March 2009 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Daniel Most: Making the Pieces Fit

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Daniel Most loves a good brainteaser. Give him a tough sudoku or a flood of orders from the stores he serves, with no obvious way to fit the goods on available trucks, and he's a happy man.

So when Most got a chance to test his logistics smarts in a global arena, he grabbed it. And, boy, did he thrive. Out of 8,500 professionals and students who initially competed in DHL Fast Forward, a worldwide logistics simulation, Most was one of only 50 to make it to the finals, held in Germany last January. Among the 10 teams that competed in the ultimate round, his finished fourth.

Most's title at the Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Fla., is "dispatcher," but that doesn't fully describe his job building loads and routing deliveries to 655 stores. Some days, orders and capacity match perfectly. Other days, the work turns into a four-dimensional puzzle.

"I love the days when orders don't fit," Most says. "Then I have to think creatively to get products to the stores when they need it, as efficiently and cost effectively as possible."

Most called upon those skills, and a great deal more, in the first round of the DHL-sponsored competition, which challenged contestants to develop an express delivery service in a fictional country. Playing individually online, he made decisions such as which cities to serve, how to price his services, which employees to promote, and how to advertise.

The 500 highest scorers in that round advanced to the main level. There, they worked online in teams of five, with members of each team drawn from multiple countries.

"The biggest challenge was the time-zone difference," Most says. "My teammates were spread over four different continents."

Over seven weeks, the team competed against nine others, responding to a series of management challenges. The goal was to develop the fictional express carrier into a successful provider of worldwide logistics services. Most's team used Skype Internet phone technology to hold conference calls at least twice a week, assigning tasks and, once members had finished their research, reaching agreement on how to proceed.

Having survived the second round, Most arrived in Berlin on Jan. 11, 2009, to meet his teammates in person for the first time. On Jan. 13, in Bonn, they had four hours to prepare a business case, determining whether their logistics firm should invest in a competitor. The next day, they had another four hours to figure out how to improve a deficient process within their company.

"The experience of working with an international team in a foreign environment added to the complexity of the task, making this competition something I will not soon forget," says Most.

Besides offering an enjoyable challenge, the competition gave Most new ideas about his future in logistics.

"I would love to consult," he says. "It would be exciting to work with different teams on a variety of challenges and start new projects every few weeks."

The Big Questions

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

I like to solve sudoku and crossword puzzles, and I enjoy playing basketball and golf. I also like to watch movies and cook.

Ideal dinner companion?

Barack Obama. He helped me reconsider my service to the community and my responsibilities as a member of society. I would ask him how he balances his work and family life.

What's in your briefcase?

I don't carry a briefcase. But wherever I go, I carry my day planner.

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

Professional golfer. You get to travel and play golf all the time, your body doesn't suffer the same wear and tear as a professional basketball player's, and you make a lot of money.

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