Q: How long have you been working in logistics and supply chain consulting? What attracted you to this field?

A: I’m approaching four years in the industry; time flies when you’re time-studying! I enjoy a fast-paced environment and getting to meet a variety of people across the country. I also want to know that the work I do makes a difference. I love that when we do a good job, we improve the lives of the employees we work with and the health of the company that employs them.

Q: What’s your specialty here at LogistiPoint? What do you like most about your areas of expertise?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to install performance management programs with a handful of clients. These types of projects have the same goal in mind—improve operational performance—but despite this shared goal, each project always requires significant customization to meet the unique needs of each operation. The variety of daily problem-solving needs keeps things interesting! I also appreciate how closely we get to work with the leadership teams and associates who make all the magic happen inside the walls of the distribution centers. We learn so much from them about the intricacies of their jobs and get to partner together to improve their environment, communication channels and overall operational effectiveness.

Q: You recently completed a project in a state-of-the-art distribution center (DC). How do these highly automated warehouses differ from older, less-automated facilities? Are there common challenges that you’ve seen in both types of operations?

A: Newer and more automated operations typically require significantly more systemic interaction of the product as it flows through a building. It introduces a level of complexity that requires additional configuration and optimization effort. Once that complexity is understood and harnessed, you’ve established a foundation for very highly accurate engineered labor standards where each systemic interaction can be utilized as a unit for measuring work effort. More accurate standards improve associates’ trust in their measured work expectations and can quicken the pace of program adoption.

You may have the most advanced equipment and software on the market, but at the end of the day, people still run that equipment and software, and working with people requires more than just engineering know-how! Our team remains sensitive to this fact and always seeks to consider the human elements of the work that do.

Q: Over the past decade, you’ve spearheaded and helped manage a number of projects. In doing so, you have worked with numerous successful executives and leaders. What are some of the leadership traits of those individuals that you’ve observed?

A: I am always impressed with leaders who exhibit respect for all members of their organization. We are all on individual paths in life, and we need guides to meet us where we are, support us and help us develop into better versions of ourselves. Leaders who recognize this and take the time to provide that environment for their teams make differences in their organization and in the lives of their employees.

To that point, each leader is also a work in progress. The level to which they are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses will often tell the story of their organization’s success. The best at this are able to humble themselves to mitigate their lesser talents through the people they surround themselves with while at the same time pushing themselves to maximize the effectiveness of their true gifts.

Q: As a consultant, you’ve encountered a wide variety of personalities in the field. What is the secret to delivering great work to the varying needs of clients?

A: Listening. As a first step when engaging with a client explaining a challenge, I always try to put aside my initial thoughts. This lets me see the problem from their perspective and more deeply explore the constraints with which they are struggling. Even though LogistiPoint may have seen this problem before, it’s critical that a client feels understood if they are going to take the hard steps that require organizational change or capital expenditures.

Q: What do you think the biggest challenge facing supply chain leaders is today? What about five years from now? 

A: The rising cost of labor. With industry leaders like Amazon paying a minimum $15 an hour to their associates, wage pressure will likely keep increasing. Leaders will seek novel ways to meet their labor market and operational budgets, and incentive programs offer an attractive option to satisfy both demands.

Five years from now I expect the cost of labor to still be front of mind but at that point it will focus even more on the analysis and adoption of emerging and more cost-effective automation technologies.

Q: What’s your most memorable experience or story working with a client? Why?

A: We partnered with a client on a pilot LMS installation recently. I joked that we all were like pioneers crossing the unexplored American frontier. We practiced extreme agility, adapting to the idiosyncrasies of the new software, and provided critical guidance on how to re-develop aspects of the functionality. That diligence and effort paid off as the project resulted in a unique deployment of live performance reporting that helped yield a 31% productivity improvement.

Q: Now for some fun! Many of our readers may not know this, but you’re a huge fan of the 1-10 scale. What’s the most recent situation in which you used the 1-10 scale and what did you rate the experience, place or thing? 

A: I was in Dallas and we visited Hard Eight, a BBQ joint. The food was a seven (solid, recommend it to a friend) but it earned a full additional point for the experience of standing in line watching the hot coals get poured into the pit, smelling the smoke waft over us and having the pit master ask—in pounds—how much and what types of meat we wanted as we walked by the display. For the record, an eight equals a meal you’d reserve for a special occasion.

Q: You often play, “Would you rather…” or “What if…” with our LogistiPoint team members. What’s your favorite choice to give people?

A: Oh, hard question…probably this variation on the theme: If you could take just three naturally occurring food sources on your space voyage to colonize Mars, what would they be? My answer has always been avocado trees, cocoa trees and chickens. You learn a lot about someone when they have to make hard choices between pleasure and nutrition. Most people try to cheat and say pizza or pasta—only three raw ingredients!

Q: If you could take an all-expense-paid summer vacation anywhere, where would you go and why?

A: This one’s easy—Australia. It’s where my wife would want to go so that’s that!

Michael Olenick has more than a decade of experience in project and team management. At LogistiPoint, he focuses on change management training, cultivating and leading client /consultant/third-party project teams, and process improvement ROI analysis. Read more about Michael here.