Graham Ewer is about to retire at the end of his term of five years as chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (UK), which he joined just as the merger between the then Institute of Logistics – the IOL – and the Chartered Institute of Transport (UK) was taking place in 1999. He believes this experience, and his previous military career working across different services and corps in an international arena, will stand him in good stead as he seeks to identify and promote common positions among the ELA’s 30-odd member associations.
Even with two organisations such as the IOL and CIT, where there was considerable overlap in membership and spheres of interest, Ewer says, ‘There were a lot of cultural challenges to overcome. At the same time, it’s essential to stand back and ensure that the underlying structures are right.’ Under his tenure at CILT (UK), new qualifications, new e-communications and new structures have been brought in. At the same time, CILT(UK) has taken a lead role in the international CILT, an organisation that represents some 17 countries.
So what does Ewer hope to achieve in his two years as ELA president? ‘One of the important things,’ he says, ‘is to ensure a strong succession. I’m a firm believer in the ELA. There was nothing like it when it was formed in 1984, and there still isn’t. With an enlarged Europe there is a greater need for fora in which professional institutions can work together. My priority must be to strengthen this forum aspect.
‘The challenges for logistics in Europe are both internal and external and while the new member states and their associations are keen to integrate they may have differing needs and priorities. The thirty associations in the ELA are of varying types and do things differently. The tradition of professional bodies in the UK, for example, is rather different from that in Europe. CILT is one of the largest bodies measured by individual membership while other bodies, the BVL for example, operate much more through companies. That isn’t better or worse, just different, and practice can be shared to mutual advantage.’
Ewer suggests several principal areas in which ELA should be active.
‘First, there is the ever-growing volume of legislation. Issues like the Working Time Directive are going to be with us for the rest of the decade as it extends to, for example, owner-drivers. There is the whole question of European transport policy, which I don’t think is in a very happy position at the moment. We have quite good relations with the EC through the ELA’s EU Relations Committee which I will be chairing, but we can do more to create more detailed relationships and to ensure the Commission is well-informed on the issues.
‘Second, there is a raft of trade-related issues – the World Trade Organisation, China, globalisation in general – creating challenges the associations will have to look at both individually and collectively.
‘The third big issue is communications – how can the member associations best help each other? I think the focus will be on making use of the Executive Committee to the ELA Board. E-communications are going to be important for us – there are advantages and disadvantages but they are undoubtedly a quicker and cheaper way of circulating information and ideas. I would also like to see a ‘Notes from the ELA President’ column in Logistics Europe.
Away from policy issues, Ewer is keen to build on the success of the European Certification Board for Logistics which promotes common standards and the recognition of qualifications across Europe.
Ewer believes there is a sound base on which ELA can build but he is also aware of the dangers of overstretch. ‘I will be in Brussels as needed. In small bodies like ELA, I think presidents have to be pretty hands-on. At the same time, we must ensure that what we tackle we can achieve. Perhaps we should be less ambitious but show that we can achieve things that are lasting, and create processes that people recognise as valuable and so keep using.’
- Graham A Ewer joined the then-Royal Corps of Transport in 1965. A varied career in military logistics included service as the senior logistics officer for 1st (UK) Armoured Division in the first Gulf War in 1991. He headed the secretariat that oversaw the amalgamation of five separate corps to form the Royal Logistics Corps and was director of logistics planning for the British Army. His final appointment, in the rank of Major General, was as an Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Logistics) responsible for logistics support arrangements across all three armed services.
- Appointed CB and CBE, Graham left the Army in 1999 and has been chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (UK) for five years.
- This month, he becomes president of the European Logistics Association