Robert Blackburn. Robert is the President and Chairman of the Board at BVL International, the largest logistics non-profit organization in Europe. He is also the SVP of Global Supply Management for Stanley Black and Decker, a global leader in the manufacturing of industrial and household tools.
Discover more details here.
Some of the highlights of the episode:
Robert Blackburn. Robert is the President and Chairman of the Board at BVL International, the largest logistics non-profit organization in Europe. He is also the SVP of Global Supply Management for Stanley Black and Decker, a global leader in the manufacturing of industrial and household tools.
Discover more details here.
Some of the highlights of the episode:
Hello and welcome to the leaders in supply chain podcast. I am your host Radovan MRU and managing director of elephant global. Our mission is to connect the supply chain ecosystem in Asia and globally by bringing forward the most interesting leaders in the industry and very happy to have with us today. Dr. Robert Blackburn. Robert is the president and chairman of the board of BVL international, which is the largest logistics nonprofit organization in Europe. He's also the senior vice president of global supply chain management for Stanley black and Decker, which is , uh , which is of course the global leader in manufacturing of industrial and household tools. And prior to this he held leadership positions at IBM and VSF . His working in the field of operations and technology spends numerous boards and industry leadership engagements. And I'm very happy that , uh , he made the time to join us today. So Robert, thank you very much and pleasure to have you with us. Thank you for having me. Firstly, maybe let's start the conversation and tell a little bit the audience, because not everybody, especially in people that are not, that are not in Europe, would know. Uh , tell us a bit about BVL , uh , what the organization is about. Where are you present and what the purpose of it?Speaker 2:
So , um, we were founded in 1978. Uh , we had our 40th anniversary last year. The BBL is the supply chain network leading supply chain network in the world. Actually. Um, we're not the largest, but we are the most active and we are the leading , uh , supply chain network. So what makes us special, in my opinion , um, we have some of the world's leading scientists and researchers who focus on , um, supply chain, production, logistic , um, retail issues , um, Intercontinental shipping , um, all modes actually. So the other things that makes us really special is we're not just academic with all of those researchers and one of the largest , uh , networks of universities focused around supply chain management. But we also have well over 11,000 members in Germany and around the world who are actually practitioners. So people like me who do this for a living every day of their life, take big decision . Um, look after very large, well known companies right down to small and medium enterprises. Um, consultancy . Uh, for example, we have a senior partner from McKinsey and our advisory board , um, on our, on our board of which I'm the chairman you mentioned, we have brands like BMW. Uh, we have brands like Bosch. So yes, we are , uh, very much focused in Europe, but we have international chapters all over the , um, the U S will probably interest you less than that. We're here to talk a lot about Asia, but Korea, we had chapters, we have chapters in China. Um, as you know, you and I came together through our chapter leader in Singapore for example. So that's what makes BVO uh , special. It is one crazy network of experts, practitioners, researcher, universities, unique in the world, in my opinion.Speaker 1:
And , and it's interesting the number of members that you've got, I think one, one 11,000, 200, and um, and I got to know the numbers, right? Technical leaders and I go to know of you of course because of the chapter in Singapore where, where I sit and you've had some and you still have some really fantastic um, events just for Singapore alone. Uh , maybe tell us and tell the audience some of the most important global and regional projects that BVL is focused on and workSpeaker 2:
well. Our chapters and representatives on all of Earth's continents are looking after many, many projects that are specific to the markets they serve. Let me just pick out four and talk about those. So we have one of the largest uh, supply chain conferences in the world right here where I am today in Berlin, Germany. And we have well over 3000 people who travel from all over the world and join us here. For example, one of our keynote speakers , um , I think it's Wednesday evening will be China's ambassador to Germany. We can , um, so it just gives you one example. I could name many, many more. Um, that's one of our big focus projects. Another one is, you know, a lot of times people, most people say supply chain and don't really know what supply chain means or they say logistics and they think of the truck around the corner where all of the above and in terms of helping our industry , um, in Europe and around the world, we've kicked off quite , um, the logistics heroes campaign. So we take normal people like you and I out of , um, industry out of retail, out of logistics service providers , um, out of consumer companies. And we highlight them in various modes of the press, also pod chat , um , but also print campaigns, also television, another project. And by the way, that people from all over the world, that's not just people here, for example in Europe. Right. Um, another thing that we do is a lot of thought leadership for our members. We invest a lot of money into thought leadership for members of BDL . And that's why I think a big growth opportunity for us really is in Asia because as you well know, Germany is one of the supply chain logistic leading markets on planet earth. We produce trends and strategies, which is a survey of our very real numbers, who as I mentioned before, are doing this every day in big powerful companies, big powerful universities. Um , also in Asia for example, T university. Um, and then finally we have what we call, we've kicked off this year DVL digital. So that just takes all of our knowledge, information and members and um , puts it through all modalities , digital, if you will. So it was just for projects. I could go on all day, but I know we only have a limited amount.Speaker 1:
Hmm . And, and it pops into my, into my mind the question. So BVL digital and all the knowledge associated with it. So that's strictly for the members or can somebody that is not a member also get access to those? I'm sure that some of the listeners would have that question.Speaker 2:
Well, most of our , um, really high end material obviously is paid for and produced by our member companies and individual members and therefore they have access to it. However, we have a program for students , um, in particular university or even high school students where they can get access to it. Um, I would say just visit our website and , um, you know, contact us through there.Speaker 1:
[inaudible] super. So I would encourage everybody listening to, to have a look there in terms of the industry and where it is today. And then there's a, there's an let . Let's, let's also look at the current challenges that, that are being , um , thrown at , uh , from a market perspective, from a context perspective of the different members that you have, which I'm sure they cover different angles. What would you say, and it's a big question because again, you , you're , you're global. So then of course there's going to be some local nuances, but what would you say the major challenges that your member organizations are being faced with today?Speaker 2:
Well, look , um, this is a brand new world, right? The world is coming out of it's largest and longest economic expansionary period in modern history. There's just simply fact . We have a whole generation of young leaders, young supply chain professionals around the world who not known a stagnant story for recessionary environment. Um , they've only known group . So one of the big challenges is you now have very talented people, highly educated people taking big decisions with a lot of money , um, on a global basis in Asia, in North America and South America. Obviously here in Europe. Um, huge who never faced a crisis like the one we find ourselves in now and quite unique is this is not like the financial crisis of 2008 and nine in the Western world or , um , some of the stagnation that happened in the 90s isn't , is fairly unique because it is both geo strategic and it is geopolitical and the consequences for business as opposed to , um, business having built over capacity, which happens in certain industry or creating its own problems. So it was very unique and these are huge challenges , um, that are really starting to bite our member organizations and , uh, causing them to have to respond in consequence.Speaker 1:
Mmm . And how then the next followup question is how are you seeing some of the avenues in which your organization, your member organizations are trying to resolve and adapt to this challenges in which , um , uh, obviously we have trade Wars in which we have international , um, international fluctuations. We have manufacturing being moved around, supply chain is being , um, moved around. How, how , what are , what are some of the, if you see any trends in terms of what is happening , um, in , in your , uh , member organizations? Well, I rememberSpeaker 2:
organizations are very large in scale by definition and then others are at the, let's say, small, medium end of the spectrum. So, so there is, there is that, so let me, let me sort of take the issues you mentioned and say, yes, they are absolutely true for our larger member organizations. Um, they're not true for the smaller ones. The smaller ones let's say are more regional or in country and in many cases, whatever country it may be. So first and foremost, you mentioned trade Wars and tariffs. So let me just say this, right. Um, all of us have to work, live, understand, and be successful within the international legal and regulatory environment. And then all of us have to work and be successful in large organization in many countries and all of those legal and regulatory frameworks. So obviously when geo strategic strategic issues or geopolitical issues of which right now tariffs appears to be one of those issues impact our member organizations, it is , um, from our perspective, the BDO a very unfortunate situation , uh, which we hope comes to a close very quickly. Now you ask the question, how are we going about it? Listen , um, you know, I love my job and I love my job at Stanley black and Becker and I, my role in the BBL , uh , with our board of directors. And that's because I work with some of the smartest, most diligent and capable people in the world. Either people who go to work every day and look through their way, look through complexity. They're looking at factories in some cases, and most of the world's countries, all in one company. We have other members at the other end of the spectrum that spend their careers in a particular university, in a particular country, in a particular legal framework, and they're researching and exchanging and doing network through the BDL with universities and professors all over the world who are trying to make sense of all this from an academic or thought leadership perspective. And um, we have all of the above. So our members are coming at it from a leadership develop development perspective from a knowledge and capability building perspective and then just good old fashioned commercial operators. And that's how our members, the years have fared . I would say better when compared to their peer companies who are not members because they have access to all of that intellectual capital that we provide them.Speaker 1:
Hmm . Got it . Um, in terms of, in terms of , um , uh , um , again , a big topic and mostly the questions that I'm going to be asking you today are on pick topics. So , um, uh , it's effect . Um, there's, there's also a big difference between Europe and Asia in terms of a very basic fundamental for logistics and supply chain, which is infrastructure in Europe is more of a situation where there's a need for upgrade or manual infrastructure. Um, in, you know, I mean Southeast Asia in , I mean let's say Myanmar, they are trying to, to get off the ground. A lot of Greenfield projects in another places of Southeast Asia is the same. How do you see that role of infrastructure, how and how the developed versus developing nations should approach it because it's almost a quite a difference .Speaker 2:
Well, so obviously I can't speak for any of them, but let me just give you my perspective. If I were , um , accountable for infrastructure in one of these markets and all of them are different, right? So setting aside the volatility of weather patterns, which is accelerating in many parts of the world. If I were in a, let's say, less developed country when speaking about infrastructure, I would look to leapfrog the developed world. I give you an example. Um, many people talk about infrastructure and they want to talk with me about roads and bridges and airports and ports for ships to dock and all of that important. But the future is going to be by those companies who get that part right. And additionally, leapfrog other economies with the digital infrastructure. So, you know, you use the example, for example, an EMR. Um, well let's just travel a little further East and look at Vietnam or in , everyone wants to talk about China. Um, as five G is rolled out entirely new business models and capabilities in supply chain become available. Uh , you know, some of that will even reduce the amount of physical infrastructure that you need. I give you the example of moving goods using drones for intro logistics. Pilots are going on all over the world. There are two of our member companies that have them in production operation today. Now, if we come back to the develop the economy, look today I happen to be sitting in Berlin , um, you know, it's the capital city of Germany. Our biggest airports , um, is our biggest failed project, right? We have problems with overcrowded cities, we have problems over crowded , uh, highways and freeways. And we certainly haven't maybe looked after our bridges as well as we , we could have given that there are heavy industries here. It's not just the automotive industry. The chemical industry is one of the biggest industries and some of our biggest number of companies , um, have the BBL here in Germany. But let's go even further. A field, right? Ports are overwhelmed all over the world. You're having poor to expanding in an unprecedented rate. Um, given that you're coming from Asia, let's just talk about , um, the belt and road initiative, right? So develop and road initiative, one of the great, let's just say inhibitors to the success of that project is all of the countries along, at least the belt getting together and opening up or at least coordinating their regulatory systems to make way for infrastructure at speed. So these are difference . We're just, that's the very three short version where we just scratch the surface across a whole range of issues. And obviously in the United States , um , where I happen to live in work right now, I can tell you , um , ports are increasingly critical issue. Obviously everyone knows Canada, the U S Mexico lies between the ocean and you need ports. Those ports are incredibly overwhelmed right now. So every country, every continent has its unique issues. Um, I think we all know, for example , um, if the Panama canal shut much of the world , uh , let's say Intercontinental traffic would be shut. Let's talk about the Malacca straits right where you live. Um , if we had a problem there, if we weren't able to ship through there , um, what is it? Two thirds of the world shipping Intercontinental goes through there. So infrastructure isn't a luxury for power for politicians, nor for business people. There's this Mormon and businessmen rely on stable political structures to take planning decisions that can range from one year up to 10 or 15 years for investment. And that's why infrastructure becomes a major issue or focus for the BBL. And not just here in Germany or Europe. Um , but around the world.Speaker 1:
Hmm . I want to add my 2 cents on it. Cause I also originally I'm from, I'm from Europe and having lived many years now in, in Asia, what I'm observing as , um , um, um, as a difference, also a difference of pace I guess. So in , um, what Singapore is, is another very good , uh , example of doing it. Right. So I think they've , uh, again, it's obviously the size of Singapore is not the size of most countries. They ended up , they do have the benefit of obviously , uh , having this smaller, a smaller , um, and , and controlled in many ways Island. But they've done a tremendous job also in connecting every, every part of the ecosystem. And with the five G rollout, I think they're gonna do a tremendous , uh, tremendous job. Um, however, also across across Asia, what I've observed, the projects have been massive. Now Indonesia for example, they talking about potentially moving their capitals , which is the preachers and other incredible projects to undertake. Um , in China, they've , they've done a number of infrastructure projects and most of them actually, they've been very well-planned. You've met , you mentioned Vietnam, you mentioned Yanmar. And I think there's a big advantage and you mentioned the term leapfrogging India as well as doing a lot at the moment, leapfrogging in a sense that it's easier to build when you don't have anything ironically or fundamentally then then maybe you were a in Europe or us or developed markets, it's much harder to to do it. Having the context and the limitations of, you know, seeking approvals, getting everybody aligned. Then again you're talking about five, 10 year maybe sometimes projects that, that that do require a consistent government, which is not always the case. So it's quite , um, it's quite a different set of challenges that the , that the , again, in some ways maybe has benefited Asia and has also fueled the growth of Asia because they've been able to maybe pull it off a little bit faster. I don't know if you, if you've observed the same, same orientation .Speaker 2:
Yeah , I , I agree with much of what you've said. I'll just say this, we need to keep in mind the basics sometimes. Um, when I talked to , um, politicians who are perhaps haven't had as much experience as others , um, we all look to our peers in other country and we forget their common sense context. So you just mentioned , um , quite a few very pertinent facts to the European context, right? Um, very old society, a huge number of people, at least in central Europe pack into , um , very small spaces. And so if you're planning a new train line when new airport, you're impacting most likely community that have been there for hundreds of years. Um, so we need to remember that. And you know, you mentioned India , um, having been to India, I can't remember the part of my career when I wasn't in India or in China. Um, we all need to remember that. It's not like, you know, Canada, Russia, United States of America or even Brazil, where those are huge countries with huge open spaces. Um, understanding China as land mass . It's bigger than the United States land mass, but you're talking 330 million people versus four at 1.2 billion. And in China, excuse me, in India with even in smaller landmass , you're talking about what all 1.3 billion people. Um, so, you know, we always need to think as supply chain or , or decision planners , um, the , at any part of, of the BBLs network, Viet our political wing, be it our academical wing or our practitioners. Um, we need to always keep the human being in the middle of everything. And if we design our digital and physical infrastructure around the needs of the human being will be welcomed , um, and, and loved in those community. If we don't, then we supply chain as and logisticians or planners. If you're in a political world , um, for an academia we will just have as an industry or as a , um , expertise as supply chain logisticians we'll have a horrible reputation and that's what then causes communities to protest or react. And , and that doesn't, that doesn't move us forward. Right? So this is why, you know, if there's young aspiring supply chain optimizers out there or logistics planners or at least that want to go into for profit or non for profit company , um, those educational years are critical. Very, very, very important. And it doesn't need to be a university degree. Um, which what you need to have some certifications to know how to do some of this stuff cause you're impacting the lives you're impacting the environment. Right? You can plan. I mean, so no , in fact you take 60 of these Intercontinental huge ships and you have more CO2 pollution being produced and with all of the automobiles and trucks on planet earth combined. Just think about that statement. So you know, in our world and its supply chain network , um, DVL you have a number of environmentally , uh , consciously focused research going on as well.Speaker 1:
It's shifting a little bit. Then I have a quote from yourself actually where you were saying , uh , in , in a publication in the past that logistics is sustainable with when it's efficient. And there is certainly a lot of potential for logistics managers to reduce the volume of transport by taking strategic decisions or making changes to day to day operation. And you mentioned that the mantra is collaboration and that is the key to success. Um, and maybe in that spirit, the a , if you can, if you can share with us Robert, some examples of case studies where you've seen this work well in the logistics world, in your member's world where they came together, they collaborate and with great results that you bet the efficiency, productivity also it can be sustainability. It depends on , on what KPI they measured it on. But it would be great to share some examples. So let's, let's start with um, one of my favorites ,Speaker 2:
right? Um, I teach , um , university students and I also did a lot of research around supplying networks , supply networks for ECOS systems. Um, when collaboration works at its best and when people look over their own corporate or country borders or just takes , works well, is sustainable for the environment and can keep the human being in the middle point , um, not only in servicing that person. And the ever demanding world of four hour windows of delivery or air transport. Um, all of those things where you need to balance in a complex world competing demand. Um, supply chain, ERs and logisticians are at the forefront. And you know , I didn't know him , uh , that was my quote, but thank you for finding it. Uh, you're a, you're a very talented person. I'll just say this. Logistics is in fact sustainable when it's efficient and efficiency isn't attained at the highest level by linking up what many people refer to our supply chains, which is grossly outdated. We need to be thinking in supply networks. I've been saying this , uh, uh, for over two decades. And supply networks are nothing more than ecosystems , um, which are coordinated cross corporate boundaries, cross country boundaries. In fact, supply networks are even competitive ecosystem, which um, when collaborated or when you collaborate within them and you coordinate them, you can say real energy. You can save real resources from planet earth and you can also return more , um, to your shareholders, your employees , to your customers. And in fact, the community you live in. And this is a lot of the research that I have personally done. It is a lot of the research that BVL does and our practitioners , um, for example, Stanley black and Becker or other company , we implement this research for the benefit of society , um, genuinely for a better world. Um, as Stanley black and Decker, we're from makers of the world, right? That's our purpose. Um, and I think that applies very much to logistics and the collaborative nature with which we workSpeaker 1:
could not, could not agree more. And , um, and especially I like the fact that you also brought up in certain situations. I mean , a lot of situations, and we even have a term for it now, which is friend and is Ryan . So friends in certain contexts, enemies in other contexts. And , uh, we do seek collaboration even, even in between the competitors, depending on the market and in , in depending also on the interests of , of each other, of each other's . Um, I was speaking with one of our clients , um, on the medical device side. And they were, they were sharing that , um , they came together, two or three manufacturers of medical devices and they were starting to use a very simple that ultimately it was starting to use containers together because in a lot of , uh, routes and a lot of trades, they didn't use the full load. And then if they were able to synchronize and to maximize, then they would basically , uh , be much more effective in the way they utilize their capacity. So that was one on example, but I also wanted to probe slightly further with you and see if, if any sort of a flagship type of a case study or, or , um, um, I don't know , initiative that you personally may be, were involved in can be also in IBM or in, in , uh , in BSF or they are now in place , uh, in, in your parent company, in , in Stanley , black and Decker, or something that, that we can also share it as a very good case study to maybe plant the seed , uh , into what can be done in the minds of, of all listeners . So I think it's importantSpeaker 2:
to talk about the team you play for and not the teams that you don't. So let me give you an example. At Stanley black and Decker, we are leaders in corporate social responsibility. This is clear. And , um, within the context of corporate social responsibility, one of the most important responsibilities the company has and can act upon is how it consumes its resource . So we work across corporate borders , um , with the goal of eliminating plastic in out supply chain. By 2030. Our CEO, Jim Murray made. It's very, very clear. Um, the it Jeff Dyer who leads our corporate social responsibility and enforce our CEO or be it in my role looking after , um , all of our suppliers and our, our supply chain. I think what you find is we work with our suppliers, our suppliers, suppliers, and then our customers and try to influence consumer behavior such that we can have a world of sustainable packaging. Um, I don't wanna go too deep into that example because today I'm here to represent the BVL on our supply chain network and not , um, Stanley black and Becker and in the classical sense. Um, but you asked for a case and that's a very real case and I think we run out of time if I, if I went deep into all the things that we're doing to make that case work in our ecosystem or if you will, our supply network.Speaker 1:
Hmm . Yeah, for sure. But again, I mean, sustainability is probably on the agenda of, or should be for sure and they should be on, on each individual's agenda, but also on the corporate, the aside, it's , it's higher. And higher, which is great to see because it's , it's high time. We do something and we take it very, very seriously. Shifting gears again, I wanted to, and again quoting you or I have this course from my team, so a , I think they've , they definitely found, found them. So you must have said it at some point. Um, or if you didn't say it's on Google, sorry. There you go to the quote that goes something to the extent that you recently visited the late large freight forwarder who work was blending their routes on a big chart on the wall using pens. Um, and they shared that they, in their minds, this was the most efficient method because all the employees look at the giant chart and basically do it via that. But , uh , of course looking into the future that kind of an not even the future of the prison have kind of a system is, is bound to fail. It's not going to work. And a lot of things, most things aren't going to be automatically matched using artificial intelligence , um, and algorithms. But this example is very good in a sense of there are significant , um, challenges to companies going digital to companies applying these algorithms to companies. Even getting the information in the first place in this digital format. What do you see? What have you seen as, as biggest , uh , impediments if you, if you may, in terms of these and especially freight forwarding companies in terms of them actually embracing digitalization going full on. Um, and maybe we can discuss a little bit further on that.Speaker 2:
Sure . A question I'd like if it's okay with you to deal with it in two ways. The first part is , um, challenges for any company also freight forwards and truly implementing digital technology , um , to advance their own cause and to support their stakeholders . All , all of the above, the it shareholders, customers, unity employees , whatever it may be. And then the second part of that of course is, are there situations in which you don't need certain technologies? So let's go back to the, again, you and your team are quite diligent that that is a quote for me actually. And I had actually visited a freight forwarder that remain a name and it was really interesting. They, they had , uh , an intern who, which is interesting in and of itself, the generation are that the intern came from, this is a few years ago, but at the time I think the, the young woman was in her , uh , very, very early twenties and she had covered a whole wall because she had learned at uni the whole wall with paper , um, laminated paper and when using a marker and basically little chit sheets to fill in. And it was interesting. I asked her , um, you know, just hear from one of the world's best universities, you're obviously a powerful young leader. Um, you happen to have a very important role here. Why are you using pen and paper? Um, and I don't know exactly when, but I believe that happened in 2015 or even 2016 in any case , um, you know, she made the case that, look, my team is not distributed across the cities , countries, continents . My entire team sits right here on this floor, in this corner of this room. And I said, okay, how are you using for that ? She said, look, this is very simple. We can visualize with no technology, exactly what the process steps are for our employees and who's done what, which , um, which parts of our logistics operations are and which process steps , um, or customer calls, which particular containers where, and we don't need to switch on the first one tutor. We don't need to call anyone. We looked up the board and Marriott and I said, okay, that's pretty rare circumstance. And then , um, one of the people who ran the company who was hosting came in and said, yes it is, and I imagine this boy won't be there in three or four years. The fact is that board is still there. I happen to know, this example happens to be a very good company by the way. However, the teens are getting more distributed, they're getting more global in nature. What is global? Global is nothing more than people sitting in multiple countries on different continents. That's my experience with global. You ever thought about global and they forget that everything is local. It's just a matter of how big is the supply network, how big is the ecosystem and how distributed are the people accountable for it. And what has changed in that example is , um, they have recreated that very board that this young, powerful woman using her training and intellectual capability, it created on paper. They created that in a digital app. And as the business has grown and taken in new companies , a new customer company , um, they've distributed that through an app, but that room still exists . It's an interesting example that, that you found. Now coming back to the far more challenging part, having been a person who has actually implemented all sorts of digital technologies from predictive maintenance to machine learning , um, through the beginnings of artificial intelligence in robotics, in real manufacturing and distribution center operations . I can tell you there's nothing easy about it. And the biggest mistake , um, actually there isn't the biggest mistake. There is a, a popery or a handful of , um, the States that sort of compound one another. The first is not investing enough training and the people before they have to use the technologies on the technologies that are going to be implemented. That's the first one. The second one is taking a technology that's not ready for all this. Say , um, you know, Americans we say ready for prime time or ready to be put into productive use and out of alpha or beta testing. Um, when you do that, you lose the confidence of the operators. It was the confidence of your customers and you'll lose the confidence of the team. Actually that's most critical. And then I'll just give you one and I'll stop one more. Um, another major inhibitor , um, is people forget even if you've educated your workforce, even if you've implemented all the technologies in the right way, you constantly have to be looking to upgrade. I give you an example. A year or so ago, I visited one of our member companies who had done a fantastic job implementing all facets of lean it that, wow, I have to tell you, the manufacturing and the distribution center, which were in one building work fantastic. However, they have been asked to implement the first , um, robots for picking and packing alongside in the beans. And what they forgot to tell the human beings was they were working in a growth environment and these robots aren't there to replace them. Rather they were there to make their job easier. Well , what do you think happened? We call that in professional business change management opportunity. This particular organization had forgotten the change management part of that. And as you can imagine, the whole lean concept, the team just lost confidence in what was going on and the whole concept. So both the expertise of leading fell apart , um, because the robots and the humans weren't, I'll just call them cobots. They weren't collaborating well. So collaborating isn't just something big across companies and across eco systems or supply networks. Collaboration can be right there in a distribution center or a factory where , um, women, men and machines need to get along and work together. And those are just, just a few of the issues I ran across. And every step that you go more into , um , automating your factories and your distribution operations. Um, implementing machine learning, all this stuff relies on data, all of it. And if you haven't got a, everybody is bored with data, things like master data, maintenance, governance, master data. What you find is it all falls apart because all of those systems, at some level, the big words in the world now like visualization, AI, artificial intelligence and so further and so on. However, all of it comes back to data and the analytics that you can perform on that data, which hopefully most companies like our , my company's Stanley black and Decker has a data Lake, right? It's with governance around that and everything goes to that source of internal and external data. So a bit of a long explanation, but if your listeners are really interested in a topic that's sort of a brief intro into how, how it really works, what the BVL does, right? We educate our members on exactly this stuff.Speaker 1:
Very, very good commercial, but at the same, at the same time, it's very true. I mean , uh, I, I, I, I , um, I appreciate the frankness and the openness. I mean, it's challenges that , uh, that most companies face to be fair. And, and even in today's world, where will people like to throw around that there in AI and machine learning in the , in actual effect still, I don't know the percentage. I know you keep hearing different percentages, but still a big chunk of companies still are on Excel and they don't really have data lakes and, and, and accurate data to , to perform any sort of algorithms on or enough , uh, enough data to, to do that. So there's still a big challenge and your example with making sure that the human element and the human explanation and making sure that the people are on board is fundamentally, again, one big, big missing piece where a lot of this initiatives may sound good on paper, may make perfect sense. The ROI is incredible, but , uh , like you rightfully mentioned, the leadership forgets to get people on board change and explain that it's in their interest not to replace them with people or , or whatever else. Um, they can, they can imagine and then it all falls apart. So in this context [inaudible] and kind of , um, moving to the last part of our discussion, which is about people and it is about telling , I'd like to add, to start by asking you, what do you see as the, some of the key attributes of the supply chain leaders of the future? What , what do they need to pay attention to? Is it change management? Is it continuous innovation? Is it, eh , you know, the soft skill side? Is it the hard skill side? Is it they need to be coders , they need to be programmers. What in your mind makes a very good chief supply chain officer? Um ,Speaker 2:
for a chief supply chain officer, you must be a lifelong learner. You must be collaborative. You must be a leader that people want to follow. And it really genuinely is true. Every generation who comes new into the workforce thinks differently, behaving differently and need to be led differently. I give you an example. In my particular case, I work very differently with baby boomers or gen X or Z than I do gen wires. And millennial and we are having our personal learning goals come into leadership. The next thing I'll say about the chief supply chain officer role is he really and genuinely must be able to recognize patterns from many different data points. You are in fact one of a team, but in fact you are one of the thought leaders of the team. And so if you're not lifelong learning, if you're not curious by nature , um, complexity is tough to manage. Uh , the world's changing all the time around you. I mean, I, I start my day every day with sort of a virtual tour around the world events that are happening. Um, and I've been doing that for years and I still, every year it seems like I know less and less. Right? Um, let me come back to the [inaudible] broader group. Right? Um, you know, at Stanley black and Decker life , the BBL , we have a very inclusive culture and I think that's one of the reasons I fit well in both places too . The cultures are curious cultures. There are cultures where ideas when not titles or hierarchy . And I think for in particular for supply chain in yours , for logistic leaders, yes, at some point someone has to take a decision and you have to move with speed and consequence . But in many cases you can't lean back as a leader at any level anymore. And think of yourself as the boss or genuinely do not believe that. So if I were speaking right now to leaders at all levels of an industrial company, a retail company , um, a logistics services provider that the companies that are members of [inaudible] the L , I'll just constrain myself that because that's my role today. My experience has informed me that in particular with our youngest two generations, generation Y and millennials, you must pull them in and you must allow them to make their mistakes and taking their decision and he must let the best ideas win. And that is what I would say to leaders of all levels of the organization that's not directed at anyone level of leaders. Um, I've seen, I've seen leadership styles of all sorts work and we all know that we carry around a virtual leadership box with us and we go into different situations. You lead differently in a crisis and you do when all the waters are just very serene and flat and there's not even a, a whisper of a wind blowing when you're in, you're out sailing. Right? Um, but right now you and I are talking in October of 2019 and in October of 2019, the oceans that see the Lake are all choppy to stick with the sailors , uh , analogy. Um, you know, you need leaders who can coax out the best ideas and let people spread their wings and , and execute. And, and as a leader, your job is to facilitate that and to be inclusive of all cultures. Um, I've lived in many places in this world. I've sled business and there's many different cultures of this world. And if I've learned anything, it is , uh , the more inclusive and accepting we are of thought. Um, the better the solution comes out in particular in more complex , uh , complicated environment. And most every supply chain or a logistician who's listening to me today, whether you're managing or leading manufacturing or distribution or logistics service provider or fast moving consumer good and an eCommerce company like Ali Baba or JD con or Amazon , um, you know, the world's getting ever faster and not one of us has the particular right answer . It's always going to come out of their team as success always has and success always will in particular in the pricing .Speaker 1:
Well said. The final question from me, Robert , um, in terms of the younger, younger in you mentioned generation one generation , uh, well the millennial generation listening to us, what would be some pieces of advice or the best piece of advice that you've received throughout your long career that helped you the most and you'd like to share with them?Speaker 2:
Be a good t eam m ate and always give back more than you r eceive. It sounds really easy. It's not, just imagine as a new young person coming out of university and starting young families a nd n eed your job. You need to support your family. And it was five people at work and only one of them are g oing t o get promoted to be t he team leader or whatever your situation is. U m, my belief is the more you give back, and actually it was a mentor of mine early in my career, he told me, Robert, never ever think about the next step or a promotion. Just do the very best you can in the role that you have. Be a good teammate and give back everything you c an to those teammates around you and life will carry you. That's been true for me and that's what I told for my children. S oSpeaker 1:
thank you. Great. The great , um, great sharing. And, and funnily enough, we had , um, maybe I should connect you if you don't know him. I'm bill who is the global head of operations for Uber freight and he pretty much said the same thing. So that makes two of you and then must be definitely a true . So maybe I should connect you to, do you know, bill by any chanceSpeaker 2:
they're not, then I can learn from everyone. And particularly that's a radically different industry. I mean, I don't want manufacturing guys manufacturer. Right. SoSpeaker 1:
yeah, it's funny that that the, the, the, the principles seem to be the center of the success principles into the same , um , Robert many things for the sharing good examples and all the [inaudible] case studies . You shared that . I would again encourage everybody listening to check out if you'll go to the website and, and hopefully one day I'm more people listening also can join the Congress, which is happening in the next couple of days, which is probably the biggest gathering of, of logistics and supply chain professionals in , uh , in , uh, in Europe. And um, yeah, thanks again for your time and it was a pleasure speaking with you today.Speaker 2:
Well you have a lovely day and thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.Speaker 3:
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