At Supply Chain Game Changer we believe in sharing experiences and expertise from people in every industry and from across the globe. As such we have introduced our “Seasoned Leadership in Action™” Interview series at Supply Chain Game Changer. This interview is with Mike Croza, Founder and Managing Partner at Supply Chain Alliance.
Supply Chain Alliance is a premier Management Consulting firm specializing in all things Supply Chain. With decades of experience and a track record of achieving outstanding results in all industries they are an essential resource for those looking to move their businesses forward.
I had heard Mike’s name come up in conversation as a part of Supply Chain Alliance from time to time through the years. Eventually an esteemed colleague of mine introduced me to Mike as we were considering enlisting external support for an upcoming project.
It was immediately clear to me that Mike was an outstanding professional and individual. His ability to grasp the situation quickly, develop a game plan, and mobilize incredible resources and expertise were highly impressive.
The situation reinforced my career long view that networking is an essential part of any professional development plan. Further there is an absolutely incredible amount of expertise and experience in the world for those in need to tap into.
Recently I was approached by another colleague looking for Supply Chain expertise to help a potential customer in dire need of help. My first thought, and my first step, was to call Mike Croza. Seeing Mike jump into action only confirmed my long held view of this great leader.
Thank you Mike for your friendship and taking the time to share your experiences and expertise with us.
Here is our interview with a true Supply Chain leader, Mike Croza, Founder of Supply Chain Alliance!
Tell our readers a little about your background and experience?
Like many people who “fell” into Supply Chain and Logistics, the profession was not an initial chosen field. I learned about logistics and “miles” by playing full time in a rock and roll band for 7 years playing in clubs across Canada in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Our booking manager did not have any “routing logic”, unfortunately as we would be on the road for 10 months at a times and one year travelled 25,000 kms. Canada is a big place that part of my life was a lifelong learning and experience.
I moved from that career when my wife and I had our first child in 1983 and I needed a “real” job which was working in a startup automotive plant north of Toronto with Magna International. I was the first forklift operator in the 2 warehouse facilities of 300,000 sq.ft supporting a production line paint plant for plastic bumpers.
3 months in I had oversight of 70 people and responsibility for shipping “Just in Time” to 6 assembly plants in the US and Canada. Penalties for being late on shipments those days were $250,000 an hour, the cost of shutting down the production line in a car assembly plant.
I was initially very scared and intimidated but had a very good mentor who gave me confidence with his encouragement. But as critical for any leader / manager however inexperienced I was fortunate to have a dedicated and super team of Fork-lift operators / Shipper-Receivers with a mix of new people to the country and made it things happen. (Thankfully we never were late!)
I then moved to an office products company Acco Canada, a manufacturer and they were distributing nationally to retail and commercial customers. I had all functions from Customer Service and back to Production Scheduling, including Planning, Distribution Operations, Transportation, Purchasing and got my ERP implementation experience.
In 1993 at 37, I took a big step with my onside supportive wife with 4 small children, new house and mortgage and hung my own “shingle”. It was really one of the best decisions I have made in my career. 27 years later I work with some of the best folks I know in supply chain and who are outstanding people and we have many relationships that extend for more than 10 – 15 years of working together.
Supply Chain Alliance is the name of the supply chain consulting firm and we have worked with over 250 companies in the US and Canada across 450 projects, so a wide array of experience and depth
What are some of your greatest achievements in Business?
I would have to say what I am most proud of is the achievement of starting a business and brand in a field that I have so much passion for, earning trust and delivering good solid work with wonderful clients.
Most important to me is building a small team who I have so much respect for and how we collectively help clients with in some cases very complex business issues and create value through raising supply chaincompetencies and performance. All this gets executed through implementation and hands on leadership and support.
How has the Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?
Since starting in 1983, Business and especially Supply Chain is unrecognizable with today’s needs. Globalization, Technology, Customer Expectation, and Complexity have thrown people in Supply Chain to the forefront and spotlight.
There are very few roles in an enterprise where the understanding and overview that one gets being in a supply chain role, exist. That knowledge and understanding, especially in the way the e-Commerce and on-line channels are driving supply chain networks and performance is invaluable today as companies are developing capabilities and that channel growth for revenue and market growth.
Supply Chain people are the change agents in most organizations.
What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from?
Despite all that I have mentioned above on technology any business is all about people. So being transparent, never compromising your integrity and maintain a sincere care for the people you work with. At the same time as a leader of any organization, good communication and mentoring is key as well and not allowing behavior that is counter to a company’s values that requires attention and swift appropriate action to take place.
What challenges facing the world are important to you?
As a father of 4 and a grandfather of 5, I worry about the environment we are handing over to the next generations. We are seeing the effects of climate change happening now and seems to be coming faster and faster. Governments and people are not moving fast enough
What is the role of Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges?
Definitely some businesses went “green” many years ago and as we work in many industries and sectors, we see green initiatives in place or being initiated through the supply chain.
However, with the e-commerce trend one could say on the physical logistics piece that delivery of “one of anything” to our homes in a cardboard box is not environmentally friendly unless that box is entirely recyclable / reusable and the vehicle that delivered it is not using fossil fuel energy
What are you working on these days?
Lots and the type of work is interesting and challenging. My answer to this is for many years until recentlyyour Distribution Operation and Supply Chain could be “just okay” and a 5 – 6 out of 10 rating.
The game has changed as consumers we are now used to immediacy, high expectations and outstanding customer experience.( Thanks Amazon!) Retail has always had compliance and fines but they are definitely stepping it up with harsher non-compliance penalties.
To be able to receive an order and perform flawlessly to get to a customer same day or next day, requires a lot of coordination and investment in systems, both IT and Material Handling as well as well defined processes and most important a solid leadership structure and execution team.
Equally important is the need for an Integrated Planning process and structure that’s effective. Questions that need to be answered around “where should we have a DC and how does that effect my network”, “Should I be thinking about outsourcing distribution and can you help us” are common ones.
Other key work is conducting operational turnarounds or stabilization projects where we work in the operation to raise levels of productivity, improved layout and MHE design and work to develop the leadership to create a “culture” in the environment. Many companies are struggling to create what’s needed.
With the “talent gap” we see especially in supply chain, good people across the organization from a VP to a DC Associate will only stay in a business if culture and job and environment is thriving and fits with their lifestyle and family needs. And as Supply Chain is now mainstream and seen as a very strategic part of the business, solutions and capabilities need to be built. Our team helps accelerate change.
Because we are a practitioner- based firm in supply chain and logistics operations, with our changing world driving new requirements and capabilities, the added complexity has created the need for seasoned subject matter experts and change management expertise to help a business navigate, shore up, accelerate and develop supply chain competencies.
All of our people have deep subject matter expertise in the specific areas of the supply chain but most important change management skills to help skill transfer and imbed structure, process and systems to build internal capability and continuous improvement
What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain?
If you are in Supply Chain, you have already made a good career decision. You need to develop experience in one or a number of the supply chain disciplines and the more you understand the physical operations and downstream activities, you can then gain the planning experience that drives downstream flow closest to the customer.
In supply chain it always starts with the customer so a good working understanding operationally of customer needs is critical to then start changing upstream process and behaviours