Supply chain systems design and integration firm Fortna Inc. has chosen a veteran executive from General Electric Co. (GE) as its new CEO, saying Robert McKeel will be responsible for maximizing operational performance, delivering best-in-class service to Fortna’s global client base, and driving business results forward.
West Reading, Pennsylvania-based Fortna said McKeel will also be charged with growing the business both organically and through acquisition, with a specific emphasis on the diversification of markets and clients. “Robert brings exceptional leadership, experience, and passion for delivering results to the Fortna executive team,” Hank Boye, Office of the President at Fortna, said in a release. “His proven ability to create a shared vision across all organizational levels and simultaneously prioritize operations with overall fiscal health will be key to accelerating Fortna’s growth in the coming years. We are delighted to welcome him to the company.”
McKeel’s most recent position before joining the company was as president and CEO of GE’s Automation and Controls division, a title he took on as the capstone of a 27-year career at GE. While that corporate background makes him new to the logistics industry, McKeel said his experience has a common thread of leading business units into high-growth missions and launching or expanding products into new sectors.
Those themes run parallel to Fortna’s own recent evolution, since being acquired in 2019 by the private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners and soon afterwords acquiring a German logistics design and consulting firm to build up its European presence.
Looking at the logistics sector more broadly, the entire ecosystem is on the verge of accelerating its investment into new technologies, in a continuing effort to ramp up fulfillment services and keep pace with the next-day shipping and subscription shipping deals offered by industry giant amazon.com inc., McKeel said. That factor is already pushing warehouses in general toward a faster-than-expected uptake of automation platforms such as robotics, augmented reality (AR), voice-operated technologies, and human interactions with automated platforms, he said.
And by another measure, many retailers and logistics service providers are currently seeing a de facto “stress test” on many of their supply chain systems and tools, caused by the widespread closures and quarantines being levied to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “My guess is that many companies are going to find issues in those systems,” McKeel said. “People who are manufacturers or distributors of goods may have found their systems lacking and they want to get them shored up, or they may have found bottlenecks in terms of processes and people.”
While all companies currently share a common goal of keeping their employees safe and transitioning to remote work, supply chain automation providers like Fortna could find their businesses rebounding as the country eventually begins to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “This will open up opportunities once people are past the direness of the situation and we see a return to normalcy,” McKeel said.