As a participant in the University of Waterloo economics co-op program, I had the unique opportunity to work for IBM Canada and TransCanada Pipelines, doing accounting, lease financing and budgeting and analysis tasks as befitting a BA candidate in economics. I graduated in 1995 with the equivalent of nearly two full years of work experience in a professional environment – it sure beat flipping burgers!
As part of my work at TransCanada Pipelines, I had developed a forecasting tool that was used to predict consumption volumes of natural gas and by-products to assist with budgeting and managing pipe capacity. This experience lead me to a position at Canadian Tire, on a logistics team that was being assembled to change how the company flowed goods from suppliers to store shelves. It was a pre-emptive strike against an onslaught of direct and indirect competition coming from the United States (not the least of which were a couple of juggernauts – Wal-Mart and Home Depot). This is how I came to meet my business partner Mike Doherty.
It took me about 2 weeks to realize that the forecasting experience that played a large part in my being considered for the role was completely useless. Forecasting aggregate volumes of natural gas in 7 markets is completely unlike forecasting sales for each of 60,000 unique products in over 400 locations in about every way you can imagine.
From that point, it took nearly 3 years (and more than a few bumps in the road), but we transformed Canadian Tire’s supply chain to be more responsive, agile and efficient (order fill rates out of the DC jumped, average supplier lead times were reduced by nearly 70% and DC turns doubled). We also began the transformation of the retailer-supplier relationship by sending updated 6 month replenishment schedules to over 1,500 suppliers every week – a first in retailing.
In late 1998, wanting to teach the world all that I had learned from my experience at Canadian Tire, I began my career in consulting. From process design and implementation to analytics, I worked with a variety of clients in virtually all supply chain sectors, including retail, distribution, manufacturing and transportation.
In 2002, Mike and I still felt that there was still an enormous opportunity to link the entire retail/CPG supply chain from the supplier to the store shelf and not much progress had been made since we had left Canadian Tire. We refocused our energy in this direction and, ever since, we’ve been working solely with retail clients and their suppliers, including:
- Canadian Tire Corporation
- Proctor & Gamble Mexico
- Loblaw Companies Limited
- Home Depot of Canada
Throughout my career, I’ve always got a big kick out of helping people internalize new ideas. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than seeing that spark of understanding when someone truly “gets it”. I’ve also learned that the teams who accomplish the greatest things are the ones who have fun (even when they’re working crazy hours to get the job done). Webex and video conferencing rooms are great, but I’ve found the best collaboration tool in the world to be the good old whiteboard. I’m an obsessive organizer and if I had my way, every meeting would be a workshop where people come up with new ideas, work things out on the fly and crack the occasional joke. It’s really the most productive way to work. Even if my markers get taken away from me, at the occasional meeting!
In 2006, I co-wrote Flowcasting the Retail Supply Chain with Mike Doherty and our good friend/colleague/mentor, André Martin. The term flowcasting has since been adopted by the industry to embody the notion of a seamlessly integrated supply chain where all inventory, capacities and resources can be planned across enterprises with a single set of numbers – starting with customer demand at the store shelf.