The world on a lift truck: Everything has been touched by the supply chain

For 28 years, I worked in the automated electronics assembly equipment industry. It was an exciting career because I was working in a high-tech industry that continuously incorporated cutting-edge positioning, sensory and machine vision technologies. However, this industry was also very cyclic. During the low periods, downsizing is bound to happen with manufacturing being cut due to decreasing equipment sales. It was during one of these down times that I found The Raymond Corporation, an industry-leading supply chain provider. While interviewing to work there, the vice president of sales said to me: “Everything you are wearing, everything in this office, all the computer equipment — was at one time touched by a lift truck.” It was then that I truly realized how stable the supply chain and material handling industry could be for my next career.

Because the material handling industry touches everything, Raymond’s large presence in the Southern Tier of New York state is very impactful. Raymond® lift trucks can be found in local industries, food markets, retail stores and local sports arenas as well as most everywhere I travel for business. This brings a large amount of income back to the local area. The company also supports the area in many other ways. As one of the largest machine shops in the Northeast, Raymond has the time and talent to donate. Raymond welders have repaired heavy industrial equipment and plows for the local community, and many events are sponsored by volunteer employees who live in the surrounding area.

I enjoy assisting with and volunteering at these events, especially those that invite students from local colleges and high schools to come to Raymond to learn about the supply chain. Sometimes, showing students that logistics and supply chain management is becoming as progressive and high-tech as other industries interests them enough to join our Raymond family. When I speak to students about how this can be a great career option, I feel I am contributing to the industry’s future.

As other industries move forward in technology, so does ours. We have seen increased use of sensor technology in automobiles and farm equipment, and supply chain management is moving in the same direction with telematics systems that I work with at Raymond called iWAREHOUSE®. iWAREHOUSE provides vital data and analytics to warehouse managers, allowing them to promote operator accountability and monitor compliance, risk management and metrics for their industrial vehicle fleet, operators and batteries. Evolving industry communication standards will also aid in warehouses that have mixed fleets — such as a mix of Raymond, Crown and Hyster forklifts. The key is not to be concerned as much with what collected the data. Instead it is more valuable to be able to liberate the data from each system to then leverage and compare the information for a broader system view. By promoting these standards and contributing to industry publications, I believe I am helping contribute to both manufacturing’s and the supply chain’s continuous improvement efforts.

I am honored to have been recognized for my work in the supply chain industry when I won the 2017 Food Logistics: Rock Stars of the Supply Chain award. I have contributed insights based on my industry knowledge in numerous trade publications, and I am a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. Representing an industry I care about, and one that benefits the community I live in, is a privilege. I am excited to see how the supply chain continues to embrace and lead more innovative technologies.

Breaking down walls in supply chain for the last 20+ years

If I could sum up my 20+ years in the supply chain industry, it has been about breaking down walls, eliminating silos and asking the question, why not? In my early days, it was about doing so in the world of transportation. Back then it was about breaking down the walls between inbound and outbound transportation and asking, if I can use the same truck to deliver something and then pick up something else before I return, then why not?

Today, as the Vice President, Solution Strategy at JDA Software, I led the development of JDA’s Intelligent Fulfillment strategy. With Intelligent Fulfillment, we are tearing down the walls between supply chain planning and supply chain execution. In doing so, we are taking real-world execution constraints into account, supporting iterative planning and execution. The end result: reduced inventory levels and costs, improved customer service, and more agile, profitable and responsive operations.

Supply chain management is essential to a company’s growth strategy in today’s global economy – no matter how good your planning is or how efficient your execution is, without visibility to what is happening upstream and downstream, you’re flying blind. I help companies, whether in retail, logistics, or manufacturing, gain visibilities to help make better decisions that more accurately position inventory to match demand. By helping customers attach visibility to iterative planning and execution, their system will in turn provide optimal decisions on a continual basis to reduce costs, improve service and increase profitability.

My career in the supply chain began when I graduated with an honors Bachelor of Mathematics co-op degree with a specialization in business and information systems from the University of Waterloo, in my native Canada. After spending some time as an analyst at The Nielsen Company, I joined JDA to help develop innovative transportation and logistics strategies across all industry verticals, strengthening executive-level relationships with JDA’s key customers and prospects, and advising companies on best practices to become more profitable.

We have all heard that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. That applies to supply chain operations as well. If companies don’t learn from what is happening day-by-day in their supply chains, I think they will be doomed to repeat disconnected planning processes that lead to mismatches between supply and demand. These mismatches are costly and can lead to service problems such as out-of-stocks and over-stocks. My professional role within the supply chain is to help companies gain the visibility needed to learn past disconnects and apply their learnings to future strategies to optimize operations across all strategies.

A Quarter-Century in the Supply Chain and No Regrets

As a parent of two teenage children who will soon face a dizzying array of college and career choices, I often find myself reflecting on the best career advice I received when I was in their shoes many years ago: find something that helps you make a positive difference, and you will have found a career you’ll love for life. It wasn’t formal engineering or business education that introduced me to the challenges and joys of supply chain management, but work as a young manufacturing leader in an asset-intensive, complex semiconductor manufacturing environment in Northeast Pennsylvania that opened my eyes to the art and science of supply chains. In what appears to be a blink of an eye, a quarter century has gone by, but I’ve never stopped having fun.

Driving profitable growth, and maximizing factory throughput while minimizing inventory and operating expenses has been the mantra for manufacturers – and I was blessed to have learnt that directly from the master, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, the founder of the Theory of Constraints. Putting constraint management into real-life action in the 1990s was one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my early career at Harris Semiconductor. Working with Self Directed Work Teams – where production associates worked without supervisors in a union environment — we were able to move mountains and deliver strong operational and business results. Together with other talented colleagues, I had the privilege to co-author a book, Leading the Way to Competitive Excellence: The Harris Mountaintop Case Study (Editor William Levinson; ASQ Quality Press 1997), outlining our approach and accomplishments. Suddenly, I had opportunities to speak at academic universities, contribute thought leading articles to business journals and trade publications, and become an active industry speaker on supply chain and manufacturing technology topics.

This early experience also made me aware that supply chains extended well beyond the four walls of a factory – deep into the realm of demand planning, inventory planning and order fulfillment. Supply Chain Management was becoming recognized as a formal discipline in the mid-1990s and rapid advances in technology were allowing best-of-breed software companies to take supply chain solutions to market more broadly. When the opportunity came to work at i2 Technologies, a leader in supply chain software solutions looking to create business value for global supply chains, it was an easy choice from my perspective. Working out of Dallas in the professional services team at i2, I had an opportunity to work hands-on with many leading supply chain companies across industries, including semiconductor, consumer electronics, automotive, chemicals, metals and industrial companies. Almost universally, I could see tremendous opportunity for companies to make better decisions, remove waste, reduce latency and improve their end-to-end supply chain performance. It was tremendously gratifying to help a wide range of companies, at different stages of supply chain maturity, with intelligent decision support software solutions to improve overall customer service levels while minimizing investments in working capital and others assets. I was able to help consumer products companies comprehend and plan for volatile demand better; automotive companies schedule assembly lines more effectively; semiconductor companies drive integrated business plans cross-functionally; and industrial companies utilize manufacturing assets more efficiently. In 2010, i2 became part of JDA Software Group, a leading provider of end-to-end supply chain solutions, and our horizons expanded to serve the Retail industry undergoing the massive Omni-channel transition. I was now able to see how further business value could be generated linking supply chain planning to downstream execution processes such as transportation and warehouse management. The more I learnt about supply chains, the more I recognized how they could drive business value and competitive differentiation for companies. In 2016, it was my distinct honor to be named amongst Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s Pros to Know – a recognition for professionals who have helped their supply chain clients, and the supply chain community at large, prepare to meet significant challenges ahead.

As it turns out, I continue to learn every day, which has truly been a blessing over my career. Currently, I am the vice president of solution strategy at JDA Software, where I am responsible for JDA’s manufacturing solution and marketing strategy for the global manufacturing business. Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with global manufacturers and industry leaders to help solve their most complex supply chain challenges. I’ve helped companies deploy new and robust supply chain processes – from demand planning, master planning and inventory optimization to sales and operations planning, factory planning and supply chain segmentation – effectively enabling seamless supply chains across suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and, ultimately, end-customers. I have had the privilege of being associated with talented people at global companies that are ranked amongst the Top 25 supply chains in the world. I have helped make a positive difference to the world with supply chains in my own little way, and not surprisingly, I continue to love what I do. Hopefully, my teenagers will take notice as we enter the interesting world of digital supply chains next!