Logistics graduates get high marks
By Eric Kulish
Shippers and freight service providers continue to beef up their logistics departments even as the recession forces companies to make other cutbacks, industry officials say.
'We are looking at this as an opportunity to build talent' by attracting people from other companies or newcomers to the logistics field, said Paul Avampato, vice president of process design for Kraft Foods North America, during a recent panel discussion organized by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
Logistics executives say universities and colleges are producing graduates highly skilled in freight transportation and distribution from which to choose.
Kraft hires two to five new logisticians every year from university supply chain programs, Avampato said.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has more formal and informal relationships with universities than ever, said John Lanigan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Class I railroad.
The company brings in more than 100 college graduates every year and puts them through a rigorous management training program.
Logistics and supply chain management capability is finally being recognized in corporate America as a strategic asset, not just a cost center, and one that requires skilled professional managers, business leaders acknowledge.
Logistics 'is not the place where the retired forklift operator becomes the traffic manager any more,' Lanigan said.
Many manufacturers and retailers are now cycling their best and brightest executives into the supply chain and transportation parts of the company because they realize how critical it is, as they take on senior roles in financing, sourcing or operations, that they understand the supply chain links, he said.
Current and previous chief executives of Wal-Mart, Michael Duke and Lee Scott, had extensive experience running the company's logistics operations.
|'Large companies want senior leaders that know more than their disciplines. Supply chain folks are the only one who think horizontally, but end-to-end.'|
executive vice president,
Limited Logistics Services
Limited Logistics Services, the in-house logistics arm of Limited Brands, also recruits heavily from universities. The caliber of graduates is excellent, but one area that the industry needs to improve on is diversity in the workplace, said Rick Jackson, executive vice president.
He encouraged young workers to get broad experience within their companies rather than worry about quickly climbing the corporate ranks.
'Large companies want senior leaders that know more than their disciplines. Supply chain folks are the only ones that think not just horizontally, but end-to-end,' he said, adding that many CEOs, CFOs and COOs can't see the big picture.
'They can't connect an income statement to the total landed cost to the total inventory investment to the total service model. But I can with the metrics I've developed.
'I hope supply chain managers get to run companies,' Jackson said.
Saddle Creek Corp., a $200 million warehousing and distribution company in Lakeland, Fla., hires four to seven college graduates per year and lets them try their hand at a broad range of roles during their first years on the job, President Clifford Otto said.
A key challenge for the company is teaching new salaried management trainees how to successfully manage 1,800 hourly workers, he said. Colleges have portrayed the supply chain industry as one that deals with global, strategic issues, and Saddle Creek officials constantly struggle to recalibrate the expectations of young professionals who aren't prepared to deal with mundane warehouse issues, such as learning how to move a pallet with a forklift.
The company is working with Wal-Mart to get more involved in recruiting managers from historically black schools, Otto said.
'What we tell kids and what we value is we're borderless,' said John Lebowitz, director of global trade management at Dell. 'And you better have more than two languages.' Being able to adapt to multiple countries and cultures is as critical as one's technical skills, he added.