As head of logistics for Tarmac, Viren Gandhi is responsible for optimising the efficiency of its logistics operations in the UK and worldwide. The role also involves ensuring compliance with all transport-related legislative standards and ensuring effective driver safety and management programmes are in place.
It is also a role that he relishes: “I can make a difference to Tarmac’s business and help to bring some real benefits for our customers. Logistics and supply chain management have become more recognised as a critical part of our desire within Tarmac to become our customers’ first choice supplier.
“The biggest challenge we face at Tarmac is keeping up with customers’ demands. The construction industry is very fast-moving and it is not unusual for orders to be changed, sometimes quite significantly, at short notice.”
These changes can be due to customers’ own problems or simple things like the weather affecting the plans. However, Tarmac must deliver and the business is structured in a way that enables it to do that, stresses Gandhi.
And there is always room for improvement and new opportunities Gandhi explains: But even with the most efficient businesses, there is always room for improvement and now with recent evolving technology we have new opportunities such as the £6M Integrated Transport Management project.
Gandhi explains: “We are in the process of piloting out ITM, a totally integrated set of systems which enables us to optimise the use of our trucks and production facilities to meet customers’ orders. The really smart part is that it all happens in real time. If the customer’s order or vehicle availability changes on the day of the scheduled delivery, then we will know almost instantly and can respond quickly and efficiently.”
But ITM – it is being piloted for all aggregate and asphalt deliveries in the North-west – is not just about technology, it is also about processes and the way people work. To ensure that Tarmac gets the best from these new systems tools, intensive training has been given to its employees and quite a large number of drivers to ensure that the new way of working improves the service offered to customers.
Once the pilot of the ITM system has been completed, it will provide a best practice model for Tarmac’s other multi-site, multi-product supply businesses throughout the UK.
Like other companies in the industry, Gandhi is also faced with the challenge that there are fewer drivers entering the sector. As a result, he has introduced initiatives designed to encourage drivers to stay with Tarmac as well as to attract new ones.
Safety is also high on Gandhi’s agenda: “We have recently introduced safe-driving courses and are due to launch comprehensive driver safety training programmes. Recently, we have also provided practical guidance on how drivers can comply with the new Road Transport Working Time Directive.
Gandhi did not start his career working in the logistics sector but discovered it as he moved jobs. “I started life as a chemical engineer [with BP International] and during my time at Mars, I got involved in a just-in-time manufacturing and logistics project, which inspired me to find out more about logistics and supply chain management.”
He continues: “I realised how important efficient transport systems are to every business, ensuring that deliveries are made on time, every time. In fact, as customer service requirements increase this has become more important over time and now represents one of the most important ways that any company can demonstrate that it has a competitive edge.”
Having decided on this path, Gandhi put himself through supply training and also did an MBA covering the business side of management.
Since entering the logistics industry, he has found the sector fast-changing and “since I started my supply chain career around 18 years ago, I have seen it change from being a ‘trucks and shed’ type of function to one where it has become a critical business issue”.
Gandhi continues: “If managed strategically, it is capable of giving any business a competitive edge. Skills development is also having a positive impact on the industry, creating a flow of trained managers, capable of designing and implementing innovative supply chain management solutions across complex business structures.”
Commenting on life at Tarmac, Gandhi says: “Tarmac is a great business that is very open to change, with honest people who are always willing to listen. This has made my job as head of logistics that much easier. While I am planning to introduce some quite radical operational changes as part of the introduction of the ITM system, I know I will get the full support of everyone.”
And he adds: “In previous roles, a large part of my job has been about convincing people that changing operational systems will be worth it in the end, at Tarmac if you have a good case, the directors of the business say, let’s try it.”
2003 Joined Tarmac as head of logistics.
2003 UK Government Home Office, Centrex, consultancy assignment.
2001 Became supply chain director at HW Plastics.
2000 Appointed commercial & supply chain director for Co-operative Group’s Commercial Division.
1996 Group logistics director at Iggesund Paperboard AB; Iggesund (UK) commercial & logistics director.
1989 The Dow Company: supply chain manager, product manager in Switzerland; business operations planner in the Netherlands; project manager, planning & logistics in Belgium.
1986 Project manager for Pedigree Petfoods, part of MARS Group.
1980 Process & project engineer at BP International.