Millennials often get a bad rap. Their work ethic is questioned. Their reliance on technology disparaged. And their sense of entitlement mocked. They are even blamed for the "death" of everything from shopping malls and cereal to golf and home ownership.
But spend some time with just a few of today's leading young supply chain professionals, and you will see how empty those fears and stereotypes are. For the past several years, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) Young Professionals Committee has recognized two or three supply chain professionals under the age of 35 who are already making a mark on the profession. This year's Emerging Leader Award winners are: Kimberly Caron of Peerless Plastics, Bo Liao of Western Digital Corporation, and Chris Ricciardi of Logistical Labs. The three were chosen because of their personal career accomplishments and their record of achievement in the supply chain profession, as evidenced by awards, peer recognition, and recommendations.
The award winners were honored at CSCMP's 2018 Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Here theyreflect on their careers so far as well as their future aspirations.
KIMBERLY H. CARON
Kimberly Caron is a supply chain manager at Peerless Plastics, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of products for the early education industry. There, she manages the entire supply chain including vendor contracts, packaging, cost analysis, e-commerce, and logistics processes. She is also responsible for transportation and process management, compliance, and preventative maintenance. Caron is also a member of the board of directors for CSCMP's Twin Cities Roundtable in Minnesota. She graduated with a bachelor's in business management from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
What attracted you to supply chain management as a profession?
My first job out of college was as an executive team leader in logistics for a large retailer. When I received my assignment to manage the entire logistics process for a retail store, I—embarrassingly enough—had to "google" what logistics even meant! I vividly remember our district team leader stating in my first few weeks of training, "Your job is so important. Why? Because you get toilet paper to people, and how would you feel if you didn't have access to toilet paper?" As silly as that statement was, it was eye-opening to me on how impactful my job in the supply chain is.
Are there any projects that you have worked on that you have found to be particularly interesting?
I have become passionate about helping other professionals in the industry. I have been so fortunate to have a group of informal and formal mentors who have guided me and given me perspective on the complexities of this industry. To have other people feel the same as I do, I have been very excited to plan my first ever "Empowering Women in Supply Chain" event for the CSCMP Twin Cities Roundtable. My goal is to ultimately provide a stronger and more confident community surrounding women in supply chain. My hope is that individuals leave the event with a more solid foundation of support and resources and knowing a larger network of supply chain professionals. This is an exciting project I have been working on for the last six months. I hope it's the start of an event that will bring advocates for women in the supply chain together every year!
If you were to speak to a class of supply chain management students, what advice would you give them?
First, think like an entrepreneur. Companies tend to focus on growth through increasing their sales. However, by reducing your supply chain costs, you can double net profits. By focusing on your bottom line, you can increase your profits without having to increase sales. Also, learn as many facets as you can about the supply chain, such as purchasing, transportation, and manufacturing.Finally,never let yourself get too complacent. Challenge yourself! If you aren't feeling challenged enough, ask what you can do for someone else versus what they can do for you. At some point, you might need their help, and they will be more willing to do so when you have helped them out too!
Bo Liao is a manager of the Analytics Center of Excellence (ACOE) in the Silicon Operations organization at Western Digital Corporation. Liao leads a team of four data scientists and one data engineer responsible for developing advanced mathematical models and algorithms for supply chain optimization. The models developed by the ACOE have saved several millions of dollars per year for the Western Digital supply chain. Liao has a doctorate in operations management from the University of California (UC), Berkeley.
What role do you foresee analytics having in the future of supply chain management?
In the future, I foresee analytics being the primary driver for supply chain decisions, especially with the further development and application of cognitive analytics. To explain, supply chain analytics may be categorized as descriptive, predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive analytics based on the complexity of the analytics and the business value they may provide. Descriptive analytics answers the question, "What happened?" Predictive analytics answers, "What will happen?" And prescriptive analytics answers, "What should we do about it?" Cognitive analytics is the type of analytics that learns from historical data and human decisions, with the objective of training the computer to mimic and replace human decisions and naturally interact with people. Machine learning and artificial intelligence fall into this category of analytics. I foresee the future area of development as focused on cognitive analytics, and it will provide vast benefits to the business by reducing human touch points while keeping the decisions rational by learning from human experiences.
Are there any projects or initiatives that you have worked on that you have found to be particularly interesting?
I worked on a site qualification project that was particularly interesting. In this project, we developed an optimization-based methodology that Western Digital implemented to support its site-qualification decisions; that is, which sites(s) are qualified to produce each of its products. Qualifying a product at a site commonly takes several months and hundreds of hours of engineering effort. These decisions are especially challenging becauseWestern Digital Silicon Operations offers thousands of products, and demand for the products, if you look more than a month or two into the future, is very uncertain. Therefore, because shortages result in lost sales, the company must consider both expected demand and demand uncertainty. Western Digital deployed the model we developed starting in the first quarter of 2015 and established a quarterly process for making site-qualification decisions. The decision-support tool facilitated a more streamlined decision process and has already provided substantial savings to the company.
If you were to speak to a class of supply chain management students, what advice would you give them?
I would advise the students to understand how each formula is derived when learning supply chain theories in class, rather than just memorizing the formula for exams. From my experienceteaching discussion sections for supply chain management classes at UC Berkeley, a lot of the students would memorize the formulas well for exams, but they wouldn't necessarily understand where the formulas come from.I believe thatunderstanding how the formula is derived and what assumptions were made for the derivation will help the students gain critical analytical and model-development capabilities. Therefore, for those students who are interested in developing supply chain analytics skills, I would advise that them to go one extra step beyond learning the formula itself.
Chris Ricciardi is the chief operating officer for Logistical Labs, a software-as-a-service company that was recently purchased by Capstone Logistics, an outsourced warehouse solutions provider. He co-founded the company in 2013 at age 26. Logistical Labs' main product, LoadDex, simplifies transportation pricing and carrier selection, by allowing users to compare thousands of rates from all types of providers at once. Ricciardi is also on the advisory board for the master's in supply chain management program at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University, where he himself earned his MBA.
What is the origin story behind Logistical Labs?
You know, honestly, I used to be the guy on the phone [doing pricing and contract negotiation], so I know the pain of that, and I wanted to build a solution that would address that pain. A lot of what our software does is consolidate a broker's or sales rep's day-to-day activities. Instead of going to 15 different places to get information and trying to memorize it as you also respond to the emails and make phone calls, [our solution] does it all for you in one fell swoop. I really just wanted to solve my own problem, and I ended up solving it for others as well.
What are you doing as a company to attract good young talent?
That's a good question. Our team is really young. I think everyone is under 34, and we have had the same team for the most part since day one. It is really just giving everyone autonomy and believing they can do [their job]. No one is being micromanaged. It is very collaborative. We believe it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them for the next time. I think as long as you are giving people the opportunity to take on new challenges that they haven't had before, you are going to attract good talent. This isn't the kind of place where the culture is "You are going to press this one button all day, every day" and "Don't press that button; it's not your button." Instead we encourage people to press as many buttons as they can and see what happens.
What do you think the next big trends in technology are?
I still think APIs (application programming interfaces) have a good runway and are not going to go away any time soon. Electronic logging devices are also obviously on top of everyone's mind, so there is a big race to have those geolocating solutions and be the "best of breed" at tracking where the truck is. But I really want to focus on solutions for the total supply chain. I don't want to lookat just the part of the supply chain in between the warehouses. Instead, I want to focus on how we canimprove the total transportation process from loading the trucks to leaving the gates to going to the next warehouse to being in the gates and unloading. I see that as a big future.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs who might be interested in entering the supply chain and logistics space? Is this a good time to enter the industry?
Yes, I think it is great time. There is a lot of money coming in right now to facilitate new growth and try new ideas. If you are the kind of person that is capable of making mistakes and learning from them, I think it is amazing time to be an entrepreneur. Logistics is a great industry for learning on the job, and you can try new stuff every day. You just have got to keep hustling.