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My job explained: Logistics centre manager

As a Logistics centre manager in the aerospace industry, Craig Bentley makes sure that the businesses on the ground run as smoothly as the planes in the sky. Read on to find out more.

Could you tell us a bit about your job?

I am a Logistics centre manager, which means I'm responsible for managing a distribution centre, receiving and shipping aerospace parts all across the globe.  We handle anything from parts as small as washers or tiny springs to huge auxiliary power units and even wheels from the underside of an aeroplane.  My job is about managing the flow of material in and out, ensuring we have a quality oriented, efficient and, above all, safe working environment for the 50 or so staff that work there.

Why did you choose to go into logistics?

It wasn’t a deliberate decision. My first few jobs after graduating were in the automotive industry but more from the marketing side, working with vehicle manufacturers and their dealer networks.  One of the companies I was working with outsourced their parts operations to a third party logistics provider (3PL) and so I then moved into a number of different roles in the logistics business.  I guess it continued through a strong interest in supply chain management and understanding how various businesses work together to get products from manufacture to the end user.

How did you get to where you are now?

My first 'real job', after graduating, was running a vehicle rental department for a Vauxhall dealer.  I then used my understanding of how franchised dealers operate to spend the next few years working with MG Rover dealers on developing their parts, accessories and service business; this was for a 3rd Party Logistics company, Cat Logistics, that operated MG Rover's parts business on their behalf.  It was when MG Rover's car business went bust in 2005 that I started working with some of our other third party logistics clients in a number of business development roles, finally taking the opportunity to run my own facility at the beginning of last year.  I'd spent several years marketing and selling our expertise in supply chain management, so I thought it was time I 'got my hands dirty' and worked in operations for a while.

What’s a typical working day like?

Every day starts with a management level review with our client, looking at the previous day's performance and issues, then looking ahead to challenges facing us today, such as resource issues, special requirements, etc.  This review is then flowed down to our team on the shop floor so they also understand the expectation for the day ahead, and we value their input in planning how we will address the day's challenges.  After that each day is different.  A lot of time is spent reviewing the effectiveness of our quality systems and processes as we strive to continually improve our productivity and quality, there are HR issues to manage, business planning, resource and capacity planning, reviewing status of projects we're running, training, and whenever we have quality issues I'm part of problem solving teams to get to the root cause and introduce improvements.

What qualifications and training do you have?

I have a degree in engineering physics and later studied part-time for a diploma in management, then an executive MBA.  I also studied and became a Green Belt in the Six Sigma project business management strategy.

What other skills do you need?

The ability to juggle multiple priorities at the same time, quickly understand trade offs and be able to make decisions under pressure.  I often used to hear working in operations was like 'spinning plates', I now understand what that means!

What’s the best thing about your job?

The amount of variety, and the challenge to constantly improve the service we offer our client and their customers.

What’s the most difficult thing about your job?

Introducing and managing changes to working practices while engaging the workforce in the vision of what we're trying to achieve.  Changing a workplace culture is a very difficult and time-consuming thing to do. I rely a lot on having a strong team to help me to deliver, and as a very busy operation we always struggle to find as much time as we would like to really focus on it.

Was it difficult getting your first job?

No, but then things were very different than today.  I had to be prepared to start at the bottom. After that it was about being flexible and being prepared to put in a lot of hard work.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to get into logistics?

There are a number of routes to get into logistics, distribution or supply chain management, including starting on the shop floor and working your way up, studying supply chain management or a similar subject, or going for a graduate training opportunity.  Success is linked to having an open mind, wanting to continually improve and having a strong interest in developing people, processes and technology.

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