Welcome to What the Duck?! A podcast with real experts talking about direct spend challenges and experiences. And now, here’s your host, SourceDay’s very own manufacturing Maven, Sarah Scudder. Thank you for joining me for What the Duck?! Another Supply Chain Podcast brought to you by SourceDay. I’m your host, Sarah Scudder, and this is the podcast for people working in the direct materials part of the supply chain. I’m @SarahScudder on LinkedIn and @Sscudder on Twitter.
Thanks for joining me for What the Duck?! Another Supply Chain Podcast brought to you by SourceDay. I’m your host, Sarah Scudder, and this is the podcast for people working in the direct materials part of supply chain and manufacturing. I’m @SarahScudder on LinkedIn and @Sscudder on Twitter. I’ve decided to change things up a bit and incorporate past interviews I’ve conducted from our LinkedIn live events because I feel the content is good and relevant to our podcast audience. So, today, here’s an interview from a LinkedIn live show I hosted earlier this year.
Today, our guest is Dupre, and him and I actually met at ISM, um, when was that now? In May, I guess. So, a couple of months ago, and absolute fun lively person, and we just hit it off. He has such an interesting background and life story about how he came into supply chain and some of the things he’s done. So, thought he would be a really, really fitting guest for our show.
So, Dupre, what I think is so interesting about your childhood (well, lots of things), but you were studying and living in Germany back and forth from the U.S since 12th grade. So, what was that like?
For college, and I looked at the curriculum for schools that allowed me to use my German language. I ended up at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and got involved… I was going to go into the Foreign Service, worked on Capitol Hill for a senator, and then on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during that time.
Yeah. So, I studied German that way, and then had a chance as part of our international relations curriculum. It’s kind of expected that you do something with it while you’re in school, and I had a chance to spend my junior year abroad in Germany, on the German-Swiss Border Town of Constance, and yeah, it was a beautiful vacation. It was like a resort-like town in the middle of the Alps on this on the lake Constance, and it was great and met some… I met some great people and figured, you know what, I want to come back, want to find a way to come back. So, then I finished up my degree at George Washington and found an opportunity to go back, and I got to work in the German Parliament, the Bundestag, to keep my political aspirations intact. Yeah, we’ll… we’ll get to that, but you definitely have some government ties throughout your career, which I think is also really unique.
You started your career is what I would call a project coordinator. I mean, I was an advisor, did some research for the senator, yeah, okay, to get that. So, you kind of then transition those skills, guild to more of project coordinator roles for two separate companies. So, tell me about those experiences, because very, very different than working in government they are. After I finished my stint in the Bundestag, I went to go work for a company in Berlin that was founded based on former East German, East Germany subsidies that funds that were still there but got trans… got redirected to bring in foreign direct investment into what used to be East Germany that they called them the new German states. It was fascinating to see, you know, to be part of that. There’s a little culture shock, first real job, about you know, real job outside of the government. So, I stayed there for a short while and felt like, okay, I don’t think I’m really ready yet to jump head-on into this is whippersnapper 20-something, so I came back to the US, and it was during the.com stuff, right, so I was… I connected somehow with this company that wanted to revolutionize logistics and shipping by bringing back blimps like Zeppelins, not filled with hydrogen but with helium, so we didn’t have a Hindenburg kind of situation, and they were going to be transporting big bulky freight that can’t go in an ocean container in the bottom of the airship. And so I got to… I got to learn, my eyes were completely open to International Logistics.
From there, I… I wanted to get more involved in organizing, making things, things are organized and routine and so forth, and got an opportunity to be part of IBM’s PC division, also using my language skills actually with all the software that gets pre-loaded into a ThinkPad. I worked with our development teams to make sure every language matched the machine that you ordered, and it was… I was able, there were so many moving parts, trying to keep them organized, and if we had to change some software because it was causing problems, I recorded… I was trying to make sure to keep all that stuff straight, making sure, “Hey, you, what you agree to this change, you told us this change, don’t put in the old stuff, please,” and so it was neat. But, and I went down this project management train. However, through the PMI training for their certification, I discovered a part of the PM body of knowledge that included project procurement, and in many ways, it was… it changed the way I wanted to direct my career.
Best boss you’ve had and why?
Alright, that’s… well, definitely the first best boss I had was the one that said I had the right skill sets and I should go into procurement. He was awesome. If he’s listening, we thank you.
And then I think one of my next favorite bosses was at Delta Airlines. She had a CPA plus the ISM’s CPSM credential. If you haven’t looked at it, you know ISM is a great place to get that credential. It’s a hard set of exams, but it’s worth it. And she believed in me. She said, “Hey, what’s… she asked me, ‘So what? What am I looking at? Why should I look at it multiple times?’ And it taught me to make sure I’m coming into a management presentation with a story, with a compelling story for taking action. She had a sense of humor, but she could be funny, but she could be serious too. And her heart’s not… She had a genuine heart that was for, to help bring out the best in her people, but also make sure that Delta was successful.”
Worst boss and why, and we don’t need to call out names here, but what was the disaster boss that you’ve had in your career?
I guess some of the bosses that tend to think about just themselves, they tend to think about, “Everyone needs to make sure that I succeed. I don’t really care about the company, I care less about the organization, I just care about me,” versus being a leader. I’ve seen that, I’ve seen that in folks that are at a higher rank than I am, and I feel sorry for them because I think they’re missing out on so many more opportunities to discover what collaboration can deliver versus looking out for number one, let’s say that. Yeah, I would just maybe put it that way or if you can’t say it, if you can’t give me feedback directly and you blind copy me on some stuff, it’s… Well, I’m being badmouthed, that’s, again, it feels like self-serving and not a leader, no.
But I’ve not… Otherwise, I’ve seen as a leader, career high. I’ve had a few. I think one career high was in my last role leading procurement for a heavy manufacturing company that also produced some pretty cool technology that’s revolutionizing retail. Is that my team got through COVID and there are three manufacturing hubs. They only had a line down maybe eight hours in two years throughout COVID, and we generated… We were able to use mode shifting to generate cost savings also through COVID. So the fact that that was during COVID and production was only shut down for eight hours total is quite remarkable.
How would you describe your role in what you do in procurement and supply chain? I don’t know if there’s any sort of like specific title you’ve kind of shaped almost your own profession and your own roles, you’re very… you hit it right on the head. Have you… I view procurement in many ways. We’ve got to be able to use the left brain for the analytics, the looking at patterns, looking at data structures, looking at total cost of ownership, insurance, and how that impacts if Freight, how it impacts then products or services, how to leverage technology including Source day and those Technologies as well. At the same time, we need to be able to use the right… our right brain in terms of collecting requirements, asking the five whys, why do you need this, why do you need that, looking at contracts to making sure that we have the right wording in there, that it’s adequately protecting my employer on the buy side or if I’m on the sell side, protecting the revenue and profitability and sustainability of the selling company. So, I see it that way, but I also see it as far as being a subject matter expert or an advisor to my stakeholders to help them see, “Yes, you’ve done it this way, but do you understand that there are other ways to do this that can reduce cycle time, that can simplify who you work with, so you don’t have 10 companies to pick from, that has better pricing, that has easier ways of doing business, that actually has technology to see things.” So, I see our profession really is a very holistic way for occupation, and I’ve taken on responsibilities within procurement for temp staffing, for P-cards, for garbage collection, delivering wheels and brakes to the Delta Land Airlines plane so that they can leave the gate, definitely the… we’re in the… the wine from the wineries to get the first class, very important job, those types of things, and now I get to make sure that our Invisalign product gets to the doctors and these patients to make them have that smile that they always dreamed of.
So, I have to give a shout out. So, I was born and raised in California, lived there for 38 years until I packed up and moved to Austin to join the Source day team, and I spent a lot of time living in Sonoma County, Wine Country. So, for all of those listening today, I want to clarify that that is the real Wine Country. I’m not sure you can ever beat wine grown and made in Sonoma County. We’ll… we’ll have to have to take on a bet here. Anyone else thinks they have wine that can beat something made in Sonoma County, drop it in the chat and tell us, we’ll… we’ll get a list going.
So, Dupre, you towards the latter half of your career, it seems like you’ve been focused more on the logistic side at your last company, and now it aligns. So, would like to have you kind of describe and talk through what that looks like, because I think Logistics is something that can be kind of foreign and scary to people that haven’t worked in logistics before, and then we add COVID on to that, and there’s just been so much craziness happening. So, maybe kind of walk us through what is somebody in logistics do, and how are you adding value? Well, I would separate it into two pieces: Logistics as far as operations and Logistics as far as category management and sourcing, and sometimes, oftentimes, in companies, they get to be one and the same. My last company, I oversaw both at Align. I have the pleasure of having some really great people to work with who understand Logistics, they understand the different modes of transportation, the import-export regulations, you know, all that fun stuff. It’s really an honor to be able to work with smart people like that. I think we all like working with fellow smart people. So, when you look at on the logistics side, it’s definitely with COVID, we had, and not many… I had to convince a lot of people of this, if no passengers flew, there were no planes. If there are no planes, they carry no cargo or people. So, during the work, some of the worst parts of the pandemic, 30 percent of every aircraft that could have flown to ship people or cargo was not flying. So, it was only three out of 10 planes were flying. On the other hand, every boat, good like old sort of old new, that could carry a container, work was carrying a container. There was… there was more freight that still needed to be delivered than it could be because there was no air Air Cargo to go around. In that from a procurement perspective, we like to look, we’d make sure to look at cost, risk, legal, insurance, all that fun stuff. Well, container rates went up 400 percent because of supply and demand, and air freight was probably even more than that, six, seven, eight X.
And so, to there was a bat from a procurement perspective. It was a hard sell to executives in finance and shareholders and everything that freight costs are a real thing. Spending 50 bucks at Amazon and getting free shipping, that does… that’s not even close to the reality. Those and so having to be really… it forced us to be very creative and not only in production planning ahead of time, especially for manufacturers, but then making sure the production lines didn’t go down because that was costly or it would be costly. But then we could also contain our contain our costs so that we ourselves didn’t go under while service supporting our the success of our customers. And so it took a lot of analytics, turned a lot of scenario building, took a lot of really dissecting some of the… the different costs. Fuel prices were out through the roof, a big component of freight is fuel, be it in the oceans, on the ocean side with bunker to diesel to gas to Jet kerosene, then not having enough trucks, not having the containers being stuck at the ports. US has… I mean, there’s… the list goes on and on of things we have to consider.
And so within Logistics, you have to, in many ways, you have to be about an inch deep and a mile wide and to look at things from that mile-wide view and again from the cost of non-cost-related aspects of it. Now, in the logistics procurement side, sometimes it just… sometimes we just had no control. We had to rely on the spot market to see what we could find because there just wasn’t any… there’s not… The leverage wasn’t there, the buying power was really in the sales side versus the buyers. Now, thankfully, with some slowing down of the slowing down of those volumes, we’re able to get more stability, but it took a lot. It takes a lot of looking around and research all in parallel to understand what the opportunities are.
Would you say are needed for somebody to excel or be a high producer in logistics today because it seems like it’s very, very complex. It’s… it’s complex, but you’ve got to be able to look at something from multiple perspectives. You’ve got to be able to have patience and resilience and… and not freak out and try not to freak out, which I feel like is anyone working in supply collect. Yeah, but also have some humility about you that we all make mistakes, we’re all collaborating and making sure we all come together in one common higher purpose.
What would you say are a couple, or maybe there are just one, innovations or things happening in logistics that you’re really excited about? Because I, so I’m on the technology side, and I feel like in the last few years there’s been some pretty exciting technology enhancements in supply chain. I’m not as involved in the logistics side, so would be curious to get your feedback on, you know, anything that’s kind of groundbreaking happening in the industry.
There’s definitely a lot more focus on technology in logistics. Data analytics, freight procurement is not… we’re not buying office supplies. The cost structure is complicated, so data analytics, you know, machine learning, business rules for scenario building on a route, via from different road, different things. Sustainability is rearing its ugly… not it’s ugly head, but it’s… it’s forefront now, thanks to the EU green deal. Other countries like Australia, Singapore, many countries, the UK, and even many countries in Africa in the African continent are putting requirements into reducing single-use plastics. Now, with the evolution and research into sustainable air, you know, air fuel, they’re changing the… the airline commercial airlines and freight forwarders are in actual air cargo companies are changing the way that they do business. They know that carbon emissions are coming from their… from their assets, from their trucks and planes. I necessarily didn’t equate sustainability with freight and logistics maybe as much as I should, but it sounds like there’s a lot happening in that space.
Yeah, you can through changing from air freight to ground even or ocean, there’s so much more carbon emission savings you can do, just simple mode switch. There’s also, you know, just planning and shipping in bulk, being able to plan things out so that there are fewer flights or fewer trucks going. Shifting from just palletized one or two pallets to a full truck, it reduces a number of trips as well. That was part of what we had to do during COVID, is also trying to find ways that we could work on the orchestration and timing of shipments, but it has an impact, which was kind of like firefighting and shooting in the dark some of the time.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I like to… I’ve been told that my leadership style is getting people out of their comfort zone just enough where it’s scary, but I’ve got a safety line for them. I step, put them out of the comfort zone just enough but watch, making sure that they don’t collapse but they’re growing at the same time. I also believe in a sense of humor and having a sense of humanity about it and praising as much as I can. And then on the other side, do that do the other firm conversations in private and not in writing if I can help it.
How did you start gaining leadership experience? I know it’s something that can be a challenge, especially someone like me who I’ve worked in startups, small teams, small environments. It’s not always easy to be able to move up quickly where you have the opportunity to manage teams of people.
I did it outside of work, actually. I did it through volunteer work. I was a member of the Jaycees, the Junior Chamber International, and got to work on some volunteer projects. One was running a Steeplechase, a horse race on the same day as the Kentucky Derby. It brought in… I had a team of volunteer team about 60 people, and on race day, it was raining sideways. I mean, so hard I was scared that these half a million-dollar horses were gonna flop over and break a leg or something. Every TV in the VIP tents was going out because of power gone out, except for one, and we needed our major sponsor still didn’t have a TV to then see the live video of the horses running around, and the owners of the land with whom we did this event lent their TV so at least that sponsor could see the race. So I learned from there how to write a business plan, how to set goals, how to work with people of various personalities and backgrounds, and they weren’t getting paid. There was no… They weren’t being paid. They were doing this out of the belief in a higher purpose. Yeah, I feel like if you can manage unpaid people, you can manage paid people.
What is next for your career? What have you not tackled or done yet that you’re looking to do? Good question. I don’t, I mean, I think in terms of really pursuing down the Avenue of procurement and Analytics, data analytics, AI, those skill sets are even more. They’re becoming every day, they’re more and more in demand within our profession, harnessing that, getting more understanding, more on the sustainability and Supplier Diversity space, now that it’s a global thing. Supplier Diversity is not just a GE-generated thing that the US government adopted, leading some of those types of things be next. Alright, so we’re going to move into our Spitfire round where I’m going to ask you some questions, and you’re going to respond with the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Accomplishment you are most proud of. Preventing shutdown of the Atlanta airport. Quality you admire most in yourself. Authenticity. Favorite TV personality. James Bond. Or a movie, but what are you binging? Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. What’s your dream happiness? Biggest pet peeve. Grammar. Favorite thing to do in your downtime. Play with my dog. Well, thank you for those that were able to join us live. I know we have several people that will be watching and listening to the recording after the fact. If you are not connected with Dupre, I highly, highly recommend you reach out and connect with him. Dupre, where should people go to find you if they want to connect? LinkedIn is great. LinkedIn would be great.
Thanks for tuning in today. If you missed anything, you can check out the show notes, you can find us by typing in ‘What the Duck?! Another Supply Chain Podcast’ in Google. To have optimal search results, make sure to add ‘Another Supply Chain Podcast.’ This brings us to the end of What the Duck?! Another Supply Chain Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Scudder, and we’ll be back next week.