The official reason given for his leaving was simply “pursuing other opportunities” but it is no secret that there was disquiet in the ranks at the direction in which he was taking the institute.
Membership has been falling for some time and is slipping below the symbolic 20,000 level while income and spending also need addressing. Clearly, there has to be change.
The man brought in to make the institute great again is Steve Agg, formerly managing director of the Freight Transport Association’s business services division.
And not surprisingly, his priorities are to start tackling the key issues of membership, finance and profile.
“We have to reverse these trends,” he says. “We have got some initiatives under way as well as changes in the structure of the organisation.
“Raising the profile of the institute is clearly an integral part of boosting recruitment and building the institute. “We have got to establish a higher profile in the areas in which we operate. People have got to know we are here. We have also go to have a view on issues affecting the industry and be prepared to voice it.”
Of course, there are times when there are disagreements among different sections of the membership on a specific issue. Nevertheless, says Agg, the institute should be able to form views in the best interests of the industry.
One of the first initiatives is a “Members Get Members” recruitment drive. The campaign, which ran until 31 August offered incentives to members to introduce colleagues to the institute.
Agg says: “Our strength comes from our members, so who better to attract new members? It is in all of our interests to continue to expand the scope and reach of the Institute and the best way to do that is to get those advocates who currently enjoy the benefits of membership to spread the word with their work colleagues, customers, suppliers or friends, many of whom have been along to events as a guest, but have not got around to joining themselves.”
He points out that, as a professional institute, the CILT offers qualifications and support for developing professional expertise and knowledge. However, he says: “We don’t provide a great deal of training directly.”
That is a situation he plans to change. Already, he is working on plans to expand the institute’s Certificate of Professional Competence training programme.
This has been running for a couple of years but that plan is to up the numbers. Agg points out that CPC training is a million pound business for the Freight Transport Association. “I want some of that. There is lots of room for quality training to be delivered so we ought to be able to win more business. But we have to earn the right,” he says.
This approach highlights Agg’s desire to build up the commercial services of the institute. Until recently, the institute had never had a proactive sales force. “We will now – it is one of the primary changes we are making.”
In line with his stated priorities, the news sales team will be focused on recruiting new members and selling business services.
And Agg is determined to ensure that the institute is perceived as welcoming to newcomers. It is all too easy for professional institutes to be seen as exclusive clubs. “I want to make it inclusive. Everyone in logistics and transport ought to have a home here,” he says.
A key issue for the industry generally is attracting young people and encouraging them to see logistics as a career path. All too often school-leavers have no knowledge of logistics as a potential career. However, says Agg, progress is being made. One school in the Kettering area now offers an institute course to 14-16 year olds that is the equivalent of a GCSE in logistics.
Kettering is an obvious starting point given the number of warehouses in the area but there is no reason why other schools around the country should not take up the programme. Agg also sees opportunities to work more closely with Skills for Logistics in developing career opportunities in the industry.
Other changes are likely. The London office in Buckingham Gate is useful but costly to lease. In view of this, Agg says, it could be replaced with a smaller facility – possibly shared with another organisation.
There is also the thorny question of further mergers. There is a view that professional institutes in the UK are generally too small and consolidation will bring benefits in lower administration costs and more efficient delivery of services to members.
However, says Agg, there is nothing on the horizon. “We have to sort out our own house at the moment. We have all got issues of recruitment and costs.”
Of course, mergers can be hugely disruptive and create as many problems as they solve. And Agg points out that many of the savings come through rationalisation of back office systems – something that can be achieved through shared use of system using service level agreements with other organisations.
Steve Agg has had considerable experience in the logistics, supply chain and public transport areas. He started his career as a vehicle engineering apprentice in the transport industry 1979 He joined Lowfield Distribution in 1979. Experience in the manufacturing sector followed with logistics roles in Jacob’s Biscuits (Nabisco) and he was responsible for the outsourcing of the operation to a third party logistics company.
He became distribution director for Danone (UK) with responsibility for biscuits, bottled water and HP Foods and then spent five years as logistics director of its fast growing bottled water business for both the UK and Ireland. 2002. Agg joined the Freight Transport Association where he was managing director of professional business activities including training, auditing, consultancy, and other related services.