Curtis Brewer: Master of the Schedule
As he works toward his MBA, it's no wonder Curtis Brewer focuses on international logistics. Since his days as a college intern, Brewer has kept his eye on the supply chain challenges inherent in global trade.
In fact, his biggest career challenge so far came during that internship, when a customer's needs collided with a crisis overseas. Working at the Raleigh, N.C., facility of third-party logistics provider Modus Media, Brewer was trying to move goods from Indonesia to a computer firm in the United States. He soon realized something was wrong. "I never got an e-mail to confirm that the product had shipped," he says.
The reason, it turned out, was a revolution. "The city of Jakarta was in a full riot, and there was no way to get my product out of the country," Brewer says. The Asian vendor eventually located an alternative source in Thailand, and Brewer was able to deliver the product to the United States by the customer's deadline.
Today, Brewer works as a master scheduler for Novozymes, a Denmark-based purveyor of biological enzymes. At the company's Franklinton, N.C., facility, he plans U.S. market demand for products made in China, Europe, North Africa, and South America. Customers use the enzymes in food processing, manufacturing, environmental cleanup, and other applications.
Along with planning demand, Brewer oversees the movement of enzymes into the United States. "I have to coordinate with different people to clear customs and get product shipped. I have to be aware of our relationships with countries where our product is manufactured, and the rules and regulations for imports and exports," he says.
That's no simple task when your product is alive. "Biological enzymes have special handling requirements," Brewer explains.
Both the export country and the United States demand information about each product so they can determine if it poses a hazard. "We also have to be very aware of the labeling rules," he says.
Brewer is his site's "super user" of SAP's Advanced Planner and Organizer (APO), which helps him analyze past customer activity and model future demand. He also consults with the sales and marketing departments about complex factors that may stimulate or depress markets for certain enzymes.
APO helps the company forecast demand on a global basis, rather than site by site. This allows Novozymes to predict future manufacturing capacity and transportation needs, and to make strategic changes. "In some cases, it helps us cut transportation costs by sourcing product closer to the end-use customer," Brewer says.
For example, Novozymes was shipping large volumes of certain products from U.S. plants to customers in South America. "APO revealed that our South American plant had a lot more capacity available than we thought, and we were able to shift some production from North America to South America to fill that need," Brewer says.
Without these kinds of capabilities, Brewer says, "I don't know how we would exist."
The Big Questions
What are you reading?
Song of Susannah by Stephen King.
Dedication. Challenges. Opportunity.
Advice to people starting out in logistics?
Take advantage of the professional organizations in your local area to get a sense of what's going on in the industry, as well as to network and meet other people who are doing the same type of work. By building those relationships, you help yourself grow and better understand the field.
What's in your briefcase?
My laptop, my PDA, and a couple of trade magazines.
First web site you view each morning?
The Financial Times at www.ft.com. We are a Danish firm, and I like to look at what my counterparts in Europe are reading in the paper that morning.
What do you do when you're not at work?
I'm working on an MBA with a concentration in international logistics, which I'll complete in December 2005. My wife and I try to spend as much time as we can with our two kids. I also like to play golf and go scuba diving when I have the chance.