View our WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with LOGISTICS TODAY's
While we’ve seen numerous trends, initiatives and programs launched over the years in the logistics field, there’s one time-tested strategy that has never been in doubt: Investing in the best people is the surest way to success.
As the publication for logistics leaders, this month Logistics Today is proud to profile the Top 5 Logistics Leaders, as determined by a blue-ribbon panel of experts comprising the Logistics & Supply Chain Forum Advisory Board. These Top 5 individuals were chosen based on their leadership, creativity, accomplishments, results, contributions and commitment to the industry.
The five winners have been invited as guests to the 2004 Logistics & Supply Chain Forum (www.logisticsforum.com), held May 10-13 on board the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship, where they will receive an award for their accomplishments in the logistics profession.
Richmond Events — organizers of the Logistics & Supply Chain Forum — and Logistics Today congratulate this year’s winners on their outstanding achievements.
Twenty-seven years as a logistician in the U.S. Army has prepared Bob Brescia for his current role, directing the global logistics efforts for automotive supplier Michelin North America. “Our strategy centers on lean principles of focusing on those business processes that add value to the customer and consumer,” he explains. “This is a constant effort that requires the application of best practices and consideration of the individual needs of all our customers.”
Since joining Michelin in 2001, Brescia has led the execution of the company’s outsourcing of its tire distribution centers, a strategy that has led to 13% cost savings. He’s also helped the company achieve a 25-30 day decrease in inventories and a resultant reduction in carrying costs.
“The need to run lean on inventories places increased demands for speed throughout the entire supply chain,” Brescia observes. “Increased speed requires a mastery of transportation management during a time of difficult balance between capacity and cost.” The difficulty for logistics professionals is finding that “sweet spot” between cost and service levels.
“The most innovative solutions are found when we work together with our customers to unravel these complexities and arrive at mutually satisfying solutions,” Brescia says.
Terry Begley has been the champion of supply chain transformation at Eastman Chemical Co. for the past eight years, throughout which he has been the common thread during the company’s various improvement phases. He has global responsibility for the supply chain functions, which include chemical and energy procurement, logistics, production planning, product management and customer service.
Having joined Eastman in 1969, Begley’s experience and breadth virtually defines the nature of the supply chain itself. “My career has crossed key functional areas: research and development, direct and indirect procurement, product pricing, plastics resource management, business management, product management, planning and customer service,” he notes.
According to Begley, Eastman is currently focusing on three areas critical to improving its supply chain. First, the company is working on maximizing the value of a logistics outsourcing agreement. Second, the company has made “a significant investment in technology,” ranging from an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to an electronic storefront. And third, Eastman has initiated a Six Sigma quality effort. “We must drive improvement with Six Sigma through cost reduction and revenue enhancement projects,” he says.
While acknowledging pricing pressures in the marketplace, Begley points with pride to Eastman’s recognition as a service leader in the chemical industry. “We have achieved a process-centered organization and torn down traditional, functional silos that hinder service and sub-optimize costs,” he notes.
Although his background includes several executive-level supply chain positions at motorcycle company American Honda Motor Co., Steve McAlexander found an even faster-paced logistics challenge when he joined Borders Group Inc. as its vice president logistics. “Retail is double-time and very fast-paced, so all of my previous experience really paid off in adjusting to a strong financial-based public company,” McAlexander says.
Borders, a $3.5 billion retailer of books, music, movies and cafe sales, operates over 1,300 stores internationally, and according to McAlexander, the company very much considers logistics a core competency. “Expense control is a high priority, yet we also provide key value-added services that help distinguish us from our competition,” he says. For example, Borders offers fast-track priority processing such as labeling and kitting of product for promotions, seasonal product, and other special laydown events. “Logistics is an integral part of our company’s domestic and international expansion and is recognized as an important enabler for success.”
Over the past five years, McAlexander’s team has implemented numerous initiatives that resulted in millions of dollars in savings for Borders’ supply chain. “Our company is always challenged with a continuous improvement mentality, and our logistics team is constantly looking for new ways to optimize our supply chain,” he says.
The company’s annual logistics plan includes over 30 initiatives that McAlexander’s team will be leading in support of Borders’ overall business plan. “It takes a strong group of dedicated professionals to achieve this level of accomplishment,” he observes.
C. John Langley, Jr., Ph.D.
Not many people can say they’ve literally written the book on supply chain management, but Georgia Tech’s John Langley can. A book he co-authored, The Management of Business Logistics: A Supply Chain Perspective, is currently in its seventh edition, and as a logistics authority, he’s in constant demand at conferences, universities and industry forums. In fact, Langley has been a supply chain expert for longer than the term has been in popular use.
“Supply chain management,” he says, “refers to an overall philosophy of managing an enterprise. It’s a concept that applies to the management of not only your own firm but its relationships with your customers and your suppliers in a direct and an extended sense.”
Among his numerous achievements, Langley served as president of the Council of Logistics Management and received the CLM Distinguished Service Award. Another award of which he is equally proud is the Penn State University Outstanding Alumnus Award, Business Logistics Program.
Perhaps the highlight of his 30+ year career, though, has been “the privilege of working with genuinely good people. I never thought about it too much when I was embarking on an academic career, but the good feeling I get from seeing former students of mine succeed in their own careers — at this stage in my career, I can reflect on that and say, ‘I guess I did something right.’”
His career — as an educator and a consultant to major corporations — is still very much at its peak, and he’s certainly not one to rest on his laurels. “If I could change anything and make this my first day on the job, I’d like to do that because if you think the last 30 years have been exciting, the next 30 years are going to be outstanding.”
In a low-margin industry like the grocery business, with retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. breathing down its neck, it’s not surprising that Kroger Co. has identified supply chain management as one of the key elements for its long-term plan to remain the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. To that end, one of Michael Heschel’s major contributions has been his evangelization and implementation of a state-of-the-art merchandising information technology (IT) and supply chain architecture.
Another accomplishment has been the successful merger with Fred Meyer, a grocery chain centered in the U.S. Southwest. “We had to swallow a 40% increase in volume and sales, and when you’ve got a completely different culture and a completely different logistics network and supply chain, integrating those two is not the easiest thing in the world, but we’ve managed to accomplish that,” Heschel notes.
Kroger’s biggest challenge, according to Heschel, is labor costs. “We’ve got to get our labor more productive and automate where we can so we can continue to be competitive,” he says.
Heschel is also looking closely at radio frequency identification (RFID). “We’re trying to see where we’ll get the biggest bang for the buck,” he says. “I believe RFID will revolutionize the whole logistics process. Think about it — a product now has a small brain. It’s not a very smart brain, but that’s okay. I think RFID has a lot of promise.”