First of all, when I started in the supply chain, supply chain careers weren’t something people even looked at or considered. I started out in a warehouse job because it was something I worked on part time while I went to college. It was definitely something I never looked at as a career. And my father helped me land a union job in a warehouse working for Vons grocery company. I was quite shocked when I started, I was 18 years old and this was very much a mans workplace and the work was difficult. You needed a strong back strong mind and agility to do it. The term dark, dirty and dangerous applied to where I worked. And the first day of my job, there was a fist fight in the warehouse. Week later, somebody flipped his forklift with his hand on the upper bar and split his hand wide open. So very much at the time it was the inmates ran the asylum and basically the workers controlled the work environment. Was the essence of that.
Now, as we talk about technology and automation and how that’s evolved in today’s modern warehouse was at the time when I started in 1978, there was something called a tow line that ran through the warehouse. It was embedded in the floor. It was a long, a motor driven chain. And the way that we pulled orders for the grocery stores was that we had a cart similar to what was at a Costco store. We would pull the metal cart down the aisles and fill the orders off of a piece of paper that we were given and load that up and stack it as high as we could and as heavy as we could, and then drag that cart to what was the center aisle, and then take a pin and drop it into the tow line. And the cart would chug through the warehouse and eventually ended up on the shipping dock. And at the time that was kind of state-of-the-art technology and that was a very advanced thing.
It took me seven years to finish school. I was working part-time and going to school. And during those seven years in that workplace where men worked, I grew up and I was basically kind of an agitator troublemaker and I turned into a trusted high producing worker as I matured and became married and had a child. And then eventually after graduation from college, I was promoted into warehouse management, something that was unique at the time in that it was in a union workforce and the managers did not come from the union workforce. There was a clear line at the time between that and fraternization and all of that. And it was very tough change going from managing, and going from working and being a best friend, all workers to managing them. It was a big leap and there was lot of life lessons. The upside was I knew the operations from a hands-on perspective and the current managers at the time, did not have that background because they were hired in as managers. So I knew the operations very well.
Kind of interesting in terms of a career pathway perspective is that today the
media has a point of attacking the logistics industry, there’s lots of warehousing facilities being built. But there’s an ongoing attack against the industry from that perspective, they say, 1400 jobs are created that are dead end jobs. They never go anywhere. But the reality is in the supply chain, there are 155 career pathways and there’s a career pathway for anybody that’s willing to work hard. Somehow there’s this mentality out there that the employers responsible for picking you up by your bootstraps and helping you move forward. But in reality, it’s your responsibility to do that. And it took me seven years to go to school and to graduate. And it wasn’t that piece of paper in a business marketing, which was a BA and anything relevant to do with working in a warehouse. But what they did was qualified me to go into management and it didn’t and teach me anything about running the warehouse or things of that nature. But what it did was teach me about perseverance and completing things and getting from point to point. But as it relates to the attack on the logistics industry today, you have jobs that are highly benefited, they pay 30% more than retail and offer a variety of career pathways. And for some reason, they’re a demon in today’s media.
Anyway, I eventually he left the grocery company at the time and went to work for a company named Perrigo. It was generic over the counter drugs and I was a west coast distribution manager. It was a great job. There are a lot of challenges and it was a great company. And over the course of that journey in what would have been about 17 years in warehouse management and 29 years working with logistics industry, was I saw a lot of changes in technology and the evolution of technology. So the evolution in electric pallet jacks, that transitioned things from people pulling the cart, to actually driving a motorized cart that did that for you and that increased productivity. At the time, the computer room for the grocery company was literally the entire basement of the grocery company. And it was kept at headquarters. There were no computers at that juncture in the warehouse, but I saw the advent of the first desktop go into a warehouse and then was part of what was the first warehouse management system implementation, which tied inventory control into labor management and integrated the systems in the warehouse. Technology began to evolve then plus the other aspect was engineered work standards for the workers. How long did tasks take? And all of a sudden people were put on what was called the clock. And it was so at that juncture, in the advent of technology, when the inmates no longer ran the asylum, right? The management began to gain control of what was going on in the operations as they became more and more efficient.
And the term logistics came forward. Before it was warehouse, all of a sudden it’s logistics, it’s a little bit sexier. As a leader for the Perrigo company, I was a west coast distribution manager for a satellite facility. So that was a transition from paper or labels per se, picking labels into a computerized system with a computer mounted on forklifts that were not industrial hardened yet at the time. And it was big thing, figuring out how to do that and then scan guns attached to those. And then UPC barcode labels on the racking and on the product and boom, the paper vanished out of the warehouse.
And again, it was another leap forward for productivity in better servicing companies. And we went from being, if you had a really good operation, your
inventory control was 95% accurate, meaning 5% of everything in the warehouse. You never knew what it was. Well, with the advent of the system like this and in some good procedures in place, all of a sudden the inventory became 98.9 to 99.8 to 99.9% accurate. And it really gained control of the operations. And then the next leap from that perspective that we went through was the implementation of what was called SAP. An enterprise wide software system implementation in that went from just the warehouse into the entire enterprise and everything from procurement, for manufacturing to customer service, to the warehouse and integrated the entire company. And at the time again, that was something very advanced to do. And when we first stood that up, it crippled the company literally for about 90 days to the perspective that our biggest customer at the time, demanded that we ship product and we had to charter an airplane to fly product, get it delivered to their warehouse at a huge expense. At any rate, you work through all of those challenges and came out the other side. Supply chain had finally come of age.
CEOs are recognizing the importance of logistics as a lynch pin in the company’s success. We’re having a VP level or C level, supply chain leaders became part of the leadership team of companies. At the time when I started in logistics, there were no programs to train, educate people in the field of logistics. By the time SAP was implemented, I was involved in that 20 years later, supply chain management was a field of study. There were some logistics programs at community colleges, just teaching basic logistics management and transportation, inventory control, things of that nature. So the education began to come forward.
And another compliment to that was of course, the evolution of the worker. And I talked about the nature of the worker and the nature of the work that I did with a strong back and strong mind and being agile. I was an athlete. Thank goodness to be able to, because a lot of guys didn’t make it through the first 30 days. It was tough work. All of a sudden you’re working with computers and understanding inventory control and using scan guns. You began to have staff to support that it began to evolve. And as I mentioned before, the whole field of supply chain management, it became a field of study because you need to figure out how to do things more efficiently