A career in Supply Chain…seems like destiny…and boy what a ride!!

My career in the supply chain industry has been exhilarating and challenging, filled with hard work but rewarded with an abundance of opportunity. Teams I have worked with have delivered a multitude of various products and even the right experienced personnel on time and in exceptional working condition across supply chains both nationally and internationally. I’ve had the privilege to have met thousands of supply chain professionals, and an even greater privilege to have worked work with a few hundred special professionals while serving in a wide array of industry verticals, including the US military, telecomm, wholesale, high tech, retail and healthcare.

It seems now in retrospect that I was destined to be a player in the transportation, logistics and supply chain industry. My grandmother kept the books at a gas station, my mother was an Executive Assistant with the county transit system and my father was a Terminal Manager for an LTL truck line. By the time I was ten years of age, I was driving fork trucks on weekends to support my father’s Monday morning distribution routes. I learned hard work and had early exposure to working long hours with all types of people. Even when I went off to college, working in supply chain continued….

Although, I had an Army ROTC scholarship, I elected to work the night shift on the dock at a local LTL truck terminal to help offset living expenses. Following graduation, I was commissioned into the US Army as a Transportation Officer, which was sure to provide many opportunities for success inside the “ultimate supply chain” experience! Thus began my formal career as a supply chain professional.

As a Lieutenant at Ft Riley, Kansas and part of the Big Red One, my responsibilities included overseeing a Maintenance Platoon and a Medium Truck Platoon. Planning, organizing and ultimately leading resupply convoys are a large part of being a Transportation Lieutenant. Our missions ran 24/7, insuring food, ammunition, water, equipment, vehicles, repair parts, first-aid and personnel made it both safely and efficiently through the Army’s supply chain to troops in local area training, and to those deployed and deploying for domestic training and/or international peacekeeping missions.

Following active duty in the Army, I transitioned to civilian life as a Logistics Manager with Ryder Integrated Logistics, the 3PL for Bellsouth at the time. I started managing a small fulfillment portion of the overall operation and within two years was promoted to General Manager over the entire Distribution Center. Managing close to 100 full time employees, millions of dollars in inventory, fifteen nightly distribution routes to nearly one hundred fifty Bellsouth storerooms with 24/7 facility coverage for a very demanding customer proved to be quite a challenge. At that time, the entire South Florida telecommunications infrastructure from Ft Pierce, Florida to Key West relied heavily upon Bellsouth and therefore our supply chain. Our facilities’ inventory accuracy and effective daily order fulfilment were paramount to Bellsouth’s success. There was no back up to land lines, no cell phones and only a few pagers back then. As one can imagine, Hurricane season was particularly challenging!!

During my tenure with Ryder, I was fortunate to be a part of a leading edge project team that developed and implemented scanning and tracking software for Bellsouth. Although commonplace today, in the late 90’s this was groundbreaking technology— especially since email was just coming into the workplace. Our technology solution provided real time traceability and final delivery confirmation of all products in the Ryder/Bellsouth Supply Chain and had a huge positive impact on inventory accountability. The solution was successful and later adopted by other Ryder accounts.

In the late 90’s when the dot com boom hit, I wanted to part of this emerging paradigm shift, so I started looking for an opportunity to make my mark. Once again destiny played a part in my supply chain career as Microsoft was attempting to make significant improvements to their Latin American Supply Chain (LATAM) and needed a Project Manager to manage the project and a Distribution Manager for the “new” consolidated LATAM Distribution/Fulfillment Center in Miami. Over the next several months, my team and I worked around the clock to bring hundreds of containers of finished goods to Miami, and to consolidate both finished goods manufacturing and the inventory, pick, pack, ship functions under one roof there. The results of our efforts saved Microsoft hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation spend and labor. In 2001, my team was responsible for the successful Microsoft XP software launch into the entire LATAM region. This was a fantastic opportunity in high tech distribution using SAP and provided exposure to both export paperwork and the role of freight forwarders in the supply chain.

During my time of employment with Ryder and Microsoft, I continued to serve in the Army reserves. Following the 9/11 attacks, my final mission in the US Army Reserves was to serve as the Officer in Charge (OIC) on the flight line at Hunter Army Airfield, overseeing the deployment of personnel and equipment overseas to support both training and classified missions. One interesting part of this mission, for me personally, was that it was the first and only time I had been to Savannah, GA, Ft Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield since I was born there over 30 years prior. Deploying soldiers and their equipment during times of our nation’s uncertainty, anger and sorrow was a very emotional experience and left a lasting impression.

Following the peak of dot com, my leadership in the military accompanied with the Project Management/WMS implementation experience afforded me the opportunity to work with the QMed Corporation Team as a Distribution Manager. I had overall responsibility for the Ft Lauderdale Distribution Center activities, including human resources, quality assurance, safety, and facilities management. Over the next three years I was promoted to Director of Distribution and ultimately named VP of Operations and Distribution. During my 11 years leading the QMed Team, we implemented a WMS, redesigned the facility’s rack/storage layout multiple times, continuously streamlined processes throughout the operation, and established department level metrics. All of this was accomplished while having only one reportable safety incident. Among the many achievements at QMed, I consider the WMS implementation as a successful highlight. This implementation allowed us to stop shutting down the DC for three days per month which was costing the organization a full month of revenue generating activity per year for physical inventory, and allowed us to implement a more economically sound inventory activity for a few days in the first week in January.

Shortly after joining the QMed Team it became apparent that we were quickly accumulating inventory in the DC that did not meet our customer’s standards and therefore was not marketable. Examples of these ‘damaged goods’ were primarily from inbound shipments that included outer carton damages, crushed boxes, missing or torn labels, outer carton water stains, short expiration dating etc. These items were identified during the receipt process, clearly marked and segregated from active inventory. Most of these “damages“ occurred during transit in the supply chain and did not impact the actual product inside the carton. Instead of destroying or throwing these products in the dumpster, I researched and identified partners serving less fortunate people in both the US and abroad that had a need for these products. As to be expected, they were very appreciative of QMed’s generosity and willingness to support their causes.

During my time with QMed we launched two hiring campaigns. These included partnering with staffing agencies in the South Florida area in search of US Military Veterans in need of work and also finding those that had relocated in South Florida following their displacement from Hurricane Katrina. We were successful on both accounts and many of these individuals remain some of QMed’s
most dedicated employees.

In 2004, as concerns for patient safety continued mounting, we took up the initiative to develop an Inbound Inspection Process to ensure that all of our imported product’s packaging met US guidelines. This process included implementing an ANSI/ASQ Sampling Plan and related procedures for inspection by attribute. Our Patient Safety Initiative was further achieved by my leading our team through ISO 9001:2008 certification.

The certification was strategic with two primary points of focus that further differentiated us from our competition, thus increasing the opportunity for continued sales growth:
o Reinforcing our team’s ability to consistently provide product that met customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
o Enhancing customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

In an effort to further share my experiences and support the continued growth of other supply chain professionals, I regularly participate in four different CSCMP Roundtables; Atlanta, Jacksonville, Central Florida, and South Florida. I also enjoy serving as an ambassador to nearby universities and in my local community. I am currently in discussions with the University of North Florida and the University of West Florida to uncover our shared interest, resources and the opportunities we have to groom and nurture the next generations of supply chain professionals and leaders. Not only do I hope to support the growth of their logistics/supply chain curriculum but to also provide access to my professional network to their classrooms. The Supply Chain Industry is extremely large and encompasses many “working parts”. It seems to me that many college students can’t quite “connect all the dots”. I am extremely excited about the opportunity to maybe help them find their own destiny in supply chain.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to meet and be mentored by business, academic, military and civil leaders that have shown me that the greatest rewards come when you freely share in making life more fulfilling for others. Consequently, I strive to be a productive citizen and goodwill ambassador for our industry, by participating in the Gulf Breeze Rotary Club, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, serving the Salvation Army, and assisting in a startup Rotaract Club at Nova Southeastern University. This April, I have the honor of supporting the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Awards for our Rotary District. Awardees are 10th graders identified to have aptitude for developing communication skills, personal qualities, leadership, and problem solving. Recipients will have the opportunity to refine their skills by attending special RYLA seminars. And since I really believe that what we do in supply chain can change lives, I put on my transportation hat and deliver meals to the elderly and those that are homebound during the week, and I transport mentally challenged members to and from church services on Sunday mornings.

Today, I have the opportunity to use my 22-plus years of leadership, operations, distribution, transportation, IT systems and customer service experience as a business development and sales consultant for Peach State Integrated Technologies. I continue to meet special supply chain professionals everyday, and based on my history, I feel fortunate and confident that I can support them and their teams face today’s challenging and exhilarating supply chain opportunities.

I am passionate about my calling to be a supply chain professional. That’s because I understand that only supply chains can deliver everything needed or wanted to everybody in need or want at any given time in any given location of the world.

It’s been a long time since I was 10 years old, driving fork trucks on the weekends for my father – but he, my grandmother and my mother planted the “supply chain seed” in my life with the jobs they so enjoyed. Over time, that seed has grown into a supply chain career for me that has become rich and rewarding. In retrospect, I know now that it was my destiny.

I look forward to fulfilling that destiny by sharing the bright future the supply chain industry offers to anyone that is willing to listen.

Shawn Cavasos
Peach State Integrated Technologies