In this interview series, we’re introducing some of our senior staff in a little more detail. What makes them tick? What ticks them off? But also: Why do they love supply chain management so much?
Today we’re talking to Steven Thacker. He joined Logistics Bureau Group back in 2009 and commenced by running the benchmarking business known as Benchmarking Success.
1. Steven, you were a customer of Benchmarking Success with three different companies, most recently as Supply Chain Director with Ingram Micro, the world’s largest IT distributor. Why did you choose to cross over to consultancy?
At each of these three companies, I had inherited a broken supply chain. My brief was to fix the issues, but I am committed to doing more. I wanted to take them from broken to best-in-class performance. My first step was to engage Benchmarking Success (BMS) to understand what the “best” for each business really meant from an independent source. We set our performance targets according to the best-in-class metrics and I ended up helping these three companies successively achieve demonstrable best-in-class supply chain performance.
I was so impressed by the BMS product that I went to Rob O’Byrne (Founder & Owner Logistics Bureau Group), and offered to develop the existing product, grow the product range, and expand the geographical coverage. The rest is history. I’ve been enjoying the dynamics of the consultancy world ever since.
2. Explain benchmarking to me as if I were a five-year-old…
In essence, benchmarking is an audit plus. The process goes something like this. Companies come to us to learn how their performance rates in the market. They know of course how they did against last year and they’ll probably have some customer satisfaction metrics, but that’s not the full picture. We benchmark them against similar supply chains. To do that we ask them to answer a comprehensive list of questions about their supply chain and how they perceive their own performance from our online diagnostic. We review their input and then match them against similar “apples”, i.e. companies that meet the matching criteria.
The report we then present clearly shows the gap between the status quo and best-in-class. We also provide a size of the prize calculation, meaning how much they could save, along with a roadmap, which is sequenced and prioritized and sets out the journey to best-in-class. We usually get one of two responses from our presentation. Either something like “Thank you, we will execute the plan” or, nine times out of ten, companies ask us for assistance to help them realise the identified savings.
Steven keeps himself equally busy on and off the job, for instance by giving lectures on time management.
3. You’ve been involved in the supply chain industry for nearly thirty years. During that time you’ve worked in Australia, Asia and occasionally Europe. How do the continents compare in terms of benchmarking maturity?
In 1995 I dived head first into the supply chain space in Asia when I was asked to start up a 3PL business in Thailand for TNT from scratch. Within two years we had a growing business with 250 staff and major contracts with KFC, IBM, Nestle, Ford and others. The Thailand business grew along with expansion into China, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. It was an amazing experience, albeit with a massive learning curve. In addition to typical supply chain challenges, there were the obvious cultural considerations as well.
One thing I learned, as a generality, is that supply chains in Asia are still a long way behind Australian and European countries. You don’t go there with rocket science, but with supply chain 101, nothing particularly fancy.
4. Speaking of challenges, what is the one business-related project in 2017 that you are most proud of?
One of our biggest clients, an FMCG company, came to us with a dream assignment: “Please take out as much cost as you can out of our warehousing and distribution network and there are no sacred cows”. After modelling and analysis, we assessed that costs could be cut by 62 percent, and with no capital investment. That’s approaching $100M nationally with no negative impact on customer service. The revised supply chain package consisted of half a dozen changes that all contributed to the savings. To be given this freedom, flexibility and brief from the CEO by a multibillion-dollar company, and to deliver such significant savings; there’s nothing sweeter for a consultant.
5. A little bird told me you keep yourself equally busy on and off the job. What do you do when you’re not out helping companies achieve best-in-class supply chains?
It’s true I do a lot of stuff outside of work. For one, I lecture on time management. I’m a firm believer in not getting caught up in things that don’t matter. My latest personal physical challenge is re-competing in the Spartan events that are run twice a year in NSW. Out in the bush, running, crawling through mud, rope climbing, running through fire; it’s riveting.
Another passion of mine is competing in 20km cycling time trials. What I like best is that my result is not contingent on anyone else; it’s just me and the clock. I know before a race whether I’m competitive or not. All of I have to do is benchmark what the best time is for my age group, compare that to my time in my training sessions and I know whether I’m on the money or whether I should train more.
You can get in touch with Steven directly by calling him at +61 408 120 758 or shooting him an email.