“Since the emergence and explosion of ecommerce in recent years, the simple way to say it is that the Logistics and Supply Chain profession has become kind of cool.” – Scott MacKinnon P.Log.
Here’s our interview with Logistics Executive Scott MacKinnon. Scott is a visionary Logistics leader with a keen understanding of Logistics’ strategic impact on organizations, both established and in the growth-stage. He’s worked as a Logistics leader for some of the country’s top Public Sector and Retail organizations, and has brought his eCommerce expertise to bear in numerous logistics transformations.
Topics we covered during our insightful and engaging conversation included: the immense value that logistics offers businesses, key skills, the important mix between formal education and hands-on experience for logistics professionals looking to make an impact, the importance of the data supply chain, and some of the ecommerce era’s most exciting and significant emerging trends.
What Skills do Individuals Need to Succeed in Logistics at the more Junior and more Senior ends?
“Overall, it’s good to have an understanding of the fundamentals of Operations,” says MacKinnon. “You also need to have an understanding of related Supply Chain fundamentals. For example, say someone who’s new to the field is coming to work at a Fulfillment Centre. It’s important that they recognize their internal suppliers and customers,” says MacKinnon. “That’s an important part because it’s crucial to understand and respect what the promises and commitments are between and across those relationships. An understanding of the internal chain allows you to recognize where you are situated, and how important both your step and contributions are in the process. This allows you to begin to look outward with a better perspective to the external customers, which is the global goal. The paying customer is driving the business, but what’s important for that business to grow effectively is to develop and cultivate a strong internal customer-supplier supply chain relationship in order for the external customer to be properly served.”
“As you get into more senior logistics roles, what’s important is a grasp of Process, Engineering, Transportation, and Finances. Finances, in particular – customer-oriented costing vs. merely product costing in the overall Supply Chain. Someone in logistics looking to move upward should have an appreciation for the marketing and strategic planning of customer acquisition and customer experience. Those two matters help to form the actual go-forward mission.”
“Very good logistics providers anticipate client needs, offer creative solution development, project management and have executed cost-effective and high-performance results with each of these.”
What Value Does Highly Sophisticated Logistics Offer Organizations?
“Logistics operations that are truly sophisticated can facilitate, grow, and develop with the client as the client scales,” says MacKinnon. “Sophisticated Logistics entities have greater flexibility regarding product offerings. They typically have lower cost structure with efficiencies that they can pass through with more competitive pricing. As the client scales, they can identify additional features, improvements, inventory position-optimization, reverse logistics or other value added features for the client.”
“Very good logistics providers will properly assess what the opportunities for the clients are, and they put themselves in the shoes of the client. They offer professional solution development, saying: you’ve identified these needs, but have you thought about this, this, and this? What about the 25-30% that’s going to require additional reboxing? What about the additional 15% that can go through a liquidator? If you use us to make that decision for you, you are reducing ( vendor management ) cycles within your organization. The real experienced and sophisticated providers are going to be feature rich, and they’re going to be able to offer customized end-to-end solutions within their segment.”
Could you speak to the increased role that formal education in Logistics is having within the field?
“What we’re seeing within some educational institutions is the emergence of programs in Logistics and Supply Chain, with examples of formal diplomas and degrees, ” says MacKinnon. “ These are going to become more prominent over the next 5-10 years.”
“From a theoretical and training standpoint, there have been some industry leaders who did not acquire higher levels of formal education, yet cross-functionally immersed themselves across the business, and have in some cases become icons of Supply Chain and Logistics. These are individuals who were insatiably curious and engaging to start with, appreciated the big-picture, and they immersed themselves across the Supply Chain within their ( and other ) companies. Everything from shipping, possibly container ships to port operations, to and between Distribution and Fulfillment Centres, to Bricks-and-Mortar retail operations, and that was one practical way of acquiring the end-to-end fundamental knowledge and experience.”
“Imagine now taking a collection of their notes, experiences, best practices, and formalizing that knowledge with a strong curriculum, and developing an educated talent pool that’s potentially sophisticated to draw from. Then we get to a level of professionalism in the industry where there are senior position entry points potentially available for not only generally well-educated individuals but candidates that have the ability to enter into logistics with a strong, focused, and contextual background that has a readied appreciation for the end-to-end process. Someone who goes into one of these roles with a focused knowledge and skillset will much more rapidly transcend, and will be able to move cross-functionally within the company and get both the experience, and achieve the desired results.”
What big changes have happened in Logistics in the past several years?
“Things have changed significantly since I entered the field,” says MacKinnon. “What I’ve experienced is the evolution – no, more correctly, the revolution of ecommerce that has connected the whole Supply Chain profession within the context of what I’ll refer to as the mobile customer. This is a sophisticated customer with changing needs and many choices. It has introduced a whole new segment of the population and professional field to the idea and concepts of Logistics, Transportation, and Supply Chain. Previous era, and conventional brick and mortar retail previously had their global logistics and shipping at a very different level of visibility in the day-to-day.”
“But eCommerce has opened a very big door to insight about how the Supply Chain works – the ecommerce channel, developing into omni-channel, broaching into distribution at a very large scale. Visibility about these functions combined with emerging markets and free trade have contributed to a seismic shift in exposure of what Supply Chain is all about. Because customer demands with ecommerce, are changing: let’s say I want a product delivered in four hours. What’s involved in making that happen?”
“eCommerce has opened the door for general consumers to appreciate how things move from point to point. They’re receiving order status updates on their mobile devices, and as it’s shipped out, they’re getting another message saying it’s been handed-off from warehouse to last mile carrier right up to delivery confirmation . Having more access to this information and with related professional career opportunities arising, this has introduced a lot of new people to the concepts of Logistics, and Supply Chain. Since the emergence and explosion of ecommerce, in recent years the simple way to say it is that Logistics and Supply Chain have become kind of cool.”
What excites you about working in Logistics?
“I have a passion for all the variables that are involved in how logistics relates and comes together,” says MacKinnon. “Not only planning but real world execution and experience in having the customer served to the promise in the most cost-effective way, not only in time but in dollars and quality. I’m looking at those critical fundamentals: the measure of cost, one example – from order-to-customer time, and in dollars and quality. It excites me to work with what I refer to as the continual ‘Rubik’s Cube’ of variables involved with the end-to-end process.”
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A big thank you to Scott MacKinnon for sharing his time and expertise! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more interviews with senior executives where we offer insights into the talent and skills landscape from all corners of Supply Chain.