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A-List Insights: Nick Najjar (Part 4)

Welcome to A-List Insights!

A-List Insights is an interview series where we talk with industry thought leaders and experts about different topics surrounding logistics and supply chain – gathering their insights and experience firsthand.

Thought Leader: Nick Najjar

Part 4 of 6

In this segment of our Insight Series we feature Nick Najjar, Director of Distribution Planning at Land O’ Lakes, Inc. Nick has been a supply chain professional with the company since 2010, holding several positions across the logistics organization on the network design and analytics, transportation, and warehousing teams. Prior to his current role, Nick led transportation operations and procurement for all three Land O’ Lakes’ business units, and was responsible for enhancing the customer experience and championing innovation and visibility initiatives in the transportation space and last mile logistics.

Nick has been a speaker at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Conference, and has been interviewed and featured across several industry publications including Logistics Management, The Global Cold Chain Alliance’s Cold Facts, and Freightwaves.

Before joining Land O’ Lakes, Nick served 5 years as a US Army officer, completing combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This is the fourth of a six part series interview with Nick. To provide context to the current climate, the entire interview was conducted in early May 2020, in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Look here to find Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

Part 4: Sustainability and the Value of Logistics and Supply Chain Software Technology

Sustainability, we know obviously it’s a key trend in logistics and supply chains, and we heard a lot about it at the 2019 Gartner Conference. What do you think are the main opportunities for shippers and how quickly do you think they are able to develop or adopt best practices? And how will shippers weigh the environmental benefit against the impact to their bottom line?

As it pertains to transportation activity, I actually view the sustainability measure there as hand in hand with what goes to the bottom line…the fewer trucks we ship, the less we’re spending, the less carbon emissions, the less fuel we’re consuming. To me, that’s something that we’ve always been poking at, we just haven’t always done a very good job articulating what the impact is.

We go through exercises every year to two years with each of our networks around how the network is evolving, how demand is shifting, and how it’s going to translate to the physical footprint and shipment activity, and a key part of that story is ‘how are we consolidating better?’, ‘how are we optimizing order size?’, and ‘what does it all translate to?’

It can translate to fewer trucks on the road and we’re really, really good at saying how much we think that’s going to save us and making that be the leading part of the story; we are nowhere near as good at saying ‘here is the sustainability impact to that’. We’re starting to weave that into our modeling outputs and make it a key part of the story of what we’re doing.

I think for us or any other enterprise manufacturer, there’s obviously opportunities around how do you create a more circular network, and the buzz word we’ve started to hear over the last year or two is ‘circular economy’ and how do we make sure we’re not just an in-out optimized waste…how do you reuse…and that goes back to our physical packaging, our energy in our network, and things of that nature. In the past that has largely been something we do on the side, but I think where we and others are upping their game are actually standing up centers of excellence and putting talent to that effort.

I have a counterpart right now and that’s all he does: he champions and implements circular economy efforts for the enterprise, and that could mean work with transportation around the conventional things we’re talking about, to the more leading edge stuff like ‘how do we create a more circular network for packaging?’, ‘how are we more consciously managing energy efficiency in our facilities?’ and things like that.

If there’s not a smart person or smart people looking at that all the time, then it’s not necessarily part of the fabric of what you do, it’s just something you’re doing on the side.

Let’s talk about logistics and supply chain software tech providers. What do you think they should be doing and delivering in order to add further value to large shippers like yourself and others?

Specifically thinking about some of the stuff we’ve implemented over the last couple years, the more normalized and the more broad a platform you have…like when you think about information sharing whether that’s market consortiums you’re using for analytics, or real-time visibility solutions for your shipments…the more market penetration from my perspective that a provider has, the better.

The bigger the data set, the more valuable it is for me whether I’m benchmarking service, cost, both, or I just want to have the real-time visibility solution and ability to track and react to disruption in real time.

From my perspective, the user interfaces are not all that different. As we’ve onboarded new technology and we’ve done our due diligence and gone out and vetted the marketplace, what’s tipped the scale for us is how well does a provider work with our partners.

So if it’s specific to visibility solutions, it’s how well are they going to be able to work with and onboard, and ease of doing business with, our carrier partners combined with what is their market penetration, to how much do they actually have on the platform.

If we actually want to benchmark ourselves against other shippers, from a cost perspective, from a service perspective; or if you want to get into some of the other more leading edge things about capacity sharing, fleet sharing, backhaul consolidation and backhaul pairing, the more you have in the consortium or in the tool or on the platform, the better you’re going to be in delivering solutions and actual results for a shipper.

With regard to adopting new technologies within the breadth of the supply chain function, what are the most important considerations? Are you first looking at what is the ROI, what is the value? Or are you looking at what type of process efficiency is it going to bring to the organization?

It’s going to start with the ROI. If I’m thinking about tools specific to transportation, how much better am I going to be able to consolidate, how much more quickly and efficiently am I going to be able to do it, and what is it going to translate to…in fewer trucks moved, more efficient moves, less miles, etcetera. So I do think the output to that end is relatively basic when you’re starting.

Then as we get more and more mature, we get into ‘how is it going to contribute to a more innovative solution?’ That gets back to the visibility tools…can we use them to more actively use capacity in what is a fundamentally constrained industry? And that gets to fleet sharing and backhaul management, etcetera, but those do all tie back to there’s a financial benefit to doing it.

Look for Part 5 of our “A-List Insights” Series interview with Nick Najjar where we discuss coronavirus and the supply chain.

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