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A Supply Chain Journey: From Boy Scouts to Boardrooms

By Published On: May 30, 2024

In this episode, Supply Chain Careers podcast hosts – Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple speak with Joe Tillman, Manager Education Programs at SMC³. Joe shares his diverse career path, the development of SMC3’s less than truckload (LTL) certification program, and his insights into the supply chain industry. Join us as we explore the significant milestones in Joe’s supply chain journey and uncover valuable lessons for aspiring professionals.

Early Influences and Career Beginnings in Joe’s Supply Chain Journey

Joe Tillman’s supply chain journey started from an early age. Growing up, he was fascinated by the idea of adventure and travel, often expressing a desire to become a truck driver. His early experiences, such as being a Boy Scouts quartermaster and working in a video rental store, shaped his organizational and inventory management skills. These foundational experiences were crucial as he transitioned into transportation, warehousing, and logistics during his college years.

Joe’s professional career began at the University of Georgia, where he worked as a bus driver and diesel mechanic apprentice. His hands-on experience with transportation and inventory management led him to a role at Union Pacific as a conductor. However, the demanding lifestyle of a conductor prompted Joe to pivot towards logistics, eventually leading him to Walmart’s logistics division, marking another key phase in his supply chain journey.

Academic Pursuits and Professional Growth in Supply Chain Management

While working at Walmart, Joe pursued an MBA, which further solidified his interest in supply chain management. His academic journey introduced him to key mentors, including Carl, who played a pivotal role in Joe’s professional development. This phase of his supply chain journey emphasized the importance of continuous learning and mentorship in shaping a successful career. After completing his MBA, Joe ventured into consulting, focusing on research in warehousing and distribution. His work involved helping practitioners understand performance management and process improvement. Joe also founded T Squared Logistics, specializing in hazmat and dangerous goods training. This entrepreneurial endeavor allowed him to deepen his expertise and expand his impact on the supply chain industry, a significant milestone in his supply chain journey.

The Role at SMC3 and LTL Certification in Joe’s Supply Chain Journey

One of the significant milestones in Joe’s supply chain journey is his role at SMC3. Collaborating with industry experts, Joe developed a certification program focused on LTL transportation. This program aimed to bridge the knowledge gap in LTL logistics, providing industry professionals with the expertise needed to navigate the complexities of LTL transportation. Joe discusses how supply chain certifications are a fantastic way to assist in career advancement.

Insights from the DC Measures Report in the Supply Chain Journey

Joe also highlighted his involvement with the annual DC Measures Report, published by the Warehousing Education Research Council and DC Velocity Magazine. This report benchmarks performance measures within warehouses and distribution centers, offering valuable insights for industry professionals. Joe’s contribution to this report underscores his commitment to advancing supply chain knowledge through research and analysis.

Automation, Technology, and Future Trends in Supply Chain

Throughout his career, Joe has observed significant advancements in automation and technology within the supply chain. He discussed the impact of these innovations on operational efficiency and the evolving landscape of supply chain management. Joe emphasized the importance of staying adaptable and continuously updating skills to keep pace with industry trends, a recurring theme in his supply chain journey.

Career Development Advice from Joe’s Supply Chain Journey

In concluding his supply chain journey, Joe shared invaluable career development advice. He encouraged aspiring professionals to focus on building skills, seeking mentorship, and being open to pivoting when necessary. Joe’s journey exemplifies the importance of curiosity, resilience, and lifelong learning in achieving career success. Tillman’s supply chain journey is a testament to the dynamic and evolving nature of the industry. From early influences and hands-on experiences to academic pursuits and professional growth, Joe’s path offers valuable lessons for supply chain professionals at all stages of their careers. As the industry continues to evolve, Joe’s insights into certification, automation, and career development provide a roadmap for navigating and excelling in the supply chain field.

Who is Joe Tillman?

Joe Tillman is the manager of Education Programs at SMC³. He brings over 20 years of supply chain experience to his role, having worked in distribution and transportation with Walmart Logistics, the University of Georgia, as a conductor with Union Pacific Railroad, an assistant professor, and as a consultant. Joe’s authored over 100 articles appearing in Supply Chain Management Review, Logistics Management, DC Velocity, Supply Chain Xchange (SC Quarterly), Area Development, and Supply & Demand Chain Executive to name a few. In 2017, Joe was recognized by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Pro to Know.”  Joe is certified in transportation and logistics by APCIS (formerly AST&L), SCOR-Professional certified by APICS (formerly Supply Chain Council) and certified in less than truckload (CLTL) by SMC³.

[00:00:00] Mike Ogle: Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast. The only podcast for job seekers, professionals, and students who are focused on career enhancing conversations and insights across all aspects of the supply chain discipline. This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit SCM Talent Group at scmtalent. com. In this episode of the Supply Chain Careers podcast, we speak with Joe Tillman, manager of education programs at SMC3, an organization with a tagline as the hub of expertise for LTL transportation. Joe shares his career story and advice as a business founder, assistant professor, and hazardous goods expert.

But also the work at SMC3, including a certification program focused on LTL. Joe also dives into the value of, and history of, the annual DC Measures Report published by the Warehousing Education Research Council and DC Velocity Magazine. He also talks about the impact of automation and technology advancements in the industry, plus trends he’s seen.

Joe closes with career development advice and career challenges he’s faced and what he learned from those challenges. I’m your podcast co host, Mike Oval.

[00:01:27] Rodney Apple: And I’m your podcast co host, Rodney Apple. Joe, we’re really happy to have you today.

[00:01:34] Mike Ogle: Welcome.

[00:01:35] Joe Tillman: Thanks, Mike. It’s a pleasure to be here and looking forward to the conversation with both you and Rodney.

[00:01:41] Mike Ogle: So how did you get started yourself in supply chain? What are some of the influences that really got you started?

[00:01:48] Joe Tillman: I think for me, that’s a really interesting question. And, and having interviewed a lot of executives and others in LTL over the last two years and hearing about how they just happened to get into this.

It was, I needed a job after I graduated college. And I know that every path is a little bit different. For me, I can remember back six, seven, eight years old. And even in high school saying at various times, I wanted to be a truck driver. I just, I love the idea of adventure. I love the idea of travel. And I just like.

Going, that’s something that I grew up with was always being on the move. My dad’s retired military. So we moved around a little bit and my Meemaw, growing up with my Meemaw, it was every weekend or every other weekend, I was going to Augusta, Georgia with her on the weekends to go shopping. For me, it was that interest.

And, but I think the thing that really crystallized it was, When I joined Boy Scouts, I was elected quartermaster of my patrol. And I was the one in charge of keeping all of our patrol equipment in good standing and making sure it was inventoried and we knew where everything was at and cleaning it and just keeping that going for our patrol.

And then I started working in a video store. I don’t, I’m not sure if you guys remember what a video rental store is, but back in the day when VHS was one of those things, well before DVDs and a big part of that was understanding the customer experience and then also inventory was a huge piece of being successful there and was mainly and just in.

And so all of these things built to getting me into transportation warehousing distribution at some point when I was a student at the University of Georgia, I got up there needed a job a little bit more regular job and I started working on campus as a bus driver and had my CDL class BCDL for driving buses on campus and did that and then.

Moved into what’s it what it says on my resume or at the time what it would say on my resume was a diesel mechanic apprentice, so I worked in the shop refueling the buses in the evenings and doing maintenance work mechanical work on the diesel engines and transmissions there, but it’s a glorified name for a grease monkey.

And parts inventory and helping manage the parts, uh, room for that transitioned over after I graduated, I went to Union Pacific, I worked in the railroad as a conductor, and then I did one of the most millennial things you could do. I moved back in with my parents and talking, we’re going to talk about pivotal moments and transitions and things like that, but that that’s probably one of those pivotal moments for me was.

Realizing as a conductor and so I went back home, moved in with my parents and started working at Walmart or in Walmart logistics. So at an import facility, DC, as I was working on my MBA and a lot of those connections that I made there and then also working in my MBA as an MBA student, I think also helped solidify a lot of what I do today.

[00:04:27] Rodney Apple: That’s an interesting trajectory from the, I would say non traditional, but I think most people would say non traditional because a lot of people back from 15, 20 plus years ago, didn’t really seek out, uh, logistics supply chain as a career. And now that’s flip flopped, uh, 6, 6 universities back in those days when I started recruiting into space mid late nineties.

And now we have Michael was the number we counted the

[00:04:52] Mike Ogle: other 200 ish. Yeah, depending on how you look at the different phrasing of the names of the departments, but they’re primarily supply chain. Yeah.

[00:05:02] Joe Tillman: A lot of it’s been interesting to watch that because when I was at Georgia Southern in 2001 as an undergraduate before I transferred to UGA, they had a logistics degree, a business logistics, and that’s the name of it.

And that was the name of it and didn’t realize that was actually a better fit than geography for what I enjoy, but I went with geography and I’ll be honest with you for a lot of what I do today and what I’ve done in terms of research. I think the. Geography, especially focused in GIS and cartography and those elements that you have to know and understand that need to be present to for data and analytics and in which you need to display and provide help tremendously more so than what I think a business logistics degree did or would.

There’s always aspects of learning. That’s evolving for everybody, and yeah, a lot of people fell into the job or in transportation as an example because they just needed a job. It was just something that was there and they just made decisions as they went along. Whereas for me, I felt like it, I feel like it’s a little bit more planned, maybe not so planned, but a little bit more progressive and seeing that and then Bonnie Volding from FedEx Freight spoke with her last year and she, her degree was in, I think, marketing and logistics.

She has a background and had a background in logistics and she works for a major supply chain logistics company. It’s quite interesting for those things.

[00:06:25] Rodney Apple: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Now, I remember the geology and geography, theologies. Yeah. Environmental science here and led into supply chain and HR side of it.

Talent sides. Yeah, absolutely. As I look at your LinkedIn profile, I see. That at some point in time, you got into the industry side, Joe, and then you, you spread your wings and it looks to me like heavy on the research side, education, thought leadership, and then a few other areas. Would love for you to take us through some of those big transitions where you may have switched from 1 industry to another.

What were some of those key learnings as you made those transitions?

[00:07:05] Joe Tillman: I wasn’t really sure what I really wanted to do or

[00:07:07] Joe Tillman: wanted to be when I was in college. I fell into geography and absolutely loved learning about people, learning about places and how we interact with the landscape and the different ways that we can manage that and see it.

And I think that’s really what got me and kept me in, say, transportation and wanting to go work for a railroad. And I think that was probably a pivotal moment for me and a key transition because I liked working on the shop floor. I really enjoyed getting that, getting my hands dirty and understanding that experience, that life experience.

And what I realized when I was with the railroad, you hear talk about what the life of a conductor is. Same thing for the life of a truck driver. And you, oh, you can romanticize it, some piece of it. But, uh, until you actually do it, you realize that maybe it’s staring at a red light for four and a half, five hours is really not for me.

Yeah. I get off the train, I roll another train by, I look for obstacles. I look for anything hanging off. I look for sparks flying and things like that to make sure that there’s not any issues. It, it can be a little tough to sit out on the main line and wait for a light to change. Don’t like doing it in traffic either.

And it was just. I like to understand how things work. I like to pull apart processes. I like to pull apart race cars. When I was growing up, that was one of the things I enjoyed doing. I would pull apart the race car. I’d pull apart the computer just to see what was inside and how did it work and to better understand it.

And that’s the same thing there. I got to pull apart the railroad and understand from an operational perspective, how does it work? What’s going on? What is really involved in being in that lifestyle? And also knowing that working in management. Would have been a you’re employed for two full time jobs or you’re paid for two full time jobs when you work with railroad.

You’re on call 18 hours a day. If you’re lucky, it’s 18 hours. And when I saw the manager of our terminals sleeping in his office because that’s are sleeping in the cab of his truck managing a derailment. And that’s not really for me. It’s not really the work life balance that I was looking for in that area.

But I think that part of that I was going home, wasn’t really sure what I would really do or end up doing and applied at Walmart at the D. C. in Statesboro, Georgia, and started going back working on, Oh, I’ll get another bachelors degree and I had two people, you know, my parents were telling me, you know, go get an MBA, you’ve got some experience.

Just and start spending that time on that and it was there. I met my best friend. Carl has been a great champion coach and best friends. Just the best way to describe Carl when I was his grad assistant at Georgia Southern for 2 years. And I think from there it was. What is it that you really want to do, and what do you want to see done, and what do you want to accomplish with that, and for me it was really about, I wanted to challenge and change how we handle, deal with, and education as part of it, and that was really part of that, and then on the talent development side, it’s, I really didn’t think college was for me.

I went because as a child of the 90s or a millennial, what were you told? If you want to be successful in life, you have to go to college. I think what we’re seeing with the newer generation, Gen Z coming in, and even the Alpha, the Gen Alpha, when they’re coming in, we have a, and we’re seeing a demographic change occurring.

We’re seeing attitudes change on a college degree and what it means today. And a lot of them are making the choice to not go. To, to wait and go, and I think that’s a good thing for a lot of people. And, but I think we’re going to see a lot of that changing and it’s really about skills and developing skills.

It’s sitting down with Carl that first time I sat down with him before, first day of the semester, what is it that you want to achieve? What is it that you want to do? And it was trying to figure that out and starting that process and having that person, Having people in my life at filling that role of mentor, best friend, champion, coach, and I’ve, I’ve had those, and I think having those have been really key to navigating a lot of those different transitions that have occurred.

With all the transitions and after I graduated with my MBA, I went into consulting and focused heavily on research in warehousing distribution and trying to just help practitioners better understand performance management. Um. And it was really going out on my own in, in a lot of ways and being my own, my own entity, my own as a sole proprietor, so to speak, but it was also working in an ecosystem of other consultants as part of supply chain visions or SE visions and supply chain visions incorporated.

So I got a lot of projects. Working on various different types of supply chain from department of defense supply chains to working in process improvement and methodologies and doing seminars and helping train others to that. I was, I did that and I still do the research part of that in a lot of ways, but I started my own company T Squared Logistics.

I really say I started in 2006, but I incorporated officially in 2014 and focused heavily on hazmat and dangerous goods training and education. you So that was one of those other transits it’s building and developing yourself and developing a company and making those type of decisions. It’s, I think one of the key things that have helped me and the lessons that I’ve learned with there is don’t hesitate to make the decision to do it, but make sure you’ve built your network up and you have people that you can rely on to ask questions.

And how do I do something? Because sometimes that can be the hard part. And with T Squared, it was focused on How do you stay focused and remain focused on what you want to do because supply chain is so huge and what can you really focus on so training and development, research, so I call it education and research and focus on those areas in warehousing and distribution and transportation, which is where I got involved with SMC three on less than truckload training and education.

With Carl, another friend of ours, uh, Pete Moore and I were asked to develop a credential program for SMC3 and a, and to provide and develop online training. As we were seeing a need in the market develop.

[00:13:09] Mike Ogle: Yeah, so I think we need to hear a little bit more about that. And I think the audience needs to know a little bit more about the value of credentials and specifically what SMC3 is doing in that whole area of LTL.

Can you tell us how, why this was developed? Who are the people that are a great fit for it? And the demand and recognition that you’ve seen in the industry?

[00:13:33] Joe Tillman: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s credentials. And when we talk about credentials, so credentials is just a word, a good umbrella term that includes college degrees, certificates from colleges and universities, as well as certifications from trade associations, professional associations.

So SMC3, APICS, or ASCM now, CSCMP with SEPro, ISM, and the Institute of Supply Management Sourcing Interest Group, WERC, the Warehousing Education Research Councils, also Developing or in development of a certification program or certificate program for warehousing and distributions. I think where for SMC3 and just to understand SMC3, SMC3 has been around for well over 80 years now, I think 85, 86 years now, and it’s been focused primarily on less than truckload transportation.

So the three in SMC3 stands for data, technology, and education. And that’s where we’re focused at where we are a trade association and we want help. Connect the industry together through data technology and education. So I focus on the education side and that’s where that certification came up. And that need, as when we look at a lot of the degree programs, you were just mentioning at the start, how many different degrees or, or, or programs are out there now, just at the university level, what, 230, maybe.

I can’t remember the exact number. That’s pretty close. Pretty close in having watched that evolution from, Oh, here we have business logistics, or we have a degree in transportation and logistics. We’ve seen it come in with operations and retitling or rephrasing operations as being supply chain management.

And then including all of this together as this degree, because operations is the make portion of the supply chain. Logistics, warehousing, distribution, transportation is the deliver portion of supply chain. You have those different nodes that are coming together to work together, but there we, so we saw this broadening in scope of the term supply chain management as degree programs, but there wasn’t as much emphasis in, or maybe not emphasis, but there’s not as much focus in.

Specific different those are diving deeper into some of those areas. So just even within deliver, either it’s included as a part of a course in operations and supply chain management, or it’s or you may have principles of transportation where you look at the five different modes of transport, what fits how to make a decision on what mode to use and what are their key characteristics.

What’s the value that they provide, but we don’t really dive into, say, less than truckload. And, and so I think what we were seeing is that we have graduates coming out from industry pro, or from universities and colleges, even if they came from geography, or if they came in from with a supply chain degree, we saw a need where there was a gap in knowledge or expertise coming out with understanding the complexity that is less than truckload.

Okay. If you think about, and I’m going to call it a service. A transportation service. I don’t think, I don’t think it’s a mode. So there’s five modes of transportation, pipeline, air, ocean, rail, and I’m going to call it road or highway. I don’t want to call it truck because now we’ve got vans running out there delivering too, and they use what?

A road. They use a highway. So a highway and road are really the same thing. I think with truckload as a transportation service within the road or highway mode of transport, it’s really easy. You’ve just purchased the load. You just purchased the trailer, right? You’re paying the price for the trailer, maybe for the driver.

If you don’t own the driver, or if it’s a contract or a common carrier, uh, you’re just getting that one thing, that, uh, trailer, you can fill it all and try to max it out yourself. You don’t have to, it’s all up to you, the shipper and how they want to build out their loads. But with LTL, it’s much more complex because you’re buying space on a trailer.

And the best way to describe it is thinking about, uh, you’re going to have LAMPS. Um ladders, you’re gonna have lawn chairs, you can have, um, ping pong balls, you could have printers, you can have barrel ball bearings, all on the same, on the same trailer, occupying the same space, and it’s going to move together, and then Disperse.

So, uh, hub and spoke system, think about flying Delta or American or United. You’re going to go from a feeder airport to a main airport, like Atlanta, Chicago, and then they’re going to disperse you out to consolidate you and then redisperse you out to smaller planes, to smaller airports. And that’s the same thing with LTL.

So you’re buying space on a trailer, you’re in a service. as part of that and so how do you price that? How do you understand those key dimensions of dimen density, ability, stowability, and handling ladders? You can’t stack stuff on top of ladders. Potentially, depending on how it’s packed. Ping pong balls, depending on how it’s packed, you can’t stack stuff real easily on top of it.

You may can stack it on something else, but if you can’t, or if it’s a non conforming easily to cube rate, it’s going to cost you more to ship it. So it’s a really. That that’s part of that complexity and trying to understand that you have classification and how do I classify my products with the NMFC for the National Motor Freight Classification Framework and through the National Motor Freight, National Motor Freight Transportation Association, they spend a lot of time trying to figure that out so that you can understand and then price it correctly and you can see and figure that out.

So we just wanted to fill that gap and then it’s exploding. As a mode of service, think about shipments and freight profiles and we’re going faster and faster towards smaller, more frequent shipments. How do you really want to pay for a full trailer to ship three pallets? Not really. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

So how do we do that? And part of that I think is that lean movement as well, but it’s also e commerce has played a huge role. And then you’ve got big and bulky items like recliners and furniture that could also be on the same load. Refrigerators, Wayfair is a great example, residential delivery, Peloton and XBO had some interesting learnings there with white glove service, but being able to do that and offer that and doing residential deliveries.

That’s one of those great things. Areas that LTL fits into and helps cover and can help provide service to. How do you navigate all that? How do you navigate the regulations, the tariffs, and just all the different aspects of what is involved in trans using. LTL as a service in transportation and road transportation.

That’s really what the credential was developed for, to certify that knowledge and help propel industry, entry level industry professionals and start them down and having that broad understanding of, LTL, but also how does it fit in to everything else that’s going on with the organization? So

[00:20:13] Rodney Apple: out of curiosity, when you think about you’re either on the shipper side or the carrier side, we’d love to understand like who your core, like who benefits the most?

Is it a mix of both? You got folks coming in from LTL carriers. Do you have,

[00:20:26] Joe Tillman: yeah.

[00:20:27] Rodney Apple: Folks coming in from the shipper side of Home Depot, for example, that uses a lot of LTL. Yeah,

[00:20:33] Joe Tillman: we actually have a really good mix of folks coming in and I can’t talk too deeply about it, but what’s really interesting on we do have carriers that are coming through.

We do send people through, especially new sales professionals are new in their sales department to better understand it. Yeah, well, one of the other side too is on the system side, we’ve seen people coming in on the systems, information systems, IT systems side to understand and providing that really good understanding of how to, what are, is all the data and how, how is each transactions handled and what’s included in that, you know, especially as the, uh, EBOL starts taking off and more carriers and more shippers are wanting to participate and utilize that as a function and, and, uh, Creating those connections there on the shipper site and I really think that the shippers are probably on that site because I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings In terms of what and how to work together better and and how to be really collaborative and partners And I get it, you know, having worked on the shipper site and being frustrated, but also having worked on the in the traffic department and filling out bols and filling out the paperwork and Where does that information come from and why am I getting chargebacks and things like that?

And sometimes it’s operating on oh, you know what i’m going to use this bol from the last shipment And i’m just going to copy the information from it. Oh, it’s a similar product same product Okay, and I can put the same thing because the thought is that’s where it’s at. That’s the information I can use It’s the same, it’s the same thing when it may not necessarily be.

And I think on the packaging side, new product development, you don’t see shippers taking into account, or at least I haven’t seen it too widely taken into account on packaging. We spend a lot of time on marketing. And sells and making the package pretty for on the shelf so that the consumer go, Ooh, I want to have that.

But that’s what we’ve got to think through. What are all the different modes of transport that’s going to go on to get to that final destination to be put on the shelf? And are you packaging it in such a way, meeting the minimum standards from the NMFC, even for hazmat or dangerous goods, meeting the minimum standards that are set for packaging to protect what’s being transported for those chemicals and substances that are being transported that could potentially harm others just by interacting with it.

It’s there’s a lot more involved with that and I think starting that part of that new development product development process How is it going to be transported from beginning to end and are we doing the best we can to protect it initially? And I think packaging is one of those places you spend the time there to understand that you’re going to reap benefits down the road from less damage claims later on.

[00:23:13] Rodney Apple: Clearly a lot of complexities go into this and we appreciate you. I know our audience is getting a earful there, which is great. I just learned a few things myself, which is what it’s all about.

[00:23:25] Mike Ogle: During this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain, executive search firm.

Visit SEMtalent group at SEMtalent. com.

[00:23:40] Rodney Apple: You talked about packaging, protecting goods in transit. What about on the distribution side? I know you’ve done a tremendous amount of work with DC Velocity. They’ve got their DC measures report. It’s been out for what, a couple of decades now, and then you, and you mentioned Carl and Donnie Williams have put a lot of work into this.

Could you explain to our audience what is DC Velocity? The DC measures report, what’s the purpose? How has it evolved over time?

[00:24:06] Joe Tillman: DC measures is a study that I’ve been involved with since 2005, six ish started out on the analyst side, but it really began, it started in, uh, 2003, 2002, 2003, as a survey of WERC work members, so warehouse education research council members, professional association in DC velocity magazine, just trying to understand what.

Measures of performance. What performance measures are you using within the four walls of the warehouse or DC to operate to understand operational performance and from their work, wanted to move it forward a little bit faster. And the question really was, can we get a benchmark? Well, what does performance actually look like for on time shipments?

What does this really mean? And, and, and, and so we started looking and collecting data points on, so we started out with 300 different me over 300 measures, what are you using to measure performance? We then took the most frequently cited ones, the following couple of years and started asking, How are you performing on time shipments?

What is your level of performance on this? And we, like I said, it was focused really on the operational side, really didn’t care what you promised to your customer, or especially if you’re a 3PL, you know, what’s your contract say? We want to know, what are you really performing at? And we really wanted to understand what is a benchmark?

What does that look like? And it evolved from going, it is going from taking that measure. That metric, and at first it was what is the top 20 percent look like best in class performance and median performance. And then it evolved to doing it on a quintile format looking from major opportunity. So the bottom 20 percent of performers looking at what.

Major opportunity to do they have to perform all the way up to the top 20 percent, um, which are the best in class performers. We’ve narrowed it down to 38 measures or metric measures. We, they’re defined, we provide the calculation for you so you can calculate it. We provide the definition and how it’s defined and they’re all process level measures in which some of those can then be used for elevated up to a KPI or a key performance indicator for the facility.

To track their performance, but that really started not just with Carl and Donnie. That was really, uh, Carl Manrote, Mary Holcomb, who, uh, was with the University of Tennessee until she passed away a couple of years ago. And then, uh, Stephen Ruttner was over the first three on that one. And then it was Carl and, uh, Kate Patacic came in 2004 and said, Hey, let’s let, what can this look like?

Cause we want to give practitioners a way to say, Oh, here’s where I’m at. And here’s where I can get to. What does that look like? What is that path to get there? And so we started on the results side, and, and that was started with, uh, WERC on the results side. So that quantitative, uh, measure of performance we really wanted.

And then we started looking at, well, what does the qualitative side look like? Because it’s really the practices that get us to those results. So what does the qualitative look look like in with a number of other, uh, team members with, uh, Kate Sek, uh, Steve Murray, another one who’s one of the, uh, WERC, uh, auditors for their.

Uh, warehouse facility certification program. We created the actual benchmarks for qualitative. So the, a process is within a facility. And then what is a process level benchmark look like for that? So that they can benchmark that against and have that qualitative. So what does that practice look like?

What are the results? And then marrying the two together, we wanted to give you, wanted to give you a roadmap so that you could see where you’re at today, where you could get to tomorrow and what did that look like?

[00:27:34] Rodney Apple: What, what would you say Joe has changed as we’ve seen newer, better technology and equipment robotics?

How is that kind of shape your way that you measure and track both the quantitative and qualitative side?

[00:27:50] Joe Tillman: If we’ve looked at that, so we looked at what kind of technology, what kind of, uh, automation, what does that look like in your facility? We’ve tried to understand that and compare it to performance.

We couldn’t find a significant difference in performance using, uh, the different types of implemented technology. We looked at it again in 2018. I believe it was 2018. And then we actually looked at it again this year. This year, we’d started actually seeing some, some of those significant differences in performance.

So it’ll be really interesting. I don’t want to give up. off too much because we’re not at the conference yet. So we’re just about three weeks away, but I think I pulled out a little bit more for you there, Rodney. And I think that we have to be careful with how we implement technology. You’ve got to remember technology is your pen.

That’s a technology. It’s basic now. And it’s well, it’s ubiquitous. Everybody has it. Uh, it’s not affecting performance in a lot of ways, but at one point in time, it was. Best practice to have the pen or the pencil or the writing utensil. So I, I just want to keep that in mind. And then also when you think about putting in new technology or automation, you have to really understand what is the capacity for the process?

How are you operating today? And can you really, where and how are you going to implement any type of new technology? Are you, is it really going to have the operational effectiveness, the efficiency, build into the efficiency? Because wherever you put it in, in the process, you’re going to have to then restreamline your capacity based off of the everything happening before that too.

So even though it may, you can’t run that machine, that new machine, you can’t run that new process at a hundred percent capacity. So. You have to take it. You can’t, it’s can’t look at a process. Can’t look at the step in a process. You look at, you have to look at the whole and optimize for the whole. That makes sense.

Yeah. But it’s, it’s really interesting. I think there’s, AI is a huge thing that a lot of people are talking about. I think it’s been around and we’ve been watching it for a while. I don’t think we’re going anywhere with it in terms of, let me rephrase that. I don’t think we as. Talent or people in an organization are going anywhere with it.

I think that it’s not going to replace anybody. It takes too much to make it work. And I don’t think people really understand how much. It’s not easy. I don’t have an easy button that I can press right here to say, Oh, that was easy. Or this is easy. It’s not it. You have to train it. You have to develop it.

You have to spend time with it. And you’ve got to have the people who have the acumen, the skills and the want and drive to be able to do that. Not everybody does.

[00:30:15] Rodney Apple: So one day we hope we can just tell a fleet of robots, Hey, we don’t, I don’t know how to sort all this stuff. I want you guys to get together, figure it out and then find a better way to do it.


[00:30:24] Joe Tillman: And it’s part of that, that machine learning process with it and building that in with it. But it’s really interesting. I, you go up and open an app and you’re asking questions like my Xfinity app, and I’m trying to get to my bill and trying to understand questions on my bill and it can’t answer any basic questions.

It’s got to go. I can tell you what your bill is. I can tell you what your data usage was this month. I can’t tell you a trend. I can’t tell you and put it into any kind of perspective. But yet, I’m a chat bot, but I’m AI. So you’ve got to think of all those different scenarios that you may come across and how to answer it of hopefully with machine learning component, it’s taking and building that in itself and learning from it, from those questions.

But that’s not been my experience over two years with the Xfinity chat, but I’m not going to say anything else or frustrations as customers.

[00:31:08] Mike Ogle: Yeah. Maybe that’s one of the things we pull out there. We’ll see. And I’m sorry, just a second here. I was. Checking my charging. It was not happy with me, said it wasn’t charging.

So anyway, I don’t want to run out of juice. I would, that’s why I stepped away for just a second there. Hey, so Joe, looking back, you think about some of the things that you’ve learned along the way, uh, are there some things that you wish you would have known or would tell students today about how to prepare for a supply chain career?

[00:31:40] Joe Tillman: I do a lot of things and having been an assistant professor and advising students in that process and coming through just a general. And that a business management degree, a bachelor’s in science and business management, for example, I go back to the same things and I always start with learn more about yourself as an individual and those things that you enjoy doing when there’s a lot of ways to learn about yourself.

So there’s Myers Briggs, there’s the Colby index, there’s strength finders. There’s a Enneagram, heck, if you want, you can even do astrology and use it to understand your personality and then your birth, from your birth chart, natal chart, and things like that. But I think the biggest thing is that you’ve got to be ready to evolve and change.

I wish I had somebody that would have. Pulled me off sooner with Kate and I wish I had met Kate much sooner to pull me off and say, Hey, let’s start talking about your professional and career development plan and what does that look like? And let’s start building in and working on that a lot sooner.

Don’t wait for your company, your organization to build that out. And I think that’s a struggle that a lot of HR departments have is having a good. Career development program or or showcasing. What does that path look like within or staying within that company and a lot of times that we’re having to transition and jump or what looks like jumping between jobs and speaking of jumping between jobs.

Don’t chase the title. Titles are meaningless and, or maybe, no, I don’t want to say meaningless anymore, but they’re almost irrelevant and they’re becoming quickly more. I think if you, especially if you look at the bloat and titles that have, that’s occurred and what’s being issued and just adding senior in front of something just to make it a little bit different.

And I think that’s a challenge in HR that HR is trying to get ahead of on it. So don’t chase a title. Don’t hesitate to take a step back if you need to. It doesn’t matter. It’s really what I really want you to understand or anybody to understand regardless of where they’re at in their career, it’s not the title that you chase or change, it’s the mindset that you have.

And I always like changing the M and what’s in it for me to a. W I what’s in it for we what are we doing together to build this and I think it really changes the attitude mindset that you have if you don’t look at it as well what am I getting out of it what are we getting out of this how are we building what in new ingredients or how are we growing that pie to be bigger so that we’re not fighting over the same size pie.

We’re dividing up a larger pie that I can get more slices out of or I can get a bigger slice out of because we can share and create a bigger slice of that. And I said this before, focus on your skills. Focus on developing your skills. Don’t follow your passion. Your passion will come. It really will. It’s the skills that you develop that’s going to lead you and get you to what you’re passionate about.

And I think it’s easy, and don’t ask me to pronounce her name, last name. Phenomenal person. I met her over the pandemic and been able to watch her develop and grow in her career and building her company. Is it the next gen architects? I think it is the name of her organization. And I love how open and sharing she is and transparent about what she’s dealing with and how she’s dealing with different things as she’s growing as a leader and as a owner of a business, and she talked just recently about her passion and not following it.

Having going through this entire circle that’s getting her back to where she was passionate and what her passion was. And when you look at everything that she really talked about, it was on all of the different skills that she developed and learned and refined that got her back to where she wanted to be or where it’s going that she did not expect in a lot of ways.

You got to be careful about that. Like I said, focus on your skills, develop your skills, make yourself so good they can’t ignore you is the Cal Newport book, really great book to read. And it’s, Focus on those skills. That’ll get you to your passion much faster.

[00:35:23] Rodney Apple: That’s good stuff. Great advice to wholeheartedly agree with what you said.

If you were to say without your crystal ball, right? And you are in a unique position, right? You get to, you know, in the research, you’re working across a lot of different industries and with companies of all shapes and sizes. So you get to see a lot. But how do you. How do you think about the future of logistics supply chain when you think about careers?

Are there the next three, four or five years we’ve talked about AI machine learning and robotics and things like that, but what do you think would fundamentally change if you had to pick a couple of issues or things?

[00:36:00] Joe Tillman: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this one for you, Rodney, and this is one of those interesting ways because having worked in, on the shop floor, working in management, owning my own company, running it, I think a lot of organizations are experiencing what I’m going to call organizational identity crisis, or maybe not a crisis, but a cultural shift in their identity and who they are, and I think part of that is how are we going to figure out work life balance, how are we going to figure out Remote work.

Are we going to do remote work? Are we going to be fully in office? What does that and how does that look? And I think we’ve seen some really interesting things from organizations like Penguin Random House. They went through in their warehouse VCs in, uh, in the U. S., Westminster, Maryland. Don’t ask me where in Indiana.

But they don’t have a huge market. They’re in smaller towns How do we find a talent that we need to come in and fill the roles that we need to have filled? So they went with a gig work or flex work arrangement and Reaching out to those people who would not normally be in the talent pool, not normally in the pool of candidates or potential candidates that could come in from nine to three or nine to two and work and mark up on the shifts and choose what shifts they want to work on.

And then Land O’Lakes just had a release from from in the Wall Street Journal that talking about flex work schedules and allowing employees to choose what schedule they want to work that week. And I think that’s going to be one of those defining changes that we’ve got to figure out. We talk a lot about productivity and you’ll hear a lot of anecdotal evidence.

I’m more productive if I’m in the office. I’m more productive if I’m doing X, Y, or Z, whatever that is. And then you have, we don’t have a lot of research that we really can point to and look at as good benchmarks are good. What is the performance difference? What is the productivity difference and how do we measure that productivity difference between organizations that are trying to do a hybrid, trying to do all in office and all Remote and there’s a couple of organizations that have been remote well before the pandemic occurred, but I think it’s also It’s I mean i’ve been remote for most of my working career.

I’ve been a remote worker Um ever since I left walmart in uh, 2006 and focus full time on my MBA. So, I think that’s that, I think that’s part of it. And then the demographic shift that we’re seeing in high schools, graduation sizes, graduating classes, the number of colleges and universities that are closing because they’re not able to maintain a sizable class.

And cohort going through for all four years. And we have a attitude change towards the four year to college degree and what it really means. We’ve got less people. Do I really need it? My nephew, he’s 21, just turned 21, but he tried a semester at college and now this isn’t for me. And now he works as a lineman and he’s making 50, 000 a year right now as a lineman.

And he’s, that’s middle class that’s median in a number of states. And he’s 21. So it’s, we have. Looking at our industry, looking at our economy, looking at the country as a whole, looking at where we have shifts occurring, I think we’ve got to figure out what does that really mean, and is it really necessary to have that four year college degree, and it may be that later on, he’s going to go, I want to do something a little bit different, I’m going to go to college, and to me, one of the things, key things, takeaways from a college degree, from my undergraduate, from my MBA, it’s, How to think it’s how to learn how to teach myself to learn.

And it’s, it, that’s really where the education piece comes from that. And for me, that’s what I see a lot of is how do I train myself and not relying just on anybody else to do it for me. So can I outsource it anymore? That’s the fun part.

[00:39:44] Mike Ogle: Amen, brother.

[00:39:45] Joe Tillman: Yeah, a lot of change coming.

[00:39:48] Rodney Apple: Yeah, especially as the, our largest generation is retiring with our baby boomers and a lot of institutional knowledge about to walk out the door.

I don’t think we did a good job because back then when I mentioned earlier, 20 years ago, we had the 6 or 8 universities versus the 200 plus today. And while we’re pumping a lot of. Students up into in the supply chain, and it’s I don’t I think we missed a whole generation and it should get interesting here in the next 5 to 10 years and see what happens.

[00:40:20] Joe Tillman: I think one of those key learning points from this is the importance of knowledge management in the organization and transfer. Oh, absolutely. And by that’s knowledge management. How do you transfer that information to the next group coming through? And how do you, and how do we build that into there?

That’s yeah, absolutely. It’s going to be interesting to watch. Yeah,

[00:40:41] Mike Ogle: it will. We have all these changes for the industry that we’ve talked about. Yeah. I wonder if you might be able to talk about a couple of key career challenges that you faced along the way and the changes that you had to make. And how did those challenges help you grow to where you are today?

[00:40:58] Joe Tillman: I, talking with you guys a little bit earlier before we got on here and looking at this question, I prefer to think of it more as pivots and having to pivot to something new or something different. And one of the things I’m always going to say to you is don’t be afraid to take a step back. Okay. It’s like going down to interstate.

I missed my exit. What are you going to do? There’s another one just down the street. You can turn around and go back. Don’t be afraid to do that. Mistakes happen. They’re there for a reason. Learn from them process it take time to think through what actually happened here. And why did it occur? I think that’s for any of the challenges that I had and having been a small business owner during the pandemic One of the key things and one of my key streams of revenue was going in person to teach and train at a warehouse or a distribution center or a manufacturing facility.

What do you do if you can’t go in person and train? What if you can’t, what if your clients or customers are not calling you because they’ve got an extension now on their required training from the federal government? We’re not hiring anybody new. So what do you do? And how do you pivot in that? For me, it was going back to basics.

And I went and said, Oh, hey, you know what? We all need groceries. We got to go buy toilet paper when it gets there, but we all need food. So I went to my local Kroger and I applied for a job at Kroger. And I worked in Kroger stocking shelves, you know, at night. It’s it, what do you do? I’m not a person that I can easily sit still.

Prolonged and I think it was really, it was a really good and interesting experience to go back to that. I did it for four and a half, five months. My business started picking back up. And then I also started teaching as an adjunct that earlier, right before it started the pandemic at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee.

And teaching a couple of classes and they had one of their professors decide, you know what, I’m done. I’ll retire. He retired. And they asked me if I could step in to help fill a role and teach full time. So you pivot. You change direction and we have to, and being prepared for that. And how do you prepare for that?

Part of that is taking on that professional career development for yourself and mapping out those things and making sure you’re working on those areas that you need to work on that build your brand, your personal brand. And that’s something I didn’t mention a minute ago, but it is about building those.

personal brands, but keeping a positive attitude and knowing that maybe this is only going to be for the short term. What can I learn from this? And what I learned from working in stocking shelves in Kroger, some things have changed, not a lot, and it is still a struggle. It is still, how do we know demand and listening?

Here’s the one thing, listen to the people on the shop floor that are doing the work. Because they know what’s going on. You want to know what’s going on in your organization. You want to know what’s going on in your company. Talk to the person on the floor that is in there day after day, doing their job and listening to what they’re telling you.

It’s a good feedback stream and it’s a good way to understand and really get a good understanding. And a lot of times they’re going to have more direct contact with customers than, and then some of the upper divisions, middle management, even frontline managers may even have talked to the people that are interacting with them on a daily basis.

That’s so key, but yeah, it was a really interesting experience to have that do it. I loved it. So it’s, it gives me a lot of hope for the future. We’ve got a lot of opportunities, a lot of opportunities for improvement.

[00:44:20] Rodney Apple: We sure do. A lot will be changing. It’ll be interesting to watch. It’s like we’ve watched this thing evolve for, As long as we’ve been in it, all of us, and on that note, just as we part ways and you shared some tremendous advice and perspective show, and we appreciate your time.

But as you look back on your career, you think about some of the advice you’ve received that really stood out and made a huge impact. Anything you’d like to share there or anything in general with our audience.

[00:44:48] Joe Tillman: Absolutely. I always go back to, I like to say back to basics, the ABCs, right? What are those?

And ABCs of selling is always be closing. ABCs of career development, professional development, developing yourself as an individual, always be curious. Make yourself interesting because that’s what helps build out your network and helps people to better understand you and learn more about you and sharing yourself with that.

But that curiosity and asking questions, don’t focus just on business. Look at other things, other areas. I love wine. I can talk about wine. You’ll really feel it. It’s really fascinating to talk about wine in my mind, but some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people like talking about travel. Some people like talking about the best way to game your point system or your travel points and levels and how to get there.

Of course, airlines are making it harder as we go. But again, there, there’s always, there’s always things happening. Always, always develop yourself. Always try to learn something new, learn something more, ask questions, proactively reach out. As part of that don’t be afraid to try something brand new for the first time i’m trying new things all the time It’s just one of those things.

I i’m not a big egg person. I don’t like scrambled eggs I I don’t like stuff like that. But you know what i’m starting to try new egg Dishes, omelets, just tried eggs benedict for the first time and before that it’s, it’s maybe something small and that you’re not really thinking about, but in a lot of times it can be something really huge that you really don’t just having that experience.

And if you do try it, at least you’ll know whether it’s right for you or not. I think that’s, you know, one of those big things. Always be curious. Always, ABC’s of professional development, always be curious, read more books, don’t focus just on business books. I’ve got books, uh, my current one I’m reading is the year 1000.

When looking at globalization in the year 1000 and what did that look like? Life in the medieval village was another one that I just read. History, what’s going on and what I’m really learning is supply chain, nothing new. Sourcing has been around for gener for millennia. And how we do it, it’s a little bit different and it’s a lot faster.

That’s true. And I’ve got a lot of options finally. So that’s sort of, those are the key things.

[00:46:58] Mike Ogle: Hey, Joe, thank you very much for a great conversation and all your insights about supply chain careers.

[00:47:04] Joe Tillman: Thank you both for having me. I really appreciate it.

[00:47:10] Mike Ogle: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Supply Chain Careers Podcast. Be sure to listen to other episodes and sign up to be notified when future episodes are released as we continue to interview industry leading supply chain experts. This podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit scmtalentgroup at scmtalent. com.

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