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.
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 last 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 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.
Yeah, it’s definitely changed my perspective. I don’t know that we’ve had the opportunity to actually sit down and say how are we going to do business differently – we’re still very much in manage mode. I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to jump in and say ‘how are we going to either diversify the network or the supplier base accordingly to mitigate for some of this in the future?’, but I will say candidly that the areas where we have had a little bit more duplication or are a little more diversified from a vendor perspective, have been simpler to manage.
Like I said, our dairy foods network has certainly been the leanest and the most mature from a supply chain process perspective. It’s a single echelon, 4 DC network, so when something like this [pandemic] happens, it’s far more susceptible.
I’m sure that will lead to some conversation…maybe not necessarily around building in excess by design, but certainly contingency planning and how detailed that should be will likely be heavily influenced by how complex or simple your network is.
Our ag [agriculture] network is by far the most complex. It’s a hub and spoke distribution network supporting a bunch of regional service centers, and if one of them has disruption, it’s not good, but it’s much easier to react because you have other points of distribution you can lean on and a larger overall pile of network inventory. All of those particulars mean there’s more limited risk, and our Purina network is somewhere in the middle.
Yes, I think it will absolutely drive the conversation into whether it’s building in some flexibility by design, more frequent demand variation analysis, more detailed contingency planning for what we’re going to do if we hit constraints — whether it’s transportation constraints, site constraints, space limitations, line limitations at our plants…how can we be even more responsive than we have been. I fully anticipate some combination of those exercises to be more commonplace in how we manage our business.
To me it’s largely the latter. In terms of where I see the bigger opportunity, it would be in the contingency planning. That’s an exercise we go through, but I don’t think we ever fully appreciated how important it is.
When we do have significant disruption, it’s generally in the past been localized to a specific area or to a specific region. I’m thinking 2 years ago to when it was Harvey, Irma…the hurricanes in Florida and Houston…there certainly was significant disruption there, but when I think about the impact it was localized to a specific region, we could pretty easily quantify the impact, and we could flex assets from areas that weren’t affected.
I think this [pandemic] will certainly call attention to having a more holistic approach to contingency planning and doing more regular scenario-based planning around supply and demand volatility.
The one this [pandemic] has called attention to that should always have been on our radar, and has always been our radar, is the physical safety of…if you’re a carrier, your drivers; if you’re an enterprise shipper, your plant and distribution staff.
From my perspective, the amount of time we’ve put into that with physical distancing procedures in our plants, limiting interactions and who’s in and out of our facilities – it’s all an extension of what already is the first and last conversation you should have as an enterprise manufacturer or shipper, which is employee safety.
And I use that in the holistic sense. I think employee includes our carrier partner’s drivers, our third-party logistics company’s workers, our folks working in our plants and distribution centers…that to me is what this has amplified is how paramount that is, and has broadened that conversation. This has just shown, only more, the importance of having the right level of rigor, the right culture, and the right processes and procedures in place.