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VOL. 127 | NO. 84 | Monday, April 30, 2012

Experience Helps Harckum Lead Versant, CSCMP

By Bill Dries

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When supply chain executives from different businesses in Memphis get together, they talk about each other, said Glen Harckum, chairman of the local Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.


“What we try to do is promote supply chain education,” Harckum said of the group, “so people can see companies best practices and maybe they can take something away from this particular company. How they did it and apply it to their own company?”

Harckum who is vice president of business development at Versant Supply Chain – formerly Katt Worldwide Logistics – began his career in a management training program at Roadway Express right out of college.

The list of businesses on his resume reflects the nature of the industry, in which the company names and job titles change to reflect consolidation and the latest ideas about moving goods.

“I’ve been with brokerage companies such as the Hub Group (Inc.). I’ve been with Penske Logistics,” he said. “I’ve been with homegrown companies and with Mark Seven Transportation that became XL (Express) that is now Mode Transportation. I’ve been with companies like that in various operations, sales and executive level positions throughout my career.”

His time with the CSCMP goes back to the days in the early 1990s when the group was called the Council of Logistics Management.

The group, which meets regularly to discuss industry trends, will hear from Peter Felsenthal, the CEO of Whitmor Inc. of Southaven at its May 24 meeting about the necessity of having a backup or disaster plan.

Whitmor, a home storage and organization products distributor, relocated to Southaven in 2009 after a tornado destroyed its plant in Earle, Ark., so the company has first-hand experience of how vital backup can be.

“They did not have a disaster-recovery plan. They almost completely folded as a company,” Harckum said. “He’s going to tell the story of what happened to them. But also how they survived as a company by bringing in the right company that can help them through the disaster recovery but also preparing them, should another disaster happen. A lot of companies don’t have disaster recovery plans.”

Felsenthal’s story will be a familiar one to several members of the council including Harckum.

When the company was still known as Katt, Versant Supply Chain’s Hickory Hill facility was heavily damaged in the Super Tuesday tornado of February 2008 that also damaged Sharp Manufacturing Co., Hardy Bottling Co. and other industrial and retail properties in the area.

The companies that were hit rebuilt here because of the city’s location, which has been a driving force in the local economy because of Memphis’ proximity to other markets, transportation assets and temperate weather.

Because of the city’s stature as a logistics hub, Memphis has become a hotbed for firms specializing in supply chain logistics and, more recently, “lean supply chain logistics.”

“We can reach two-thirds of the country overnight by virtue of where we’re geographically located,” Harckum said. “You have so many companies that are either bringing their own operations in or they’re using third-party logistics (3PL) companies to be in an area where they can be quickly responsive to their clients.”

All of those companies see workforce development as a critical priority, ahead of infrastructure improvements like an improved Lamar Avenue corridor or a third bridge spanning the Mississippi River near Memphis.

“Workforce development is just the most critical one,” Harckum said.

But he pointed out that the industry has evolved. While those outside logistics and supply chain management might believe it only involves basic blue-collar labor that can lift or operate basic machinery with little beyond on the job instruction, that is no longer the case.

“The forklifts, there’s a wide range – you’ve got the gas operated, you’ve got the electric ones, you have the computerized ones,” Harckum said. “Somebody that may be loading and unloading trucks – you think that is a basic job. It is a general blue-collar position. But those folks have to know how to run scan guns. That requires training and to have the aptitude to be able to learn that type of technology. That’s where we struggle.”

The council and some of its members individually are now working with the Boys and Girls Club to fund and outfit training programs that could lead to jobs in distribution centers. The support includes funding as well as the machinery for training including forklifts and scan guns.

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