In honor of National Logistics Day, which is June 28, I share a recap of a conversation I recently had with my colleague Ann Marie Jonkman, who leads Blue Yonder’s 3PL Industry Strategy. Ann Marie shares highlights from her logistics career and what she has treasured the most from it. Also, she and I discuss “Current and Future Logistics Trends” with Part 2 of that conversation coming soon. You can watch our Blue Yonder Live conversation here.

An Exciting Career Journey

Terence: Ann Marie, please introduce yourself and your career journey.  

Ann Marie: I don’t have a traditional background in software. I started my journey at UPS and Menlo Worldwide Logistics, which is now XPO Logistics. I started in supply chain planning and specifically transportation planning on the Sears account back in the day.

I led operations, whether in transportation, distribution or shared services and in both union and non-union organizations across logistics, contract logistics, technology, and implementation.

And from there, my career pivoted into private equity-backed companies, taking care of customers and their end-to-end supply chain solution implementations. It has really been an exciting and fruitful journey with plenty of learnings, great friendships, and opportunities to grow.

Terence: What do you treasure the most in this journey?

Ann Marie: For me, it has really been the mentorships and the relationships that I have been able to create at all levels throughout the years. I’m really honored as a leader to be able to touch so people within transportation and warehousing, as well as work with great clients.

It’s been a privilege to execute end-to-end supply chains for Fortune 100 to Fortune 1000 clients, as well as consult for them. Touching on the inner workings a little bit: the marketing campaigns, product recalls, and the sweat and tears, just the passion, that our customers put in to deliver products to retailers, homes or hospitals were demonstrative of the pace of work. As a whole, I really consider it a privilege to be pressed for those SLAs and deliver what we promised!

Terence: And recently you added software to your experiences. Why did you make this jump?

Ann Marie: I was in the operations, operational excellence or supply chain for so many years, leveraging all the advanced technologies. I really considered it a privilege to make the pivot to software, to start looking at the algorithms of transportation and warehouse management tools to see what the future will look like and what will benefit the customers the most.

For example, how is robotics and automation going to change the lives of warehouse and transportation workers, as well as clients? And how can I leave a mark in the industry? There are still some ways to go in this career journey.

Operational Challenges and Improvements

Terence: When speaking to our logistics and supply chain customers, what are the challenges and current initiatives for operational improvements?

Ann Marie: Labor is still a challenge for all as there is a need for reliable labor, so that is a top of mind. While we still have supply chain and inventory delays and opportunities, labor is typically your number one cost at the top of a P&L. And with rising labor costs, those need to be offset.

Secondly, it is also important to look at improving your bottom line. Most companies were just trying to keep the business running the last two to three years. While that is still true today, they also need to make their financial commitments. So, I would say for the next year that is obviously important.

Another challenge is having just enough inventory.

Terence: What are the companies looking at in the short term and longer term?

Ann Marie: The short-term goal is to keep the company solvent and moving forward. How do we control labor costs? From a longer-term perspective, how do we improve in the three-year horizon? Please bear in mind that 50% of the contracts are typically for three years or less.

Adapting and looking at how we pivot to new technologies in this new normal are important. How do I look at a platform for my business? How do we use APIs within our business? What is an API? How do we look at applying AI and machine learning within our business? What do we need in order to apply them?

Am I shipping just-in-time and are my clients paying for that service or can I ship two to three days a week to this pool point or area and offer a lower cost service that still meets the goals of the retailer or the business?

Terence: What are other challenges that are being resolved?

Ann Marie: Diversity, equity and inclusion is being embraced. When I first started my career in this industry, I remember walking into a twilight shift that started at 10:30 p.m. and I was the only female within the building. I felt safe but that was definitely a challenge. And I am really glad to see that over the last 10 years the landscape is pivoting!

Improving P&L With Logistics Solutions

Terence: You mentioned that it is important for companies to think about improving the bottom-line. What are the focuses?

Ann Marie: Companies are asking themselves, “Are there things that we can do to improve our solutions and customer service?” Many had to put their operations on autopilot during the COVID-19 pandemic.Now they can really understand where their cost drivers are.

From a P&L perspective, it is not just looking at your fixed costs, it is also looking at your volume, shift schedules from a labor management, and whether for example you always operate 24 over 6 or 24 over 7? Is there really a demand for that? What are your peaks to meet your SLAs?

These different strategies can be addressed within Blue Yonder’s software solutions. You can look at different parameters and dial them in; we can definitely help you capitalize on opportunities. For example, it does not need to be a robotics play right away. Instead, it can be a set of configuration adjustments and really a mindfulness of a business review of your client portfolio mix to make sure that to keep your expenses low. This is a low hanging fruit opportunity.

More Insights to Come

In an upcoming Part 2 article, we will get more insights from Ann Marie about future challenges and opportunities such as what processes need to be automated, how to factor in autonomous vehicles and drones, and how to improve first-time quality. She will also share some advice for those interested in a logistics and supply chain career!

Learn More

For more insights about logistics and supply chain challenges and investments in solutions, please review the recently published 2023 Supply Chain Executive Survey e-book. Learn about First-to-Last-Mile Optimization solutions here. Watch the Blue Yonder Live conversation here.