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John McKnight with his family at the CILT NZ Awards in October 2019: “One of the greatest things that has come from the course is my newfound confidence and self-belief” — Photo by Mel Waite

John McKnight – “It was like the light went on”

John McKnight went back to school to affirm his beliefs that his gut instincts and decision-making were sound – and he didn’t let a major health scare slow down his progress towards his goal. This is his story.

What have I done? This was the question I asked myself as I stood in the elevator leaving Logistics Training Group’s (LTG) offices. I had just spent the last few hours with Walter and Tessa Glass going over the course material and the expectations of the Professional Diploma in Logistics and Transport. It had been years since I was at school and the task ahead looked daunting. Despite my initial misgivings I was determined to see this through

For over 30 years I have been involved with logistics, procurement and supply chain management. I have worked for a stainless steel manufacturer, a food processing company, a supplier of ration packs to the Australian military, and currently I am employed as the supply chain manager for Maxilam NZ, a specialist adhesives company.

Through my different roles within these companies I had developed a passion for the supply chain and discovered that I had an innate ability to streamline systems and make them work smarter. Over the years, I had added to my knowledge and built onto my experience, but this wasn’t enough. I no longer wanted to intuitively make systems better, I wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of why it was better. 

More than that, I wanted to be able to explain to the senior managers or boards of directors why the changes were necessary and how they could improve the business. I needed to move on from justifying change with ‘I know in my gut this will be a better way to do it’.

A big decision

Signing up to the professional diploma was a big decision and meant that I had to be disciplined. Outside of work I am a pastor at a church in Feilding which means that I have to work on messages each week and be available for the membership of my church. On top of that, I was also learning Biblical Hebrew. If you have ever tried to learn a language at 48 years old, you’ll understand the mental effort it requires.

I started the first compulsory module of the diploma and my assignments came back clear (a pass). Each lesson built upon the next and the reading material provided me with the knowledge required to complete each task. What was exciting for me was that I could immediately relate what I was learning to my job.

When I started the supply chain module it was like the light went on. Things that I knew through experience or innately were now written down in black and white. I could not only see the principles written in terms I could explain to others, but also the methodology to measure those changes. ‘What isn’t measured can’t be managed’ became my mantra.

A turning point

The supply chain module was not only the highlight of the course, it was also a turning point in my life. I was seven months into the course when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I underwent surgery, but soon learnt that it had metastasised to my liver and I was required to undergo more surgery and chemotherapy. 

After hearing the initial diagnoses, I contemplated putting my studies on hold, but I didn’t want the cancer to win, so I battled on. I was determined to finish the course within the two years, which I would not have been able to do without the support of my family and the team at LTG.

Both Tessa and Walter were a great help with the course material and answered any questions that I had, but they also showed themselves to be people with heart. They took the time to ring or email me on a personal level to support me through my cancer journey. This meant a great deal and helped me to push on through some of the dark days to get my assignments done. I was never once pressured to continue with my studies.

Confidence and self-belief

One of the greatest things that has come from the course is my newfound confidence and self-belief, which was further bolstered last year by being awarded the CILT NZ top national student in the professional diploma programme. 

The diploma reinforced the things I already knew and filled the gaps in my knowledge. I now have the confidence to push for change because I understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. 

To most senior managers or boards, the supply chain is black magic, but I can now confidently explain how an efficiently run supply chain can deliver the customer the right product, at the right time, for the right price and to the right location.

The Professional Diploma in Logistics and Transport is offered in New Zealand by the Logistics Training Group  ww.ltg.co.nz

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