November 2009 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Cliff Hooper: X-Ray Image

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Cliff Hooper has been managing inventories since high school. He started out working for a firm that installed and serviced jukeboxes, pinball games, and slot machines. Later, he applied his logistics smarts to aircraft and war planning functions for the U.S. Air Force, and to missile and radar systems for Hughes Aircraft Company. More recently, he has been getting service technicians the parts they need to keep medical imaging equipment up and running.

Hooper is vice president of logistics at Genesis Medical Imaging, an independent service organization that works on computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan equipment. Called out of retirement to take the job, Hooper started commuting from his home in San Antonio to company headquarters in Huntley, Ill., where Genesis keeps most of its spare parts.

Genesis provides 24/7 service throughout the country. When a customer calls with a problem, the company dispatches a service engineer, who makes a diagnosis. If parts are needed, the engineer calls the logistics department, and Hooper and his team make sure the parts arrive as soon as possible.

Genesis ships most parts for repairs via FedEx's overnight service or on commercial airlines. But sometimes plane-grounding weather or inconvenient geography demands that the company "hot shot" the parts by other means. "Say we have to get a part to a location in lower Kentucky that's not adjacent to an airport," Hooper says. "We'll call a motor carrier to come pick up the part and deliver it."

Hooper is working on a program to put more spare parts inventory in engineers' hands. "That will prevent the use of expedited shipping, and will improve the system's support capability," he says.

Besides getting parts to technicians quickly, Hooper needs to manage transportation costs. A coup he pulled off some years back, while working at R Squared Scan Systems, shows his talent in this area. The company was shipping replacement parts from California via commercial airlines and three levels of FedEx overnight service, which were flat-rate services at the time. "Monthly transportation costs ranged from $80,000 to $100,000," Hooper says.

To save money, Hooper switched all his shipments to FedEx's next-day afternoon delivery service. But instead of waiting for couriers to bring parts to their doors, technicians stopped first thing in the morning at their local FedEx offices, where packages stood ready to retrieve.

"That reduced costs to $30,000 to $40,000 a month," he says. FedEx has since changed to distance-based pricing, and Hooper no longer uses this technique.

Later, Hooper opened a parts depot in Memphis, near FedEx's national hub. "Then I could ship parts out until midnight," he says. "That greatly improved field service support."

Whether in support of military systems or patient care, Hooper's logistics career provides him with a source of continual excitement—kind of like those arcade machines he worked on as a teen.

"There's never a dull moment," he says. "Just when you think you've met one major challenge, another one rears its head. That's what makes it fun."

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

When I'm not busy tackling my wife's 'Honey-do' list, I paint birds and butterflies on white Texas limestone. I also try to keep up with my eight grandkids and all their activities.

Ideal dinner companion?

My wife and grandkids.

What's in your briefcase?

Family photos, an airline ticket, a list of systems that I maintain for Genesis, a notepad, and remote attachments for my computer.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

Helping kids by providing education, training, or mentoring.

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