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Kathy Fulton is executive director of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN). She leads the organization in facilitating donations of logistics services and equipment to enable delivery of millions of dollars’ worth of humanitarian aid. Fulton served as the organization’s director of operations from 2010 until her promotion in 2014.
Fulton’s passion is the intersection of supply chain and emergency management, focusing on the critical role logistics and supply chain professionals play in disaster relief. She serves on national workgroups focused on efficient coordination of logistics activities during disasters, including those hosted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Research Board, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, and the National Emergency Management Association.
Preceding her work with ALAN, she was senior manager of information technology services at Saddle Creek Logistics Services, where she led IT infrastructure implementation and support, corporate systems, and business continuity planning. Fulton holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Northwestern State University of Louisiana and master’s degrees in business administration and management information systems from the University of South Florida.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:00
Is your supply chain ready for hurricane season? The industry reacts to the Senate infrastructure vote. And sustainability continues to be a focus of supply chains.
Pull up a chair and join us, as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast. Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the group editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
Logistics Matters is sponsored by Softeon. Softeon delivers powerful warehouse management, warehouse execution, and distributed order-management solutions, delivered on time, on budget, and on results, with the market's only track record of 100% deployment success. That's why logistics leaders including KC Stores, the Duluth Trading Company, Do it Best, Saddle Creek Logistics, and many more are powered by Softeon. Visit them at Softeon.com.
Ben Ames is on vacation this week, so pinch hitting for Ben is Susan Lacefield, the executive editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. Victoria Kickham is also with us, and both of them will provide insight into the top stories this week. But to begin today, hurricane season is upon us, and in recent years, some of the bigger storms have caused major supply chain disruptions. What can you do to prepare and protect your supply chains? To address that topic, I spoke yesterday with Kathy Fulton, the executive director of the American Logistics Aid Network, better known as ALAN. Here's our conversation.
Welcome, Kathy to Logistics Matters.
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 01:42
Hey, Dave, it's so great to be with you guys.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 01:44
Appreciate you being back with us again. For those people who may not be familiar with the American Logistics Aid Network, can you share a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 01:54
Sure. So, American Logistics Aid Network, or ALAN, was an industry-founded nonprofit created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was really all of the supply chain professionals who got together and said, you know, the challenges that we see in disaster are truly logistics and supply chain challenges, and we think that we have expertise and knowledge, and certainly assets, that can support that. So, ALAN operates around the world, focused primarily on the U.S., but we do international work as well, really to help change the way in which disaster relief occurs. We help nonprofits find donated or discounted logistics services, we help businesses understand what's happening with government regulations and government actions during disaster. And then we help governments understand what's happening with private-sector supply chains, mostly so that they can avoid making any mistakes that would disrupt pre-existing supply chains.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 02:59
Right, and as I understand, you're primarily a matchmaker, in that you bring people together who have supplies or have capacity with those people who are in need of those services, correct?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 03:09
Yeah, that's exactly right. We are non-asset-based. All we have—the only assets we have are relationships, and we continue to remind ourselves and our partners about that. But that's exactly it. We're the matchmaker. We are understanding what those needs are, whether they are physical needs, logistics needs, service needs, or information needs. and we're figuring out who has that particular need, and then who is best positioned to support that need. We bring them together in a trusted space to have those conversations to deliver those services. And ultimately, our goal, Dave, is to make sure that people who've been affected by crisis are receiving the nourishment, the hydration, and medical care that is so critical post-disaster—and all the time, but, you know, in those immediate hours post-disaster,
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 04:05
And you do a great job. We're proud to be able to support ALAN on a regular basis. As we had mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, you had mentioned that ALAN was actually formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We're about to enter the heart of hurricane season again, and you've been at this for quite some time now, so you've been able to accumulate some good lessons learned on preparing for hurricane season. Can you share a little bit about what you're thinking?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 04:32
Yeah. Unfortunately, you know, hurricane season, the heart of it, like you said is, you know, mid- to late August through the end of September, even though it's, you know, we had early hurricanes this year, goes June to November, but the heat of it, when, literal heat of it is this time of year. And we see a lot of the same things year after year, right? And so, you know, just some of those things would be like not being prepared ahead of time, or what I call risk discounting, right, just saying, you know, "Maybe it's not gonna be that bad," or "It can't happen to us," or "We're fine. We have insurance," right? And none of those things is really addressing what—that preparedness piece in being able to what I what I call, resist, recover, and reimagine your activities after a disaster. You know, there's a—Pew Charitable Trusts did a study where they showed that every dollar that a city or community spends on mitigation efforts—so for every $1, that is spent on mitigation—it saves them the $6 in response and recovery activities afterwards. Now, I don't know that that translates directly for businesses and individuals, but I would guess that there is a pretty big return on investment for businesses and individuals who take that time to, you know, build a disaster kit, or to make sure their employees are prepared, even just make sure that they've had a chance to examine their supply chain and know where the weak points may be.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 06:19
Yeah, as you mentioned, that's a pretty good return on investment for being prepared. And really, when we talk about hurricanes, it's not just those areas that are prone to hurricanes, but with supply chains, it affects all of us. If there's an area of the country that is battered by a hurricane, we've seen how that ripples across our all of our supply chains. So [?] just goes elsewhere.
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 06:41
That's right. You know, the global, connected nature of supply chains is never more evident than when those supply chains are in crisis. You know, we've seen that over the past year with the pandemic, with—and continuing, right, with all of the dislocation, all of the challenges that we're having at ports in the ports, and, you know, wherever, roadways, you know, they're just—disruptions abound. But every time that someone says, you know, global supply chains and disruption, and a hurricane in one place affects everywhere, I think back to Hurricane Maria in 2017, where the bulk of the saline solution production happens in Puerto Rico, and so we had, you know, even months later, surgeries that were being delayed because of limited access to those supplies, and the saline plant did not have power, did not have water, so they couldn't, they couldn't produce a product that is used globally. Only, you know, that small area of Puerto Rico was affected, but it suddenly turns into a global shortage.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 08:00
You talked about not preparing in the sense of treating a hurricane as just being minor, or failing to act because the hurricanes don't hit where you are, but what practical steps should people do to be able to prepare for hurricane season within their supply chains?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 08:15
Yeah, it all has to start ahead of time, right? And all of the good supply chain resilience literature that's out there goes, it's going to protect you, or help, you know, help you be more resistant to crisis, regardless of what that crisis is. I think about things like just mapping your supply chain, even just that awareness of knowing where potential problems are going to pop up. That's, that's number one. You have to you have to have that level of visibility. And, you know, it can't just be upstream to your suppliers. You've really got to go downstream and understand where your customers are as well, because a disruption in demand is just as bad as a disruption in supply or a disruption in communications or a disruption in infrastructure, all of those things. And then, you know, as you're thinking about that, how can you diversify where your supplier base is, and not just geographically, but also within, you know, you don't want to be supplying from one single company, even if you're, it's two different countries, right? So, thinking about that, that form of, of diversity, I think those are the two big principles that I always, that I always look at. But there are other things weaved into that right? So, thinking about, you know, are your are your employees a supplier, because they're providing an input to your business? So, what can you do to help get your employees ready to go? And there's so many, just wonderful things that, wonderful lessons that are out there in general supply chain resilience principles that apply to hurricane season as well.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 10:16
And as we've seen, we've had a lot of very large storms the last few years, and whether that's climate change, or how that's, that's actually happening, we are seeing, and we anticipate that we will have some major storms this hurricane season. So, after we prepare for them, but then we have to endure them, what happens after that with supply change, or what can supply chain companies do to help those areas that are most affected by hurricanes?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 10:39
Yeah, that's a great question. Thank you for asking, because we are seeing more severe and more frequent storms, and it's not just hurricanes. I mean, we're dealing with wildfires out west right now. You know, I think of Greece with the, just the terrible fires they're having there, and California, terrible fires there, and all of this is contributing and disrupting our supply chains. We always say, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, right? Make sure that your company and your employees are taken care of, right? Because we believe strongly that pre-existing supply chains are the path to healthy, recovered communities, right? We want to be able to go back to shopping at the same stores or visiting the same food pantries, right? That's the that's the Number One most important thing. Once you've done that, if you come through a particular disaster unscathed, or are well on your way to recovery, you can use your resources. We love working with companies who are willing to donate transportation, or willing to open their warehouse doors, or who can donate excess material handling equipment, or even send volunteers, right? We, all the time, have nonprofits who are looking for someone just to help them understand how to do their logistics operations better. So, those are four very practical ways that businesses can get involved. We'd love to do that matchmaking we talked about earlier, introduce companies to nonprofits who need that help, but we know that that there are companies out there doing good work all the time anyway.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:29
Right. And if someone's interested in ALAN, the American Logistics Aid Network, they can go, I believe it's ALANaid.org, is that correct, your website?
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 12:37
You got it. ALANaid.org, and all of the information you need to figure out what cases we have open, where you can provide support today, how you can become a volunteer, how you can offer support, you know. If you don't see something that matches what you need, what you can offer right now, you can just tell us, "Hey, give me a call when you need transportation support," or "Give me a call when you need a warehouse." We are—we love having those resources in hand, ready to go. It's not an obligation, and with everything that ALAN does, it's all about the opportunity to help businesses do good with the resources that they have available to them. And it's ALANaid.org.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:23
Right, and as a reminder to the supply chain community, this is your organization. It started with supply chain folks to help each other when there's a crisis like this. So, thank you very much for all the good work that you do, Kathy. Thanks for being here with us today. And again, if you're interested that is ALANaid—A-L-A-N-A-I-D—dot org for more information. Keep up the good work, Kathy.!Thank you.
Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network 13:45
Yeah, thank you, Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:48
Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week. Of course, earlier this week, the U.S. Senate approved that huge infrastructure bill, which now moves on to the house for their work. And Victoria, you wrote about some of the industry reaction to that historic senate legislation. And for the most part, it was favorable. What did you find out?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:06
That's right, Dave, yeah, so logistics and transportation-industry trade groups welcomed Tuesday's passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package in the Senate, many calling it a long-overdue step toward revitalizing the nation's infrastructure and supporting the supply chain economy. Anyone who's been following our coverage of this issue, knows that an infrastructure package has been something individual companies and trade groups alike have been hoping to see action on for many years, and although there are questions and concerns about portions of the bill and how it will be paid for, the message from industry seems to be that this is a really good thing. If you've been following this in the mainstream press, you know the legislation reauthorizes spending on existing federal public works programs and adds $550 billion for additional projects that address roads and bridges, broadband internet expansion, safety issues, and energy production, among others. Much of the spending is really good news to the industry groups we cover.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:07
Yeah, I would imagine. So, what specific issues did the groups point to, and was anyone disappointed?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 15:14
Well, some of the key issues include money for a trucking-industry workforce training and education initiative; some specific railway and highway safety improvement projects; and, of course, broadband internet expansion, which, you know, everyone agrees is good for business, and sort of society as a whole. These are just some of the things groups such as the American Trucking Associations, the Association of American Railroads, and the International Foodservice Distributors Association, among others, were weighing in on this week. But, you know, as you ask, you know, there were some disappointments too, and those were regarding very specific concerns. A group called the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small-business truckers, said the legislation fails to address a lack of truck parking nationwide, which the group says is a vital safety issue for its members, as well as the public. An amendment to address that issue was excluded from the package, which was disappointing to them, of course. Another group representing small businesses, a group called the Small Business Majority, expressed concern of our funding of the bill. Among several measures, lawmakers plan to repurpose from existing Covid-19 relief funds to help defray the cost of this package, and many, in the Small Business Majority—which represents something like more than 85,000 small businesses nationwide—so the move, you know, may hurt small businesses that are still struggling with the effects of the pandemic, and in some cases that are, you know, still waiting for some relief funding from the government. The story's not over yet, though. The bill now moves to the House, and, again, if you've been following this, there's a lot of wrangling there over budgets and timing of votes, so there are still hurdles ahead, but again, the message from industry is that this is a good step forward.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 16:58
Right, and we'll continue to follow the progress of that legislation as it makes its way through the House. Thanks, Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 17:05
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:06
And we welcome Susan Lacefield, who is a contributing editor to DC Velocity, and also executive editor of our sister publication, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. Good to have you here with us, Susan.
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, Supply Chain Quarterly 17:17
Thanks, Dave. It's great to be here.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:20
And you've been working on some new research on supply chain sustainability. Can you share some of that report?
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, Supply Chain Quarterly 17:26
Sure. So, this report is the State of Supply Chain Sustainability, and it comes to us from the good folks at MIT and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. Now, the purpose of this study is to look at corporate supply chain sustainability efforts and their evolution over time, and you would think that, given all the chaos and turmoil caused by the pandemic last year, that companies might have pulled back a bit from their sustainability efforts. But, surprisingly, the study actually found the reverse was the case. More than four out of five executives that were surveyed said their companies' commitment to supply chain sustainability either stayed the same or increased since the start of the pandemic.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:13
That's very interesting. Were there any changes in terms of what types of sustainability efforts that companies were focusing on?
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, Supply Chain Quarterly 18:20
Yes, there were. MIT researchers did see some statistically significant changes in where companies were spending their sustainability dollars. One area, perhaps spurred by the Black Lives Matter protests and the increasing awareness of human rights abuses abroad, is, there was a 10% increase in spending on human rights issues, and also a 10% increase in spending on supplier diversity and inclusion. Also, not surprisingly, due to the pandemic, there was a 6% increase in spending on employee safety and health. Now, one area to watch for next year is climate change mitigation. This year's survey—study—is based on survey results and executive interviews from 2020, and those results saw a 6% drop in investment on climate change mitigation. It will be really interesting to see if that will change, especially given the recent UN report on climate change that came out on Monday, and all the extreme weather we've been seeing this summer. Will all of that spur companies to focus more on preparing for or responding to climate change, or will all the supply chain congestion and delays we are seeing make it harder for companies to make progress on these goals? After all, it's really hard to reduce carbon emissions if you're having to turn to more air freight or other express forms of transportation to avoid problems, at, say, the ports.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:54
Yeah, that's right. Sustainability continues to be a priority, though, but it is difficult to manage all those priorities in the chaos that we're seeing in transportation. Thanks, Susan. We encourage listeners to go to DCVelocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories. And check out the podcast Notes section for some direct links on the topics that we discussed today. Thanks, Victoria and Susan, for sharing highlights from the news this week.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 20:22
You're welcome, Dave. Glad to be here.
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, Supply Chain Quarterly 20:24
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 20:26
And again, our thanks to Kathy Fulton for being our guest. We encourage your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We'll be back again next week with another edition of Logistics Matters, when we plan to discuss how to protect our supply chains from cargo theft, so be sure to join us. Until then, please stay safe and have a great week.