The European Supply Chain Excellence Awards 2007, Outstanding contribution Winner: John Allan

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The Outstanding Contribution category of the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards is very different from all the others: you, our readers, nominate the candidates, and you vote by email for the winner (and none of those shenanigans that other less reputable media companies such as the BBC get up to!)

This year four candidates attracted the bulk of nominations. Gert Askes is managing director of Menlo Worldwide, having previously been marketing manager for Post Pakketservice in the Netherlands, and then a project manager on national B2C distribution with TNT.

Professor Martin Christopher, well known to readers as a contributor to this journal and indeed as a judge in many previous ESCE Awards, is professor of Marketing & Logistics at Cranfield University, director of their Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management, author of many of the standard texts in the field, and mentor to many of the men and women now rising to the top of the supply chain field.

Julie Mutter, operations manager at Electronic Arts, has an impressive record of, sometimes single-handedly, getting supply chain firmly in focus as a key driver of what is almost inevitably, a largely marketing and sales driven business.

But the vox pop. went to our fourth nominee, John Allan, nominated principally for his masterminding the Ocean/Exel merger which ”was the first time that freight forwarding and contract logistics were combined, leading to a step change now followed by others”.

At the time of nomination, Allan was CEO of DHL Exel (although as we reported last month he has since moved to become chief financial officer of Deutsche Post World Net, in Bonn, so this Award is also a, perhaps temporary, valediction to the operational side of the supply chain world).

Allan came fairly late to logistics, joining Ocean Group in 1994 as CEO. Ocean was then a services conglomerate, including freight forwarding (MSAS), a small contract logistics business (McGregor Cory) and sundry other businesses. He says ”When we looked at Ocean we saw a large opportunity to build a global logistics business on the back of our already global freight forwarding work. We sold other businesses to concentrate on this, created the merger with Exel, and went on to establish business in key economies and to grow both organically and through acquisition.

”If I have to take any credit it would be in three areas. I had a significant role in working out this original strategy; second, I played a reasonably key role, although no more than that of my counterpart Gerry Murphy at Exel, in bringing the two companies together and selling the idea to the Boards; and thirdly I can take a little credit for building the teams that have taken us on to success.

”And perhaps one more achievement: following the acquisition by Deutsche Post of Exel, I was asked to manage the process of bringing the DHL and Exel businesses together – a very major operation involving 160,000 people in 100 plus countries. Over two years. I like to think I’ve played a role in this, but the ”heavy lifting” has really been done by hundreds, even thousands, of our people around the world”.

Would Allan leave any advice to those who follow him in the logistics and supply chain industries? ”Two things. First, I’ve always tried, with my colleagues, to give the business a very real customer orientation, and there’s no better way than personally meeting and actually talking to your customers, even if that is out of your “own time”. As we’ve got bigger, I hope we haven’t lost sight of that need to stay very close to customers.

”Secondly, we’ve got to continue to innovate in this business and this industry. Yesterday’s product is commoditised today, and the real key to growth is continually coming up with new concepts that will, for a period of time at least, give you and your customers a competitive advantage.

”Our own business is still growing strongly, but that will only continue if we remember these two lessons”.

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