The Logistics Institute

Leadership in Logistics: Critical for a balanced business in 2011

In Canada, more than 750,000 people are employed in the logistics field, which makes the sector the third largest employment sector in the country. Logisticians are a critical part of the Canadian business landscape and drive logistics and supply chain management in domestic and international markets.

Canadian logisticians work in SMEs in Canada in consulting, managing the supply chain in many sectors, distribution, manufacturing, purchasing and warehousing. The people that make up the logistics sector are responsible for delivering the goods and managing the processes that help Canada’s economy to grow.

The Logistics Institute

Since the evolution of globalization, the delivery of goods across borders and regions became the most critical factor in business success (overtaking production). According to The Logistics Institute (a Canadian organization monitoring the issues in the logistics industry), in this process “the responsibility of logistics grew from simply getting a product out the door to the science of controlling the optimal flow of goods, energy, and information through the purchasing, planning and transportation management. In the wake of this change, the role of logistics went from local to global, tactical to strategic, and from the backroom to the boardroom.”

The Logistics Institute, a non-profit organization operating out of Toronto, is responsible for certifying individuals working in logistics with the Professional Logistician (P.Log.) Designation. Founded in 1990 by 12 logistics industry associations, the Institute was created to promote the logistics profession and establish a recognized certification program. The number of logisticians and supply chain managers who have the P.Log. designation is almost 2,000, growing from only 50 in 1995. The Institute was the first sector council in Canada to become financially self-sufficient.

According to the Institute, its training programs “help logisticians increase their earning potential, develop their leadership skills, and improve the productivity of their supply chain operations.” mandate is as follows:
– Provide certification, training, professional association and review through the P.Log. designation
– Build leaders who transform organizations and create a strategic vision to respond to change
– Foster a dynamic professional forum for logisticians, by logisticians
– Gather information, offers and opportunities from other organizations and associations
– Continue to build upon the current knowledge base of the Logistics practitioner and advance the profession

Leaders in Logistics

Recently, CBJ was invited to attend a “Leaders in Logistics” seminar hosted by the Institute, an event that had an open forum approach where the audience could engage with the speakers, who just happened to be female leaders in logistics.

The speakers themselves provided ample content for discussion and between the four of them audience queries were all addressed. Dawn Johnson, P.Log., is GM of the Hudson’s Bay Company, in their Customer Contact Centre & Logistics department. She is a certified Professional Logistician (P.Log.), with over 25 years of experience in retail and B2B. Johnson specializes in warehousing/distribution, transportation, client services (including call centre management), inventory management, and the ERP solutions that support these areas.

Robin Simons, Senior Director, Indirect Procurement, Loblaw Companies Limited, provided tremendous insight with her 15 plus years of global experience with Fortune 500 companies in the information technology, retails, and life sciences industries. Lina Barbosa spoke as well. Barbosa is National Human Resources Manager, HBC Logistics and is an HR professional with over 20 years experience.

Finally, finance expert Karen Marcotte, CMA also provided insight with regards to financial growth in logistics and profitability. With over 25 years experience in logistics companies, Marcotte provided in-depth expertise in developing and ensuring compliance of internal controls and policies.

Snapshot: Issues of the day

The theme of the day was developing leaders in logistics, male or female, and promoting an inclusive sector for all logisticians. Rick Cleveland, Director of Programs stated about the event:

“We recognize that leadership is not dependent on one’s title. Leaders exist at every level of the organization and we are committed to assisting supply chain practitioners at every stage of their career.”

Of the most prominent themes of the question and answer session were talent management, reverse logistics, and improving the customer experience.
Reverse logistics, a hot topic for Canadian logisticians, represents operations related to the reuse of products and materials in the supply chain. The reverse logistics process includes managing surplus materials and finished goods in order to attach value to those products. This side of logistics can be a tricky one, as the end recipient is not the customer, but rather back to the distributor or manufacturer. The returns process is a critical topic for logisticians and business managers. It can also be a difficult topic when considering staffing.

When it comes to managing the reverse logistics piece in the changing dynamic of Canada’s business landscape, Marcotte highlighted the importance of financial planning and communication with all stakeholders. “You have to put on paper where your costs are going to be and the initiatives you’re going to run when considering [reverse logistics], and you have to communicate your initiatives so that everyone understands,” she explained. “You need a benchmark and starting point, and it is really important to revisit your numbers and look at tracking,” she added. When it comes to managing the reverse logistics process, careful consideration needs to be placed on the finer details of productivity, the speakers agreed.

Managing the process in-house, or outsourcing it, will depend on the level of sophistication of the organization, Johnson commented. Johnson explained: “It really depends on the organization, so you have to look internally at whether or not you have the infrastructure. It’s a little different that forward logistics in terms of standards, compliance programs, etc. Staff might be trained to move that product out, but not necessarily the other way. You have to consider your space and technology needed for tracking. Odds are, that inventory is dead inventory—so do you want to deal with it in-house?”

Human resources and development

Human resources will also remain a critical topic for logisticians in 2011. Canadian organizations are increasingly seeing the challenges of dealing with skills shortages and needing more young people to show an interest in industries like logistics and supply chain. Part of the process in upcoming years, to attracting new talent, will be recruitment at educational institutions and spreading the word about the career opportunities in logistics. On the other hand, retaining staff and developing talent will be just as critical to keep a healthy workforce in logistics.

Johnson spoke of the need for organizations to focus on talent management going into 2011 “because the future success of any company relies on it,” Johnson said.

“Often we don’t have the talent in-house, so we look outside our organizations. But really, the talent may be right under our eyes. Part of our priority [at HBC] is to look at our talent’s future potential. We want to know what their passions are, what are their career goals? If you don’t develop internal programs you will fall short,” she explained.

Barbosa agreed, and added that succession planning is also critical to the talent management sphere of business: “leadership talent reviews are important so that an organization can do proper succession planning.” She added, “we need to grow and develop talent and keep people working for us, but also figure out how we control the costs.”

Keeping mind of talent includes the health and safety of every employee.

“It is important that the staff understands that if you’re not around to do the job [because of an accident], customer service is affected and that impacts larger parts of the business. Need to ensure that safety is understood—refresher courses need to be held and management needs to support that.”

Adding value to every relationship

The panel agreed that professional logisticians can add a tremendous amount of value to business planning. “Professional logisticians needs to be at the table with sales people to provide those value adds,” Simons explained.

The bottom line for any organization that includes a logistics component: customer service is paramount. “At the end of the day, with regards to what we do, it’s about our end customer. What does that process look like, and how do we improve that experience. We don’t necessarily engage with the end customer like sales people etc. store manager but how do we step down and service our customer. I think that’s absolutely critical,” Johnson said.

“We need to look at suppliers—the relationship that was perfect back maybe doesn’t apply to 2011,” Barbosa added.

The key is to educate suppliers and turn them into strategic partners, according to the panel, and the end result is adding value to every relationship.