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‘Last mile’ humanitarian logistics – if goods cannot be moved by helicopter, access for the last mile is most likely to be on foot – Photo by frankandpeggyphotography.com

The FTD interview –
Walter Glass

In the latest of an occasional series, FTD talks to Dr Walter Glass, who recently received the Sir Bob Owens Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Logistics, Supply Chain Sector and Community at the CILT NZ 2018 awards.

Q: How did it feel to be awarded the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s (CILT NZ) top honour for the year?

Receiving the Sir Bob Owens Award was an absolute honour and total surprise. It is the most prestigious honour that CILT NZ bestows on a member, and it has only been awarded to a small group of recipients.

It is tradition to surprise the award recipient on the night of the awards dinner – and this year was no exception! I was dumbfounded, very much like the proverbial ‘possum in the headlights’, so much so that I even forgot to thank my wife, Tessa, for her involvement in this achievement – a point that was not lost on some of my colleagues who justifiably ribbed me about it. I have since had emails of congratulations, with quite a few mentioning they wished they’d been around to see me totally lost for words.

What was especially pleasing was to see so many past students from over the years and so many people that have supported their staff through the Logistics Training Group’s CILT UK qualifications and Massey University’s supply chain programme being present at the dinner. 

To be mentioned in the same club as the doyennes of the transport and logistics sector who have previously received the Sir Bob Owens Award is still a little surreal. For me the award is recognition that my educational and applied work over 25 years has been of benefit, which is wonderful payback.

‘Uncle Bob’ (as the trophy has been nicknamed by my colleagues at the office) sits in pride of place. Alongside it is the CILT NZ President’s Appreciation Award which I received in 2016 for initiative and leadership as part of the humanitarian response to Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam. I consider that award to be more of a combined effort, as it was my contact network of logistics, transport and supply chain experts within CILT NZ that provided the generosity and operational response – so I share that award with many.

Q: Tell us about your early upbringing, qualifications and first work experience.
I was born in Christchurch and did my early schooling there, but we also had a house on the West Coast and eventually we shifted there. My brothers and I went to St Kevin’s College in Oamaru where I was a boarder for five years. I achieved the usual SC, UE and 7th form qualifications, including ‘wool classing’ (well, you never know). 

On leaving school, however, I found that a school mate had signed me up to play for a local Greymouth rugby club and it came with a truck driving job. This had a rather sticky outcome when I was pulled over by the local traffic officer who knew the articulated unit had no rego or COF, then learned that I was only 17. My saving grace was that I was booked to take the HT and trailer test on my 18th birthday which was only a couple of weeks away. That was my first encounter with logistics and transport!

Like many, my early job experience was quite varied: a stint with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), helicopter deer recovery, gold mining, road construction in the Haast Pass, and contract tree felling. I eventually moved into the export meat sector where I learned about procurement, processing, packaging, storage and shipping, inventories, supply integrity and meat marketing (such that it was then). 

I took a job at MAF Quality Management and gained a meat inspection diploma at Lincoln University, while also studying marketing, finance and agricultural economics part-time at Massey University.  

The role with MAF not only involved meat sector processing, but also included live animal exports, seafood and fisheries harvest and shipment checks, livestock transport, chilled/frozen storage and refrigerated transport, air freight, sea freight, bulk and containerised frozen and chilled shipments, and much more. The scope of experience was very broad and contained many logistics and supply chain-related activities. It also required dealing with many people at all levels within the workplace, sometimes under rather strained circumstances. Unfortunately, the concept of integrated supply chains was unheard of back then – the only chains we talked about were the ones in the meat plants. 

MAF restructured and we moved to Palmerston North so I could study full-time at Massey University. My initial bachelor’s degree extended to postgraduate research which concentrated on the interface between marketing and the then emerging area of logistics and supply chain management. My thesis focused particularly on perishable supply chain constraints and air cargo, which led to a role at the New Zealand Game Industry Board as part of its Cervena farmed venison branding initiative.
Q: What made you realise that your future would be in the transport and logistics sector?
Like many people, my entry into logistics was more by default than design. Logistics, transport and supply chain issues had interfaced with all my work experience in the primary export sector and my research areas, which extended to understanding what a customer saw as the value proposition, so a future in the sector was an evolving and logical fit.

My early work roles invariably required a practical approach and frequently had a problem-solving aspect, often involving transport, machinery or equipment. The tenet at the time seemed to be ‘work it hard, but don’t break it’, and I would often find things were done inefficiently and in isolation, without consideration for the overall task. Experience showed me plenty of ways of how not to do things, but also how quality management, solid planning, sound processes and, above all, developing skilled people would benefit any organisation.

Q: How did the Logistics Training Group come about?
The Logistics Training Group (LTG) was established around 1995, and while I am a director of the company, the programmes are managed and administered by my wife, Tessa. LTG was initially established in response to requests for logistics and supply chain-related short courses where companies or individuals could quickly gain knowledge, but did not require formal qualifications.  

These courses were generally aimed at upskilling or cross-skilling staff for logistics, supply chain, cool/cold chain, procurement, inventory, transport and warehousing. Alternatively, companies required courses that provided overviews for staff and managers that generally worked outside of the core logistics and supply chain activities, but needed to have a broad understanding of supply chain so they could appreciate the constraints that might be affecting their own roles or their customers. 

When the Massey University logistics programme was initiated by Professor Norman Marr in 1994 utilising the CILT UK Professional Diploma in Logistics and Transport qualification, he asked me to assist him, so my education role expanded. When Norman left in 1995 I took over as the programme director through to 2005, during which time the programme grew substantially.

In 2000 I worked with Professor Ken Milne and Brigadier Charles Lott of NZDF to set up Massey’s Master’s in Logistics and Supply Chain Management in order to cater for our CILT UK graduates and NZ military logisticians. This Massey programme has been very successful and is currently led by Professor Paul Childerhouse, and I am the deputy director.

LTG took over the CILT UK programme from Massey in 2005 as the university had its own product. Due to the relationship with the university, LTG can offer this specialist bridging programme as a very cost and time-effective pathway for entry to Massey’s Master’s in Supply Chain Management programme. 

Since 2006 LTG has also added the CILT UK Certificate in Logistics and Transport and has qualifications in humanitarian logistics and humanitarian supply chains available. However, to date the latter have not drawn sufficient numbers to justify classes. 

Q: Tell us more about your private consultancy business
Corporate Logistics Ltd (CLL) is where I get to put academic theory into applied practice and I really enjoy the challenges of this external business consulting work. CLL normally only takes on one or two projects per year, so there’s been quite a few since the company started in 1993. We also do a lot of ‘assists’ which are small advisory roles.

While the CLL team specialise in logistics and supply chain subject material, we also do wider market research, value proposition analysis, feasibility studies, economic and environmental assessments, and project management. The company also does some humanitarian projects when the need arises. 

We’ve completed projects in NZ and internationally for regional government bodies, seaports, airports, shipping companies and international airlines. Recently we provided some ‘public interest commentary’ on the economic and geological effects of the Manawatu Gorge closure on the lower North Island.

It always pleases me how a logistics network developed for one purpose can suddenly become the basis for another completely different purpose. In the past, CLL has managed complex projects for clients in sourcing and shipping heavy construction equipment across Asia and the Americas. It was during this period that I met a contact who I later used to assist me with the ICC Cricket World Cup project in 2007. He then later approached me to help set up the humanitarian response in the wake of the Cyclone Pam disaster in Vanuatu in 2015. This effort later evolved into the much larger ‘last-mile humanitarian logistics’ relief project that so many members of CILT NZ were part of and that FTD produced articles on that were estimated to have been read by around 3 million people. 

The ICC project just mentioned involved a last-minute panic to obtain the stadium seating for the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean. The designated international logistics providers for the ICC had failed about 80 days out from when the world series was due to start. The ICC was told it would take 100 days to ship the seats so was looking at air freighting 50,000 seats at exorbitant cost. CLL was asked to help as we had shipped heavy equipment to the region. I utilised the colleague I mentioned above from an American shipping company that delivered West Indian bananas to Italy to backload the seats. The frames and seats were manufactured in Slovenia and Greece respectively, so CLL arranged for them to be trucked across to Livorno in Italy, then containerised and shipped to six countries in the West Indies. 

CLL did the entire job in just under 24 days and all seats were installed on time for the first innings, albeit with some significant sleep deprivation for those involved!

Q: What are the parts of the job that you love the most? Which parts do you find the most challenging? 
I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories, whether it be in the context of education, consulting or providing aid or support. I like being able to help improve a situation and achieve the goals or targets set.

With the education programmes, it is frustrating to see students who are well through their studies obtain significant job and salary promotions due to their increasing knowledge, then stop their studies due to work overload in the new role. A couple of years later they regret their decision, but are out of time.

With consulting, sometimes the most challenging thing is knowing you can help a client, but they don’t understand enough about logistics and supply chain management to appreciate what you are saying. New Zealand is a hard market as it does not value qualifications, nor does it like paying for consultants, but often companies don’t know what they don’t know.

Q: What do you think about the current state of logistics and supply chain management training and education in NZ? 
Many people within the logistics sector don’t know how it all fits together. I have heard transport people say logistics is a small subset of transport, and procurement people who believe their role has no connection to supply chains and distribution. This misunderstanding is costly to the country.

Logistics and supply chain management training and education in NZ is still in a rather disjointed state, primarily because there is no clear and cohesive leadership at government level to guide, nurture and fund the sector. Government and local bodies have long-term plans, so for a sector that covers around 14% of GDP it would appear a similar effort is justified, especially when civil and construction logistics are added to the mix.

It would be good to have a national strategic vision that first accurately quantifies the resource requirement for the next 10 years, then provides a clear and decisive plan of how this will occur. There are initiatives about, but these are primarily run by individuals who have their own localised goals to attain. While their hearts are no doubt in the right place, there is no single leader apparent. 

Perhaps MBIE has a role here in ensuring NZ companies upskill staff to senior management levels to ensure young and older New Zealanders are well equipped with the latest life and work skills. Lower-level logistics task skills are catered for under trades qualifications, but there is a void between operational and senior management, and the tie between universities and industry in the supply chain area is tenuous, to say the least. This is why LTG’s CILT UK qualifications are so relevant.

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