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I interviewed Hakan Andersson who discussed Why Does Supply Chain Analytics Really Matter?






Why is it difficult to make sense of big data?

I would first like to say that it’s great to have big data. Now we have data, data on the deep level, we have the computer power to process the data. This means that we can actually, close to when things are occurring, establish what is reality. We don’t have to rely on established truths that, very often, turn out not to be truths, but rather to be company myths.

The risk here is that, with all this beautiful data available, it’s very easy to get carried away. There is also a risk that the data is available to a lot of people. Everyone who has the availability can draw their own conclusions. That is why the data needs to be curated; it needs to be handled by someone who has the expertise and the knowledge about the operations. Otherwise, the conclusions that anyone with access to the data are drawing might very well be wrong, and you're comparing apples to pineapples.

We know from Establish-Davis Database where we’ve been following up logistics costs and services for almost forty years, that you’ve really got to know what is comparable and what is not.

It’s not fair to compare the logistics cost for a high-value, low-weight item like pharmaceuticals to an industry like the steel industry, where you have low value and high weight on your items. That makes a lot of difference, and it can give you a problem if you're on the supply chain side of the company, because then you will be on the defense all the time, trying to explain why things are right or wrong, and you’ve got to be in command of what is important and what is right.

Difficulties with Data Analysis

  1. A difficulty with sorting through the data is that, first, the data is never—I will say almost never—clean. Just the fact that you have a lot of data and it looks like it’s very accurate and valid doesn’t mean that it is, so you need to know and identify the weaknesses of the data, where the master files have been updated and where they haven’t and where you just have a place holder and where it’s real stuff.
  2. Another difficulty with clean data is that even if the data is right, it might include extremes and it might include outliers that are distorting the results of the analysis you're making. That makes that a first step to do to clean the data, identify the extremes, and know the weaknesses where you can use the data, where it’s not valid.
  3. You have to decide what is important. Here, it’s easy to get lost in a lot of analysis, and you’ve got to know what is really making sense and where you get some output from to the analysis.
  4. You must make the data comparable. For instance, you’ve got to make it comparable over time so that you know when the business has changed, and you’ve got to make adjustments to the trends. Trend analysis is the best way of monitoring and identifying where your measures to improve efficiency, for instance, are paying off and where you need to take a closer look.

Also, with big data, you want to benchmark between your entities and benchmark externally. Then you’ve got to make the data comparable between the entities.

An obvious and perhaps small example is when it comes to facilities. There is a cost to house the inventories in inventory where you might own some of the facilities yourself and you might rent some of the facilities. The actual cost that you should use might be the same, but the owned facility can come out very favorably in these comparisons. Here, you might want to create a fictional rent to level the playing field.

What types of analysis needs to be done and why?

This of course, depends on the needs. What stage are you in? Are you turning around a company? Are you just keeping an eye on a well-functioning company? Have you had any mergers and so on?

The first area you want to look at is the cost and efficiency area. We tend to start out by looking at the logistics cost and structure per item, per customer, and per supplier, and we look at the order structure. What we try to look at is what is driving cost. By applying some rules of thumb or detailed knowledge that we have from other analyses, we can identify which items are profitable, which customers should we focus on, what suppliers do we have agreements with that makes the landed cost higher than we thought it would be.

If we know this, we can then make strategies for how we handle customers. It might be, which is often the case, that we have an order structure where we have a lot of small orders. The handling costs could be punitive for each order, so the small orders make the whole operation unprofitable. Knowing that, then we can find different ways to automate order handling or have free freight limits or have a handling charge.

There are a lot of ways that you can use this knowledge. If you look at the suppliers, very often, you find that it’s getting a bit unfocused, pointing in all directions, you have a lot of small suppliers. And it might make sense to have someone that is a bit more expensive, where the logistics are very efficient and very favorable for you.

When we look at efficiency, we, of course, focus on the handling cost and the facility cost, we’re looking at picking, receiving, administration. In this case we want to do trend analyses; we want to do benchmark internally between different entities and different facilities; we want to look at if there is any geographical area or country that is more favorable and more efficient.

When we get this in order, it’s very interesting to make an external benchmark. Where are your competitors? I mentioned earlier on the Establish-Davis Database, which is free of charge so you can get a good handle on how do you match up to your peers.

A specific area is the transportation cost. This is a cost item that, in most companies, are mostly external, which means that it’s money down on the bottom line. By analyzing the shipments and the needs for modes, you can find that you can often use cheaper modes, you can find potential consolidation areas, which we know, save a lot of money and, again, is on the bottom line.

There are trending analyses that are possible now that weren’t possible a number of years ago with, say, with the transportation. It used to be that it was impossible to really make a detailed analysis of how the actual freight billing compared to the agreements but now it’s possible.

What we know is that on average a company gets overbilled by 2 to 4 percent when you compare the actual shipment to the agreement and to constantly monitor this and follow up could be something that you outsource, but it’s also readily available in logistics control tower transportation-management systems, or you can, in some cases, do it yourself without those analysis tools.

If you're looking at a more strategic level, we were touching on the analysis when it comes to suppliers, order structure, customers, items, assortment analysis, but a very lucrative area to look at is the distribution-network analysis. What you do is look at the…do I store the right amount of each item to reach a certain service level? Do I store the items where it’s most favorable cost-wise? Do I store them where it’s easiest and cheapest to ship to customers? All of this is possible to do with data that is readily available.

To summarize, the supply chain analytics that are possible to do now offers a great opportunity for you as a supply chain manager to get in to the driving seat. This area is an area where it’s very quantifiable, and you can put numbers on it. If you have the data, you can be in charge, you can define what is important, and you can drive and monitor the efficiency, and you can also be a good customer to the suppliers that are helping you.

Thank you very much for having me, and I am looking forward to talking to you again.



About Hakan Andersson


Hakan Andersson

CEO Establish Inc.


LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed  Andrea Stroud who discussed Supply Chain Visibility and Risk Management.     








It’s great to speak with you today, Andrea, and I look forward to hearing your views on supply chain visibility and risk. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?


Absolutely, Dustin. I’m Andrea Stroud. I’m a research program manager with APQC; it’s a Houston-based nonprofit that focuses on benchmarking and best practice business research. My focus is on conducting supply chain management research and uncovering and sharing benchmarks and best practices so organizations can use the information to help with their business decisions.


Thank you. My first question is: Why is supply chain visibility such an important topic for organizations?


Without question, supply chain visibility is a requirement for any company competing in today’s global marketplace. Supply chain visibility is an important topic for organizations because it provides an in-depth look at an organization’s inventory, the location and materials at any point in time, supplier processes and patterns that allow for predictability, as well as the ability to respond if patterns happen to change, because, oftentimes, they do. Supply chain visibility also ensures that everyone is working from the same page because it offers real-time collaboration between retailers and suppliers.


What are the benefits of having a visible supply chain?


A visible supply chain can offer many benefits. Some of the benefits include helping organizations improve performance and costs by helping to identify supply chain inefficiencies. For instance, when bottlenecks or disruptions are identified in the supply chain, organizations have the ability to source additional resources. Visible supply chains also help organizations establish better supplier relationships. Organizations may find that during a supply chain disruption, having good relationships will actually make it easier to find the alternative resources that they need. This, in fact, increases network responsiveness, which can help organizations predict the estimated time a delivery will arrive to customers. Organizations want to know when an arrival’s going to happen. If it’s going to be late, they need to know, and if they can find a way to mitigate the possibility of it being late, then they need to do so.


Can you talk about some of the steps that companies are taking to improve their supply chain visibility?


Many organizations find themselves asking how can they obtain greater supply chain visibility. Two steps that we have seen in our research here at APQC include establishing supplier relationships, as I mentioned earlier, and creating alert systems. A good example of this can actually be seen from ATMI—a provider of technologies for the semiconductor life science and flat panel display industries, and a best practice organization in APQC’s Supplier Category Management Study. ATMI developed a proprietary system that provides greater visibility into the origin of its materials, and they did this by creating an alert system using information from multiple tiers of suppliers. The alert system tracks the components of ATMI’s top revenue-generating products down to the base elements, providing the company with a clear picture of where the components come from and what the components contain. This is great because if a disruption occurs, the organization is quickly alerted if any of its suppliers or even its suppliers’ suppliers had been affected. This, in turn, enables the organization to quickly find alternative sources of materials if necessary. Innovative solutions much like the alert system implemented by ATMI will be needed for companies if they want to have greater visibility into their supply chains.


Is there a link between supply chain visibility and an effective supply chain risk-management program?


The more visibility organizations have in their supply chain, the better they’re going to be able to identify and manage possible supply chain risks. Organizations can’t maintain effective risk programs without access to the key information about their suppliers. Organizations actually need to be able to quickly respond to disruptions and have that key information that makes it possible. It’s kind of uncanny how many companies lack visibility of their suppliers beyond the first tier. As part of one of APQC’s recent study, Managing Risk of Supply Chain Disruption, we actually found that the majority of participating organizations identified having poor visibility into risk factors among tier-two and tier-three suppliers as the top obstacle of their supply chain risk management program.


How are organizations addressing risk with their suppliers?


Organizations are addressing risk with their suppliers by conducting risk assessments of key suppliers. In the previously mentioned Risk Study, APQC member, Baker Hughes, a global oilfield services company provided information on how it monitors the financial health of its Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers. Baker Hughes makes it a common practice to audit its key suppliers, and evaluating any possible risks that could occur. Baker Hughes has 100 percent oversight for its public suppliers and 95 percent oversight for its private suppliers. The company accomplishes this audit by contracting with a third-party financial evaluator to obtain information from its private suppliers.


In our Risk Study we found that the majority of organizations with key supply chain partners in areas of the world known for high-impact natural disasters, like extreme weather, political turmoil, they actually conduct formal risk assessments of their key suppliers. By key suppliers, I’m actually talking about the strategic and critical suppliers. To adequately mitigate the disruption risk, it’s important for organizations to conduct regular supplier assessments; I can’t stress that enough. We found that organizations that never conduct such assessments or conduct assessments sporadically open themselves up to greater risk of disruption and, potentially, a slower recovery from that disruption.

We’ve also found that the majority of organizations that conduct formal risk assessments of key suppliers at least annually tend to also conduct more in-depth assessments that review their suppliers’ compliance with local labor laws, safety procedures, financial health, and process quality.


Organizations we found, they use multiple methods of assessing potential threats to supply chain resiliency. Almost half of the organizations that we looked at in our Risk Study rely on informal procedures; for example, site inspections or conversations with suppliers’ managers to assess potential threats. But the problem with organizations that aren’t conducting formal assessments of potential threats is the fact that it puts their mitigation strategies at a much greater risk of failure during an actual disruption.


The main thing I want people to walk away with understanding is that there is a great benefit for a visible supply chain and the need for organizations to conduct formal assessments and not just for their tier-one suppliers, but also their tier-two and tier-three suppliers.


Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your views today on supply chain visibility and risk.


Dustin, thank you for speaking with me about this very important topic on supply chain visibility. Please let your listeners know that I’m happy to answer any questions and to discuss this topic further. I can be contacted at


Thank you.


About Andrea Stroud


Andrea Stroud_APQC PIC.jpg

Andrea Stroud

Research Program Manager APQC

LinkedIn Profile


I interviewed Mark Katchen who discussed the Top 3 Environmental Health and Safety Issues in the Global Supply Chain.

1. Please provide a brief background of yourself

Mark Katchen is the Managing Principal for The Phylmar Group, Inc. with expertise in industrial hygiene, toxicology, occupational health, risk communication and sustainable supply chain practices. His consulting expertise includes helping organizations optimize the EHS/Sustainability function by focusing on mission alignment, resource allocation and utilization, business process improvement, and demonstrating the value of EHS/Sustainability to the organization. He received his B.A. in Psychobiology from UCLA, M.S. in Environmental and Occupational Health from California State University, Northridge, and M.B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. Mr. Katchen has more than 30 years of experience in occupational and environmental exposure assessment in such industries as petrochemical, agriculture, mining, utilities and automotive. Additionally, he is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a State of California Registered Environmental Assessor. Mr. Katchen has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles and Irvine campuses. He also serves on the California State University, Northridge Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Advisory Board. Mr. Katchen is a past chair of the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s International Affairs Committee. He is a frequent lecturer to business and academic groups on environmental risk assessment, management, communication, ethics and sustainable business practices and is the author of several published technical and business-related articles.


2. Why is it so difficult to implement a consistent environmental health and safety program in a global supply chain?


Resolving many environmental health and safety challenges require actions well beyond the boundaries of a single company in a supply chain. While a supply chain is most often ruled or governed by one company or organization, the so called ‘focal’ company, the supply chain is often composed of multiple suppliers or subcontractors. These subcontractors, in turn, can engage other subcontractors resulting in a complex chain of companies and responsibilities making it difficult for the focal company to ensure environmental health and safety integrity throughout the supply chain. As part of the primary and secondary networks, and as  a response to pressures and incentives, more and more focal companies are moving to a strategic environmental health and safety policy, starting internally (internal
policy, operations and culture) and extending it to the whole chain of suppliers, clients, subcontractors and stakeholders.


3. What are some of the ways companies are addressing these issues.


Effective policies and practice must be in place in order to influence suppliers to implement sustainable environmental health and safety practices. An important role in this is played not only by educating and training purchasing staff, but also measures related to suppliers, such as:


  • Requiring a management system or code of conduct;


  • Signing declarations for compliance with the company standards;


  • Self-assessment by the suppliers, inspections, auditing, monitoring; training; and


  • Collaboration with suppliers



About Mark Katchen



Mark Katchen

Managing Principal at
The Phylmar Group, Inc.

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Marc Dragon who discussed  Using Advanced Analytics as Applied to Supply Chain & Trade Data.







It’s great to speak with you today, Marc, and I look forward to hearing your views on using advanced analytics as applied to supply chain. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself? 


Yeah, thanks, Dustin. As per my career, I spent more than a decade at IBM. My last role at IBM was, I was heading up the supply chain optimization for ILOG across Asia-Pacific. I’ve also done roles in the consulting industry. I was also director in the strategy practice at Deloitte Consulting. Subsequently, I decided to come on my own and I founded a company which has been merged into a larger company, focusing on analytics and specifically sales, marketing as well as supply chain optimization and analytics. Currently, I’m the partner in this firm, which is called Antuit, for Asia. A double hat that I hold in the firm, I’m also responsible for the supply chain practice globally, which is across Singapore, U.S., India, as well as Australia and New Zealand.


How can you use advanced analytics when applied to supply chain and trade data?


Thanks, Dustin. If you look at most of the traditional multinationals and firms out there right now, most enterprises struggling basically with just managing their day-to-day supply chain operations. Some more advanced enterprises are looking at optimizing supply chain operations and specifically looking at networks, inventory, and demand forecasts and the like.


But then again, there are some more leading companies that are pushing the boundaries in terms of instead of looking within their own organization, within the four walls of historical demand and historical data and structured data, some of these organizations are looking at, how do to take in to consideration macroeconomic trends? How do I take in to consideration social media data that’s available out there? How do I take in to consideration paid data—for example, news data or GSK data that I purchase—in conjunction with my own internal data to get a better sense of the whole demand-to-supply matching problem?


In a sense, I’ve helped clients actually look at trade data, social media data, data from radial and point-of-sales and basically improve focus accuracies of specific SKUs by location that it would not have had if they had only used traditional data to do the demand forecasting techniques. Again, a lot of these, more and more companies are looking outside at big data, at what other data can they use in order to improve their operations, and this is one way that they can look at it, which is combining three different types of data—own, paid, and earned in the social context—to improve supply chain operations.


Can you talk about why this should be done?


Sure. If you look at it from a competitive-advantage perspective—again, going back to the concept where most companies look at just internal operations and, with their own lens, they see a certain perspective of the world, there’s only so much you can do in terms of understanding your demand out there. For example, if you're a consumer-products company and you have a wholesale business and you have a trade business, your data is limited to what the wholesalers give you and what your trade business gives you, your modern trade business gives you. But you're missing out a lot in terms of the retailer, the end retailer, as well as the end consumer-type perspective of the propensity to buy your specific product.


Companies that are interested to have a broader perspective, a deeper perspective of their end-customer patterns should be looking at various data sources and how these data sources can be analyzed in conjunction with their own internal data, because this would help to improve demand focus accuracies—that’s one—and with the improved forcast accuracies and understanding the variabilities within the demand patterns, you’ll be able to actually improve your inventory perspective as well. It has a positive effect. Looking at the external data, you can improve demand. If you improve demand, you can improve your inventory position. If you improve your inventory position, in return, you can look at specific good reduction in terms of working capital. Definitely, this type of thinking, organizations should be looking at it.


How is the advanced analytics done, and who should care about it?


That’s a good question because for the concepts I just mentioned, it actually encapsulates a few technologies and a few methods. Going back to the concept of the three different types of data sources—the owned data source, the structured data within enterprises, the paid data source, the Nielsen-type data that you pay, primary research data that you pay, researched data that you pay for, and the third, which is the social media. If you look at it from those three different types of data sources in terms of how it should be done, you should be looking at, the first thing is having a specific business question that you want answered.


For example, it can be: How do I improve my revenue uplift in certain markets? If that is a specific question that you have, then you should be looking at what kind of data should I be looking at, how should I analyze it. Technology is available out there in terms of integrating to an ERP system for your own data. Same thing goes for paid data and from a social media data perspective. There are semantic analytics engines out there that can pull the relevant data for you. But there’s one layer on top of all of this, which is really around using statistical techniques to say: How does all of this correlate with each other? How do I improve my focus accuracies across all these different data sources using these different data sources I have? That’s a statistical method.


Once you use a statistical method from a forecasting perspective, you can use optimization methods to look at optimizing your inventory across your multinational supply chain, that would be able to give you the end result of not only all your capital reduction, but a perspective of service level, as well as revenue increase, how you should do it.


The next question is: Who should care about this? That is really the key question, right. Obviously, if you're looking at increased revenue and reduction of cost and improving a service level, everybody should care about this. The real question is actually: Who is ready to care to care about it? And who is ready to move this to an operational and feasible capability? Because, in most organizations, if it takes that one single change agent to say, “Okay, this makes sense. I should be looking at these different types of data. I should be thinking of more advanced analytics capabilities in conjunction with each other”—for example, the statistical together with optimization type of concepts across demand inventory and the like. It takes that change agent to be able to say, “I want to do something. I will move forward with a proof of concept to see if this makes sense for my organization.” In short, everybody should care, but it’s the one who cares the most, and the one that wants to change is the one that sort of wins the game at the end.


Thank you, Marc, for sharing your views on using analytics as applied to supply chains.


Thanks a lot for the call, Dustin, I appreciate it.



About Marc Dragon



Marc Dragon

Partner at Antuit; Experienced Big Data,

IT and Supply Chain Executive

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Philip Uglow who discussed Improving Supply Chain Performance Through Front Line Involvement.




Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?


Sure, thanks, Dustin. It would be my pleasure. I have a B.A. in economics from York University in Toronto, and an M.B.A. from the University of Toronto in global business. My business background is, I started in the construction industry and invented a roofing/drain plumbing product and started up a company to manufacture and sell that, first of all, through North America and then Europe. Ran that for about 20 years, sold it, got involved in and started three other companies, distribution, manufacturing plastic-coated fabrics for roof membranes and walkways. I had a startup that invented a process to rapidly prototype the embossing of plastic membranes and sold that off. And then I got in to the consulting business about six years ago and have worked in a number of fields on the consulting side in oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, the steel industry, worked at a startup, a solid oxide fuel cell startup on the green energy side, and as well as in the electrical-generation side of the business, a bit of energy. I am located in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, in the heart of the energy area of Canada.


What is the problem with front line involvement and what needs to be improved?


Well, what happens a lot of the times with front line folks is that, over time, in many companies the front line folks start o shut down a little bit, and it’s a problem because these employees, these folks are the ones that are dealing directly with customers, clients, suppliers, and facing real-world daily problems. The problem is that if they’re not involved and not passionate about what they’re doing and not looking for new ideas, companies miss out on an incredible resource there.


Are there specific tools or other ways to improve this, improve the front line involvement?


Sure. There’re a number of different tools, but basically what needs to happen, Dustin, is: Senior leaders need to create an environment where front line employees have the comfort level to do things on their own. What that requires is for senior leaders to set expectations that they want improvements in supply chain performance, for example. That’s pretty much all they have to say. And then they download that responsibility to the front line workers, and the actual tools that are used to help front line leaders deal with that are listening exercises, communication-skills training, that type of thing. But, also, the main tool that really improves the performance of front line workers is first creating key performance indicators—so, deciding what key performance indicator to track. If you want to call an indicator a tool, that’s one thing that needs to be tracked. But then the other more important thing on a weekly and at least monthly basis, put a system, a little tracking meeting in place, which we would call a tool, to track progress toward the goal, the key performance indicator goal or target. And, most importantly, creating action items to drive improvement toward those goals. You would want to have an action-tracking tool, an action log; that’s where employees put down who does what by when. And every week that’s looked at and then whether the action was successful or not is determined and its success is determined by the movement in the key performance indicator. Those are the basic tools: expectation, listening training tools, building confidence, and tracking tools on at least a monthly basis.


How would you go about actually setting up these tools and processes to get implementing this?


The best way to implement it is to get the front line to do it. The reason for that, Dustin, is that if I go in and say, “Dustin, thou shalt do this,” you might do it for a little while while I’m there, but it doesn’t, it’s not a sustainable process because you're not living it, you’re not creating it, you're not feeling the hurt from some of the mistakes. The best thing to do, again, is to set the expectation that improvement should be made and then start having conversations with the front line folks. Usually, what we do is bring people together in a group if there’s a team environment and just talk about even what some of the expectations from some of the front line employees’ viewpoint is. It’s surprising what some of them will say. Some senior leaders are often shocked that they feel that improvement in certain indicators would be greater than what senior leaders might expect. If you get them talking about what success looks like from their point of view, that’s the way to start it. And then what you do is start to translate those visions and ideas into practical tracking systems to see if what you're doing is correct. To make a long story short, to summarize, a lesson learned there is really to ask the front line folks what they want to do and keep asking them questions about how they will track it, how will they know these types of questions so that they’re driving the process, they’re coming up with the ideas, they’re even coming up with the indicators to measure their success. Senior leaders having nothing to lose from that because at the end of the day, they’re the boss, and if they think there’s a crazy idea there, they don’t have to do it.


Can you discuss some examples and you have seen some success with this approach?


Sure. This isn’t a specific supply chain story, but it’s a great story because it involved a steel company, and they were making steel pipe—it’s called casing pipe and it’s used to line the inside of well holes when you drill for oil. Anyway, the big problem in the plant was cutting the pipe to length, and the problem was that the saw had, I think it was 40 percent downtime. If you can imagine, 40 percent of the time, the plant was shut down as they were trying to get this saw working. There were all sorts of leaders looking at it and then complaining and trying to solve this problem. What we did was we came in and we just got the saw operators in. The first thing we did was give them the information that they had 40 percent downtime, and they had never been given that information before. People were complaining and arguing and yelling at them, but nobody actually said, “Hey, Joe, do you know that the saw’s down forty percent of the time?” and they were shocked. So, that was the first thing that happened. Then the second thing, the most amazing thing is: They, on their own, got together and started taking about why this was happening. It’s a bit complicated, so I’ll shorten the shorten the story here. They came up with a system where they just changed their behaviors on the way they cut the pipe and the way they serviced the saw, maintained the saw so that the throughput was increased by about $200 million a year without spending a penny on any capital improvements, so a huge amount every year. They came up with that idea themselves; they knew what measurement they needed to track, which was tons through the mill; and came up with some ideas and actions to solve it, implemented those, and were successful at it. From a consulting point of view, I was looking at that, and I could’ve made some suggestions, but it was much more powerful when they realized how poorly their performance was, how really embarrassed they were, and how that hurt them a little bit. The feeling of success they had when they had solved that problem; there was literally a spring in their steps as they were walking through the plant. That’s hard to get and the only way we’ve found that you get that is when you actually help people come to those realizations themselves.


Thank you, Philip, for sharing this inspiring story and also this approach for improving supply chain performance through front line involvement.


Oh, you're welcome. It’s my pleasure, Dustin.


About Philip Uglow



Philip Uglow

President Renshi Consulting Group Ltd.

Suncor Tower

3000 - 150 6 Avenue SW

Calgary, AB, Canada, T2P 3Y7

T: 1-403-879-1990 x10

M: +1-403-585-8172



LinkedIn Profile


I interviewed Ben Gordon who discussed M&A in Logistics.






1. Please provide a brief background of yourself

This is Ben Gordon. I am the founder and managing partner for BG Strategic Advisors. BGSA is a leading investment bank specializing in the transportation logistics and supply chain sector. We provide M&A advice and assist companies in raising capital, pursuing growth strategies, and other transactions throughout the supply chain sector. We’ve worked with companies in trucking, freight forwarding, warehousing, supply chain technology, distribution, recycling, and all other areas of supply chain. We’ve worked in over 30 deals in the sector over the course of the last 12 years, and you can feel free to visit for more info on BGSA.

I spent my career in the supply chain sector, first as a consultant at a firm called Mercer, specializing in transportation logistics; then as the founder and CEO of an e-commerce and transportation company called 3PLex, which is one of the first in the Web-based transportation-management systems arena. I founded the company, raised 28 million in capital, built, it, grew it, and then, eventually, we sold it to Maersk, who then sold it to IVM.

In the third chapter of my career, I’ve been the CEO of BGSA, the leading M&A and strategic-advisory firm in the supply chain sector. And in addition, we’ve set up a merchant bank, or a private equity arm, investing earned capital with clients in select situations, and that firm is known as Cambridge Capital. I’ve had the opportunity to get to work with lots of great people and companies throughout the supply chain as an investor, an advisor, and as an operator.

2. What are the current drivers in M&A in logistics?

We are seeing a wave of M&A activity, and I would characterize it, really, as a third wave. If you think about how the industry’s evolved, really, the whole outsource logistics world took off in the ’90s. It took off because of the move by large corporations toward outsourcing their core competencies.

Hamel and Prahalad wrote the book Outsourcing; of course, Michael Hammer then wrote the book Reengineering the Corporation; and Jack Welch at GE famously said, “Your back office is somebody else front office, so outsource it.” We saw outsourcing take off not just in logistics, but also in IT with companies like EDS, in HR with PEOs like ADP and across a whole series of categories. Logistics and supply chain was an important part of that, so I think that the first wave of growth in the industry and M&A activity was associated with those early, early days of outsourcing.

I think the second wave was really in the 2000-plus time frame, and that really was about consolidations. In truck brokerage, we saw people like C.H. Robinson buying up other brokers like American Backhaulers. In freight forwarding, we saw companies like UTI buying up other forwarders including their agents. And in warehousing, we saw companies like Ozburn-Hessey buying up other warehousing firms like Lanter.

The third wave, which is the wave that I believe we’re in today, is really the wave of convergence. Convergence is about combining different services under one roof for the benefit of customers. An example of that would be a company that’s strong in one sector making an acquisition in an adjacent service to do a better job of serving that sector.

A good example  of this trend is in the contract-logistics arena, with you’ve had companies like Jacobson. Jacobson moved from their core business in warehousing and transportation into packaging when they acquired Wilpak. That allowed them to combine packaging, warehousing, and transportation for core customers in the consumer goods arena. Another example would be in the  freight forwarding and  truck brokerage arena. When C.H. Robinson decided to buy Phoenix, they combined combining their brokerage with Phoenix’s freight forwarding to provide an integrated global service.

Another example would be in the realm of electronic recycling and distribution, where Arrow Electronics bought a company called Converge, combining their $20-billion electronic-distribution business with a much smaller but much higher-margined specialty service in electronic recycling and remarketing. This  theme of convergence is something that we expect to see more and more of as smart companies decide to pursue acquisitions that allow them to provide more complete customer solutions.

3. Who is doing it and why?

I think that there are a series of aggressive acquires both in the convergence arena, as well as in the consolidation arena. Good examples of convergence buyers include C.H. Robinson combining with freight forwarding with the acquisition of Phoenix; Waste Management combining their core waste business with electronic recycling with the Access Computer Acquisition; and contract logistics companies, particularly private-equity backed firms (in which Jacobson is an example) moving into packaging with the acquisition of Wilpak; freight forwarding with a slew of Asia-U.S. acquisitions, etcetera.

You also have a series of  acquirors in the consolidation realm. A great example of that would be XPO Logistics. Brad Jacobs is aggressively pursuing growth in truck brokerage to scale the XPO  business, has  which has gone really, from a tiny business in the market two years ago to, I believe, the fourth largest  truck brokerage company and will likely continue to expand and, in my opinion, probably become the second largest truck-brokerage company within the next couple of years. We see more and more activity there.

4. Do you have any recommendations?

I think the number one suggestion for companies in the sector is: Make sure that you have a clear point of view with respect to your strategy. If you are a truck-brokerage company, you can’t expect to compete effectively against giants like C.H. Robinson or high-growth companies like XPO Logistics or powerful technology-based companies like Echo Global Logistics unless you have a clear plan to either a) scale up; or b) differentiate in a meaningful way.

If you think you can do that, then, by all means, pursue that strategy, and put the capital into it to make it happen. If you don’t think you can do it, then now’s a great time to be a seller  to take advantage of robust M&A activity and buyer interest, lots of available capital to finance deals, and favorable valuations as a result. Above all, pick a strategy; don’t find yourself stuck in the middle, pursuing your current plan without regard for what’s happening in the market around you.

The last thing I would say is: If you are an investor in this space, make sure you're investing in companies that are well-positioned to either be scaling up into market leaders or pursuing protected niche strategies to become dominant in their specific subsectors. I think that if you pursue that strategy, you’re likely to continue to see great value and great success in the logistics and supply chain arena. Ultimately, that’s what we’re all interested in as investors, as operators, and as advisors in the supply chain sector.

If you have any questions, I’m certainly happy to discuss. You can reach me at Go to the  website,, or call us here directly at (561) 932-1600. Again, this is Ben Gordon, founder and managing director at Cambridge Capital and BG Strategic Advisors, and I hope this feedback’s been helpful for you. Thank you.

About Ben Gordon



Ben Gordon

Founder and Managing Partner for BG Strategic Advisors

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed James Ransdall who discussed Intersection Between Innovation and Product Portfolio Management.





Please provide a brief background of yourself


I'm a serial software entrepreneur, with a stretch or two with larger companies, IBM being the most recent.  I've spent about 12 years of my career working with enterprise portfolio management and innovation management solutions, in business development, sales, and consulting capacities


How do you define innovation and what is product portfolio management?


Innovation is an idea, or cluster of ideas, with impact, which is to say that they can be put into practice and meaningful improvement results.  Framed that way, innovation happens in the private and public sector both, and it can impact process, product, or the organization.  My focus, for this purpose, is on product innovation, and it spans the range from relatively minor, incremental innovation, to market breakthrough, and is seen as the end-to-end process by which ideas are realized in a product, a group of products, or across a brand.  Product portfolio management is the discipline by which innovations, from minor to breakthrough, are prioritized relative to one another, committed to a plan and put into execution.


How do they intersect?


It tends to be more collision than intersection, in that there are always more ideas, indeed more good ideas, than there are time, capital, or resources to execute, thus the intersection is very dynamic.  You have to say, "Yes," to the generation of ideas, then say, "No, later, or maybe," to most of them.


Why is this important and how is it done?


Lots of ideas without the discipline of portfolio management leads to the selection and promotion of too many ideas, too few ideas, or, worst, the wrong ideas. With regard to the latter, to the notion of wrong ideas, most typically this shows up as the promotion of safe, pedestrian ideas, over truly breakthrough ideas.


About James Ransdall




James Ransdall



President at MM&I Services

LinkedIn Profile




I interviewed Stanislao Marrazzo who discussed Retail Logistics and Consolidation Programs.







1. Please provide a brief background of yourself


Hello Dustin, First, thank you for the opportunity to start a conversation with the Supply Chain Expert Community! I have a background in Economics and I have 12 plus years’ experience in the Logistics /Supply Chain Industry. After many years with Kuehne-Nagel, I am currently  responsible for Operations and Supply Chain at De Cecco USA. For those who are not familiar with the brand, De Cecco is the third largest manufacturer of Pasta in the World.



2. How do you define Retail Logistics and Consolidation Programs?

We all know etymologically the word logistics means; well in Retail Logistics the management of the flow of resources matching the expectation of the final users becomes a critical version of a classic logistics activity, here the B2C performance must be executed with no failure, having the right product on the right shelf at the right time with minimum cost involved.


Traditionally this is handled using different approaches, such us Hub and Spoke methods or Multiple DC's engagements, depending also form the specificity of the product (i.e. Food industry is quite different from the Fashion industry).


In few cases also JIT is performed, usually with a low rate of success. JIT, in fact  is working well with business which have a pretty steady and predictable demand (automotive/industrial).


Serving the retail industry is by definition very challenging, the consumer is driving the industry very firmly although in today’s economy it is a very variably and unpredictably drive.


Hence the first actions taken from all the stakeholders in the retail business, either up in the supply chain or at bottom, is  looking for efficiency.


This can be pursued in different ways, from the logistics point of view a solution comes with a multivendor consolidation program, which initially affects the transportation management but ultimately will have several and significant impacts on different aspect of the Vendor's supply chain and on the grade of satisfaction of the Consumers

A MVCP lower unnecessary costs and reduce negative environmental impact across all modes of transport (LTL,FTL, Air, Ocean).


Using a consolidation program is also a way for mid-sized businesses to achieve a critical mass in transportation, so they can compete in the market.


Retailer-driven consolidation programs combine various products headed to the same retailer on one purchase order, shortening delivery times and reducing costs and damages.


Consolidation programs are sustainable by design; they reduce the frequency of LTL orders, thereby reducing carbon emission.


For suppliers, the advantage is most evident in transportation costs as I mentioned before but eventually a MVCP may drastically help to reduce Inventory cost  consolidating different shipping point.



3. How can Consolidation Programs be carried out successfully?

There is no secret ingredient in the recipe of Success. Reaching the critical mass and using reliable carriers and proper technology is the key.


Often the desired level of service was set up directly by Retailers which created their own MVCP and later the responsibility to run it was pushed up in the supply chain.

In any case, in the recent past the pressure from Retailers towards Manufacturing company to use MVCP was always constant .


The clear advantage for all parties involved in the Retail Industry expedited the success of this practice. Volumes, however, are still very fragmented, which means that there is still a lot of room for growth.


Most of this volume still comes from small or medium-sized businesses, and many do not have a proper logistics or are not part of any MVCP.


So in my opinion more and more companies will opt for this solution and this will strengthen the market and growing, the market will structure itself. increasing the level of service ,reducing internal and external cost.


Also Today's technology will expedite the existing methods of sharing information among the actors in the field.

Suppliers, 3PLs and Retailers will be able to talk each other via EDI in real time and improve their practice on daily basis. Cooperating in planning, forecasting, replenishing together !


In one sentence “Customizing their process based on the Consumer's needs”



4. Who has been successful and why?

Many have been successful, specially earlier pioneers such as Wall-Mart, Target , Costco and so on , mainly because they set up very high standard reached by their own consolidation services and when they let others running the same MVCP or similar , they wanted to maintain the same High Standard pushing all the cost of failure up in the chain, hence became mandatory for all parties involved to be efficient to maintain a virtuous cycle .


While I said earlier that the market is still young and there is a lot of room to grow is worth to consider that the ways markets evolve today are much faster than 10 or 20 years ago .  New technologies , new way to communicate , new products will lead to drastic and  incredible fast market's change and who will be successful will be not the ones 1 step but 2 or 3 or 10 steps ahead in the understanding the challenges and being pioneers in finding new solutions to serve the market.


For example, new challenges for the retailers in today environment are not only coming from the e- commerce but also from the global market itself, today anyone of us can easily compare prices and services on the web or using a free application on their iPhone, hence the industry is today as never was in the past in a perfect competition. Retail industry has to build their main source of profit on the supply side to respond to the pressure from the consumers, and also living in a very unstable economy the demand becomes unpredictable, customer are actively engaged in the industry today.


What I have seen as a key of success for those company that can be considered “winners”  is


- from one side acting on the efficiency of their direct or indirect supply chain, considered as a whole unique “ecosystem, not differentiating for example from inbound and outbound when looking for improvement in the flexibility of the supply chain. They need to be ready to react as the consumer switch preference in the channel or in the product.


- On the other hand sharing all the valuable information about demand predictability or product development with manufacturers in order to align the production very quickly to the consumer needs. The retail industry represent the first level of Demand's aggregation and going back there is this big chain of value, up to the row material level. This big value must  be shared between manufactures and retailers to be successful.


Now, Going beyond the current development in the E-commerce, I believe the real leader of the market will be whoever will be able to create a new kind of consolidation program, let's call it Multi-Stock Consolidation Program.


Let me explain better, Today the big and real challenge for many retailers is the handling of multi-channel structures, which has significant complexity to the logistics operations versus a relatively less complicated activity of replenishing stores. Retailers now are used to handle many channel to serve, as many as their customers can choose; such as shop in store or Home Delivery or Click and Collect, etc.


However I believe who is going to be really successful will be the one that will adjust their process and their structure not to the multi-channel but to an “Omni-channel” structure.  To do that, a MSCP can be the solution, which is what few retailers are going to create soon and some already have it in place in a Beta version (Amazon). I'm talking about a fully integrated inventory management system which will give to the retailer complete transparency of his inventory and it can be treated as a single stock regardless where is located. This solution will be run parallel to other existing ones and will give to the consumer the most complete range of option to experience their Shopping.



About Stanislao Marrazzo



Stanislao Marrazzo

Director of Logistics &

Customer Service at De Cecco Usa

LinkedIn Profile


Supply Chain Executive with 12 plus years of Experience in Global SCM and Retail Logistics.

During his career he has contributed successfully to achieve high levels of efficiency, growth and profitability; developing significant expertise in operational management, strategic planning and business development.

I interviewed Leif Sørensen who discussed Support tools for Export Start ups, with a Focus on Network and How to Create Opportunities.






Please provide a brief background of yourself.


I’m Leif Sørensen from Denmark, the CEO of Relation Technologies, working heavily with exports to emerging markets and the European market. To give you a brief background about myself, I am the business part of the company. The company’s owned by two persons: myself and my partner, Christian Harpelund, CDO Organisational Psychologist. We have divided the company into two different sectors in terms of the tasks, people who have references to each one of us.


I’m the CEO and I take care of the whole company in general, in terms of developing the company and taking care of the business side and this includes exports. Christian is taking care of all the knowledge part in terms of developing our concepts into relevance for the market. We develop and work with organization development within different branches and sectors on a global basis. We strongly focus on export because our focus has been on the mass market, so we need to target a lot of people and do not have the luxury of staying in a local market. We work though partners and we work heavy through export. At the moment we are expanding to China.


I have a background in business. I’ve owned several companies and developed them and sold them afterward. I hold a degree in business, and Christian is a psychiatrist and has a degree from universities in that.


What are export start-ups and how do you help them?


I have a very strong focus on how you can actually help companies who want to start exporting. One of my learnings has been that there there’s strong focus on export from governments around the world, but it’s mainly targeting the big companies, because huge companies have been able to set the agenda because they are the main resource revenue stream for a country or for a society in terms of export.


It’s always huge companies who do the export, and it’s a massive economy. That means that all the structures around export in countries are always targeting the major companies, but they forget that small- and medium-size companies actually have a strong need to begin to start learning how to export. There isn’t any knowledge-based targeting them. I have been spending some time looking at what would be needed if you want to help small- or medium-size companies start exporting.


What I came up with is that you actually need to provide them with information on markets, and that could be different markets. You could divide the information into Europe emerging markets, Asia, U.S., Africa, South America, and you could provide structured information on markets. As an example, it could be how big is the branch, how is the structure, how many companies are represented, how big are they, what are the structures?


All of this industrial information would provide export companies to take wise decisions. For the moment it’s not possible as a company to take decision that is thoughtful and actually been worked out a lot, because as a small- or medium-size company, you do not have time to do in market studies that have a high quality. This leaves them with a problem.


Actually, if you want that kind of information, you need to buy from a company who provides you with information like that, and that will cost you a lot of money. Small and medium-sized companies do not prioritize to spend that kind of money on exams on the market. That means that they started exporting by coincidence. Let me give an example of that. You could be representing your things on a fair somewhere or in an exhibition and one guy comes up and says, “Oh, I like your products. I think you have a huge opportunity in my country,” so you start dialogue. That’s actually fine but maybe if you had the information about his market and the markets next to him and just next to him, you would discover that if you start exporting to him, you would only be able to export to a very small market, and the industrial structures are not really a fit with your products.


But you don’t have that kind of information, so you will not be to take that decision, and you do not have the information to take the decision saying that, “No, I should not go in to China. I should go in to Malaysia because Malaysia is a little bit far ahead in some sectors.” By providing small- and medium-size companies information about the market structure allows them to take a decision that is wise when they are looking at the products. If you ask me, the next step for export on a global basis is actually to start providing information that allows small- and medium-size companies to take that kind of wise decisions. That is only one small bit of tools that are required if you want to start exporting.


Another tool is: How do you actually evaluate a partner? How do you actually evaluate a market? All of these kinds of tools are not available at the moment, and everybody who wants to start exporting actually needs to develop their own toolbox to start exporting, and that’s a waste of time. That is one of my strongest focuses on exports at the moment.


How do you help create opportunities?


I have started an export diary called Export—in Denmark. We have what we call a cannon export, which are good examples on who has done it very great in terms of export, and they were all huge companies, so I started a blog called Canon Export instead of Export Canon, which were kind of a play on the saying that we don’t want to listen to who is great at making export. We want to help companies start exporting, and we do not help them by providing good examples; we help them by providing them tools. I make this export diary where I talk about what we have been doing in our company and how do we actually develop into a market. By doing so, I provide people who want to listen my knowledge and our experience on starting exporting to countries and what kinds of mistakes we have been making and what kind of strategy we’ve been going through and what we’ve been through in order to become successful in exporting many types of small- and medium-size companies. I also try to put myself on the export agenda in Denmark and have been called in for meetings with government representatives who want to listen to the problem that we are facing as a small company who wants to export.


Do you have any recommendations for start-ups?


You should look for information and inspiration with other companies for a short period of time. You should always go in and ask, “How have you been doing it?” my first thing would be, advice from somebody who did it good, to your company. And when you have that answer, you should not be looking for any more inspiration in terms of exporting.


You should start working with export, which means you should create your network; you should make sure that you get the toolbox to do the export; you should decide on what market do you want to be registered in; and you should only choose one market per year. You should focus on the market and you should make sure that you actually drive and push that market forward. When you have the experience in one market, you can transfer that knowledge into a second market or a third market.


As you become better at driving a market and pushing it, you might be able to open up more than one market, but you have to bear in mind that it’s a person who has to take all the decisions, and there are no toolboxes for that. By creating a toolbox, you will be able to take some shortcuts when you start a new market, and other persons in your company will be able to use that same toolbox and use your structure to watch their market. You need to be able to provide tools that are structured enough to let other people use them.


As soon as you have that, you are ready to go. But don’t forget, it’s actually a question of working with the market. It’s a question of calling, it’s a question of writing, it’s a question of taking travels, finding out exhibitions. Keep growing your network; keep getting timed on speeches; keep working with the one-to-one for a very long time. First of all, you established yourself in a market but you can start thinking of marketing in the traditional way, and it takes some time before you can do that.


My recommendation would be actually to start work with exporting. Get some inspiration; stop wasting your time with inspiration because you can spend so much time getting inspiration and not doing the work, which is one person doing something. Start doing something instead of getting more inspiration. As soon as you have kind of a clear mind, set yourself on marketing, then start making the calls. That would be my recommendation for start-ups.


I would like to make an offer to everyone who wants to start exporting to actually contact me. I’m very open to share all my tools and share my experiences, not in terms of export, but in terms of tools, provide the tools that I’ve created and I’ve gathered together. They are in a niche already. Feel free to contact me.


And to you, Dustin, I’d like to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to make this interview. I hope I can be, in some way, creating value for your business and for the people who want to read your blog. Thank you for your time, and feel free to contact me again.



About Leif Sørensen




Leif Sørensen



CEO of Relation Technologies

LinkedIn Profile

I interviewed Michael Hoffman who discussed A Lean Approach to Email Management.





Can you start by providing a brief background of  yourself?


Sure. I’m originally from New York. After spending 16 years or  so living in Scandinavia,  I recently moved to Barcelona. My background is actually in music; I started out as a  trumpet player, then became a symphony orchestra conductor. Although I was very passionate about music, I also had a competing entrepreneurial side, which really took off in my  twenties and thirties. The first corporation I had was when  I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan. I was selling no-bake cookies; I sold about 50 thousand of those during my grad years. I always had something on the side that was entrepreneurial. When I moved to Sweden during my conducting days, I started a music-management organization to fill in the gaps. It started to grow in the late 90’s and I started a new office in Copenhagen, and ended up moving there. Then I et a consultant/coach, who saw how effective I’d been working with the music-management agency and asked me if I wouldn’t work with him. After pushing him off for quite a while, we finally did some work together, and, eventually, Atrendia was born. I left the music business a good ten years ago or so and have been doing management consulting pretty much ever since.  The starting point for Atrendia was a solution orproduct, however you want to view it, which has been our cornerstone for the past eight years and is now called LeanMail. I should also tell you that I have been getting the majority of my schooling in management consulting from an amazing consultant in San Francisco – who just happens to be my brother.


Can you talk about what  is the current problem with e-mail?


I think everybody knows the current problem with e-mail. Basically, it’s a very misused tool, but it’s a very important one. On the one hand, it’s the lifeblood of communications of most companies; on the other hand, basically, it’s done in an ad-hoc form, so there’s no established process, there’s no thinking in terms of how do we can do this more efficiently. Strangely enough, with all the companies that are implementing Lean Six Sigma today, it’s an area that’s, for some reason, been avoided. It happens to be our niche area.


Are there any benchmarks  you can talk about?


Well,  when we talk about benchmarks, if you look at how people measure their success with e-mail, it’s basically a known challenge, and people are struggling with it. Many people think they’re pretty much in control using the tools that they have. The truth is, if you had a very efficient way of working with e-mail, you would find out that if somebody rated themselves, let’s say, a 3 or 4 out of 5, in actuality, they’d be more like a 2 on a scale of 10 because their benchmark is what they know.  They are not comparing themselves with LeanMail users for example.


What are your recommendations?


Well, aside from our own solution, I recommend looking at the issue itself and recognizing that an inordinate amount of time is being spent on processing mail.  Our solution can save the average user at least half the time they’re spending managing their mailbox. If we can do that, it means there is there is an exciting benchmark to consider, and if companies are not going in that direction, they’re losing quite a bit of time. Usually around 25 to 40 percent of an employee’s day is spent managing mail, so 10 to 20% of their day could be brought back into sales or customer service or whatever core work they do.  It’s an amazing amount of time that is being squandered when you think about it.


Do you provide any trials? I’m trying to visualize what your solution is. I’m trying to visualize, if I’m using e-mail, how this can help me?


Well, I’ll tell you, the first thing you need to do is recognize that there’s a problem, because if you don’t, then you're not going to look for the solution. We can provide you with a great solution, but if you don’t realize, “Hey, this is something I really need to do something about,” you’re going to end up moving back to status quo. However, if you decide that, “You know, I realize that I’m spending a lot of time in this area and I’m sure that I can be much more effective and efficient here,” then the next step is understanding that this is a habit you need to change. This means that even if I gave you the principles to follow and a tool to use in order to follow those principles, you would still need to change your habit. Our solution is not to give out a tool on the Internet or give some eLearning.


Like any habit change we need a commitment from a user.  We can bring them from where they are today to having, for instance, an empty inbox pretty much every day; a complete overview of their mails at any given time; working by priority rather than last in, first out; and  also working according to JIT or just in time, meaning that instead of answering the first mails that are coming in, you're answering your mails in order of importance and urgency. If you're familiar with Stephen Covey’s ideas of importance and urgency, which he, of course, took from Eisenhower, then you’ll be able to understand that concept a little bit better. There’s no silver bullet here.  LeanMail is a methodology, it’s a tool, and it’s training all combined. There are plenty of courses you can take, but this is what we believe to be the only real lasting solution.


Well, this sounds really interesting. How can I sign up and start learning more?


Great, thank you.



About Michael Hoffman



Michael Hoffman


CEO at LeanMail

LinkedIn Profile