of grocery retailers are experiencing now as they go from a case-pick environment to an each-pick environment. Throw in the grocery business's low margins, food-safety considerations, and the requirement for different temperature zones and it can get a bit intimidating and lead you to try to do too many things at once. I think the experience at Ulta of making sure you cover the basics like inventory accuracy, the right operating model, and the right network plan before thinking about where to test innovation will be key.
Q: What has been your most satisfying career achievement?
A: That is an easy one ... building great teams and seeing others succeed beyond their perceived potential. I have always benefited by quickly identifying good leadership already in a company and supplementing as needed. I have not seen a company yet that did not have talent in the organization that had untapped potential. You combine that with a few new leaders in key roles, and you can really create something special. I would like to think that was how we built the team at Ulta, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do at Giant Eagle.
Q: As an experienced supply chain professional, you've managed many people in various supply chain roles. What do you look for in the people you choose for your team?
A: While every situation is different, I usually look for leaders who have shown the ability to adapt and change their point of view while still relentlessly pursuing the company's vision. It is tough to be able to live in ambiguity and shifting dynamics while still needing to deliver on your commitments. I also have stolen [Ulta Beauty CEO] Mary Dillon's list of the three things she expects from her directs. I am paraphrasing a bit, but it is as follows: Bring your functional expertise, take an enterprise view, and lead through collaboration. I think leaders who struggle with changing their thinking or are in it for themselves or their particular function slow down the broader team and limit the possibilities.
Q: What advice would you give someone just starting out in the profession?
A: First of all, I'd tell them it's a great field to be in, so they made an excellent choice. That said, I would also encourage them to take on assignments in other parts of the organization to give them a broader background. Since supply chain touches just about every part of the organization, serving in different roles will really round out your perspective and make you a more effective supply chain leader.
The time to do that is early in your career if you can. It gets really easy to just focus on progression to the next role. I have leaders who made lateral moves or took on a riskier assignment and have thrived and ultimately gotten farther in their careers than those who took the traditional path.
Jim Newsome has a long history in logistics and supply chain, especially maritime transportation. He is president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), a post he's held since September 2009. He was previously president of Hapag-Lloyd (America) Inc. and served in various positions with Nedlloyd Lines and Strachan Shipping Co.
Newsome received his M.B.A. in transportation and logistics from the University of Tennessee and was named the school's Outstanding Alumnus in Transportation and Logistics in 1992. He has received many other industry honors and today is credited with transforming the South Carolina Ports into one of the most vibrant and innovative supply chain hubs on the East Coast, according to University of Tennessee professor Ted Stank, who says Newsome "defines the term 'rainmaker.'"
"Jim Newsome has overseen the most complete and thorough overhaul of an organization that I have ever seen," Stank says. "Key to this transformation has been Jim's vision of ports as a critical value node in the integrated end-to-end supply chain."
Q: What are some of the most important changes you have observed in the transportation and logistics industry during your career?
A: I would say there are three significant changes. One is the broadening of the transportation and logistics discipline to become an important part of overall supply chain management. This has led to an integration of all aspects required to provide time and place utility in a firm, from sourcing raw materials to delivery of finished goods. Very much related to this is the significant injection of quantitative techniques and analysis into the supply chain function, including now a meshing with business analytics.
The second is the transition from a largely regulated industry to a deregulated industry over a 30-year period. This led to considerable consolidation in all modes of transportation and a focus on operating only profitable routes.
The last thing, and often I do not feel it to be a positive change, is the significant growth of the procurement function in buying transportation and logistics services, often without regard to the consequence for overall supply chain efficiency and smart operations. Lower prices do not necessarily lead to the most efficient operations in terms of total costs.
Q: How has the maritime sector, in particular, evolved?
A: The maritime sector has significantly evolved with the growth of containerization since its inception in 1956. There has been tremendous consolidation, with many traditional shipping companies disappearing while newer companies have emerged to dominant positions. The deployment of large containerships has become the dominant theme in the industry as a way to reduce unit costs of ship capacity. We are, fortunately, reaching a limit [in terms of the] size of ships that can productively be employed. Big-ship deployment has had a profound impact on the required infrastructure at ports to maintain and improve service levels, leading to significant public-sector investment in port facilities.
In the U.S., ocean carriers' move to offer intermodal services has changed the cost structure and financial drivers of the industry. The industry became much more variable-cost-oriented as it bought those services from domestic transportation providers, such as railroads and truckers. Yet the behavior of the industry remained largely one of filling ship slots at almost any cost. I am convinced that this fundamental change in economics and lack of understanding of its impact has had a great deal to do with the cyclical nature of profitability in U.S. trades.
Q: You have overseen considerable change at the SCPA in the last 10 years. What are your goals and long-term vision for the port?
A: The South Carolina Ports Authority is the major economic engine for the state of South Carolina and, as such, one of the major engines for the Southeast region. Global businesses, both import and export businesses, want to locate near capable ports. My vision of the port is to be the preferred port among the top 10 U.S. containerports. We are doing this by providing required port infrastructure in time to handle both anticipated growth and the deployment of big containerships, the latter having happened very quickly in this industry. We want to make sure our port offers the highest possible reliability in terms of productivity and efficiency, so we are a well-working, silent partner in the supply chain. Finally, we want to be sure that we have a top-flight staff that is capable of offering creative supply chain solutions and understanding the needs of increasingly sophisticated customers. While ports often talk about their infrastructure, the differentiator is the competence and commitment of their people.
Q: What is your proudest professional achievement, and why?
A: I have had the good fortune to work for great enterprises that were experiencing significant challenges when I joined them—you might say "turnaround" situations. Developing a committed team of people to successfully address those challenges is what I consider my greatest professional achievement and, along the way, playing the part in the professional development of many of those key people so they could fulfill their career aspirations. I have never had one boring moment in my professional career, and I do not see that changing.
Dr. Nancy Nix knows the supply chain, and she's got the pedigree to prove it. From her extensive management experience with DuPont Co. and Reliance Industries to her work with AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education), an organization focused on women's supply chain leadership, Nix has devoted her career to advancing the supply chain profession and women's leadership across the industry.
Nix has served as AWESOME's executive director emeritus since 2017. She also served on the supply chain faculty at Texas Christian University, where she was executive director of its executive M.B.A. program as well as director of the Supply and Value Chain Center at the university's Neely School of Business.
Nix received her doctorate from the University of Tennessee and her M.B.A. from Temple University. She serves on the advisory board of directors for DSC Logistics and was a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) board of directors. In 2017, she received the Distinguished Service Award from CSCMP for her contributions to the field of supply chain management.
Q: What are some of the most important changes you have observed in the industry?
A: When I started in this industry, supply chain functions were operating in silos and seen as a necessary cost. In fact, the term "supply chain" didn't even exist. There were a few university programs offering logistics or procurement majors, but in general, the leadership was home-grown. Most people within a company didn't understand or know anything about what went on in those "peripheral" functions.
Today, supply chain is a widely recognized profession, university programs have exploded, and graduates are in high demand. Advances in technology have enabled and continue to enable significant changes in the capability of supply chains to serve customers and contribute to business success. With significant changes in customer demands and delivery capabilities, the need for integration and collaboration—both within a company and with suppliers and customers—is increasingly clear. Our discipline is recognized as a strategic contributor to both the top line and the bottom line of a business, and more and more companies are adding a supply chain role to the C-suite. I read a recent commentary suggesting that the next wave of CEOs will come from the supply chain ranks because of the breadth of knowledge and capabilities found among supply chain leaders today—and I agree. It is a remarkable shift, and it has been exciting to be a part of it!
Q: Are there any key fundamental aspects of logistics and supply chain that are so foundational that they have not changed?
A: The basic fundamentals remain the same. Logistics and supply chain organizations are the ones that make sure the customers have the products they want, when and where they want them. Supply chain roles still offer the extraordinary opportunity to work outside the four walls of your business (with suppliers and customers) and in a global environment. And logistics and supply chain professionals have always made a significant contribution to the success of a business, even though that has not always been recognized. Supply chain and logistics roles continue to be rewarding and offer tremendous learning opportunities.
Q: Describe your continued work with AWESOME. What are your goals as executive director emeritus and what are your long-term hopes for the organization?
A: Since AWESOME was founded just six short years ago, I have had the pleasure of serving as executive director for more than three years and now as executive director emeritus. Our focus is to advance women's leadership in supply chain. Since the organization was founded, we have grown from a community of some 200 senior women leaders to more than 1,300 today. While there are still too few women in senior leadership roles, there are so many more than we knew, and it has been exciting to enable them to build connections and learn from each other. This year, more than 325 women came together at our annual AWESOME Symposium to learn and gain inspiration to make a difference—to advance women in their organizations and to advance their own careers. We are working to increase the visibility of women leaders through our AWESOME Legendary Leadership award and by increasing the number of women in speaker and panelist roles in major industry events. These women serve as inspirational role models for the supply chain leaders of the future.
We also encourage and support young women pursuing careers in supply chain. Each year, we provide funding for five scholars—young women majoring in supply chain—to attend CSCMP's annual conference and the AWESOME Symposium, and this year we partnered with MIT to offer a high-potential woman a full scholarship to its masters in supply chain management program.
For the past four years, we have partnered with [the market research firm] Gartner to conduct a study on women in supply chain to track progress and identify practices that increase the representation of women in supply chain leadership roles. I am happy to report that this year, for the first time, we saw progress—particularly with more women at the VP level. While I am confident AWESOME will continue to play a role in promoting the advancement of women in our industry, the ideal future would be that we no longer need to work to advance women's leadership because we will naturally have diverse representation at all levels and throughout our industry. As I heard an industry leader say recently, the ideal future will be that we no longer have to have the conversation.
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