Although Candace Holowicki only took over as chairwoman of the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council four months ago, she already has big plans for the role. The nearly 20-year transportation veteran recently sat down with Air Cargo World to discuss how she plans to leverage her experience as director of global logistics at TriMas Corp. in her new role and spark change in the supply-chain sector.
1. Why is professional education important to the supply-chain/logistics professional?
Continuing education is a key tool in effectively managing global supply chains and the logistics networks that support them. Supply chain and logistics professionals today need to be well versed in a number of areas in order to continuously maintain and improve upon the lowest-cost, on-time deliveries required by our stakeholders.
With vendors, customers and manufacturing sites moving between domestic locations and foreign countries, knowledge of the economic environments, political climates, current fuel costs and currency fluctuations in the countries we are working with is critical. These factors impact the landed cost of the goods we are moving and the potential risks that we need to be prepared to mitigate.
Shippers who constantly educate themselves by staying up to date in financial, political and IT developments in supply chain and logistics are working at an elevated level of professionalism. They have a more thorough understanding of their supply-chain risks and are better prepared for the inevitable disruptions that occur.
2. Do you find that supply-chain/logistics professionals are open to continuing education?
Most of the supply-chain and logistics professionals I encounter are open to education. Many of us watched colleagues lose jobs during the recession as their positions were eliminated. This period was an eye-opening experience since many of the eliminated positions were critical to company operations; in many cases, however, upper management did not have a clear understanding of the responsibilities of the supply-chain and logistics professionals.
Those of us whose positions were not eliminated ultimately ended up taking on additional roles and responsibilities as workforces shrunk to lower cost. Logistics managers who were responsible for just domestic or international logistics, or just inbound or outbound logistics, found themselves taking on both roles. Education through networking, professional association membership (i.e., NASSTRAC) or more formal certification/degree programs became important to both groups of professionals. For those who had lost their positions, it was a way to expand their professional network and build their resumes while searching for their next job. For those who were taking on new responsibilities, additional education was necessary to successfully perform in the new role.
3. How can NASSTRAC’s educational platform help shippers?
The NASSTRAC educational platform allows shippers to cover a lot of educational ground with a minimal time commitment. Between NASSTRAC’s Annual Shippers Conference in April; its member newsletter, NewsLink; and the resources available on its website, shippers can stay current on the topics that matter most in our field. Staffing levels in the supply-chain and logistics functions still have not completely recovered in many industries, and shippers also have greatly reduced or eliminated professional-development requirements.
Most of the supply-chain and logistics professionals I work with are spread pretty thin, and allotting time to review current white papers and journals, research policy initiatives on Capitol Hill, or even brainstorm with other professionals is a major challenge we face today.
4. How does NASSTRAC influence decisions in the global sphere? What agenda is NASSTRAC currently pushing on a global and national level?
NASSTRAC provides key educational resources that support global supply-chain leaders and decision-makers. Educating shippers on the pending legislative changes in Washington, D.C., for instance, provides us the background information that we need to facilitate meaningful discussions with our senators’ and representatives’ staff members. Aside from our annual conference and regional meetings, NASSTRAC maintains a legislation tracker and key issues page on our website, which is a quick and convenient reference tool for shippers.
NASSTRAC also takes a leadership role in representing shippers’ concerns by issuing legal briefs and filings on behalf of their shipper members. Plus, the association coordinates “Fly In” events in Washington, D.C., which bring together shippers and decision-makers to help influence policies on topics such as hours of service, infrastructure funding and the “Clean Ports Act.” Most recently, NASSTRAC filed shippers’ concerns on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s failure to respond to key issues raised by the American Trucking Association’s petition on hours of service.
5. How has your experience working on the manufacturing side given you a different perspective on the shipping process?
Working in logistics for a global manufacturing company has broadened my supply-chain focus. Many logistics roles have a much narrower focus — outbound shipping only, for instance, or management of a single mode of transportation. Since things can go wrong anywhere in the supply chain — from raw material procurement to final mile delivery to the customer — a broader supply-chain view is necessary to support global manufacturing operations.
As the manufacturer, you see the shipping process from both the shipper’s and the receiver’s point of view. Focusing on shipping our products in time to meet our customers’ delivery requirements is not enough. Visibility to the upstream milestones that have to be met in order for the manufacturing operations to have the right products ready for the necessary ship dates is vital. This perspective makes me a better customer to my vendors and a better vendor to my customers, as I recognize the value of supply-chain visibility and open communication between supply-chain partners.