Al Morris: Perfect for the Part
Al Morris is director, global supply chain, at TERiX Computer Service in Sunnyvale, Calif. He has worked for the company since 2004.
Responsibilities: Procurement and logistics.
Experience: Procurement manager, Marathon International Group.
Education: BS, Private and Commercial Recreation, San Jose State University, 1991.
I graduated college during a recession, and was glad when a friend offered me a temporary warehouse position at Marathon International Group, a Sun Microelectronics reseller. My first job was getting products ready to go out the door. Eventually, Marathon offered me a permanent position. It was a small company, but when the dot.com explosion hit, it grew from $2.5 million in revenues to $32 million in one year. I learned project planning, and then I started working with manufacturing and imports. Next, I got into procurement.
TERiX is an independent provider of maintenance services for data centers. I joined the company to help it gain better control of its parts inventory. At the time, we had a contract with AOL, supporting three gigantic data centers, each the size of a football stadium. We had to replenish products daily.
We kept service parts in a few distribution centers, which we owned, and shipped them as needed to locations across the country. Before long, I led an effort to redesign that system. We developed forward stocking locations to keep parts closer to customers. We also started using third-party logistics companies in geographies closer to our customers. This strategy has helped reduce delivery times and improve service metrics.
Today, we have about 58 regional stocking facilities around the world, many of them run by Network Global Logistics or DHL. We still own a few sites, including three in Japan and our main distribution center in California. In some countries, we work with local service partners and keep the spare parts at their locations. The new model reduces fixed costs and is scalable, which allows us to move quickly into new markets.
On the procurement side, I review our accounts and verify the parts we’re most likely to need for each contract. I look at locations, costs, and expected failure rates to determine which parts to buy, in what quantities, and where to stock them. My unofficial department goal is to make sure a service engineer goes to a customer site with the necessary part on the first visit at least 95 percent of the time, within the terms of the service level agreement.
One of the hardest aspects of the job is learning about new product lines. While we worked mostly on servers and storage systems in the past, we now also service network equipment. We have to become familiar with new products and determine which parts may fail. Each original equipment manufacturer has its own patterns.
Observing those differences taught us to avoid a cookie-cutter approach for inventory planning. We start with our assumptions about failure rates, but then collaborate with vendors and other suppliers, leveraging their knowledge about how parts have performed over a specific time period. The more research we do, and the more we learn about the systems, the better we’re able to forecast demand and deliver on our goal to provide the right part the first time.n
The Big Questions
How do you like to spend time outside of work?
I enjoy getting together with family and friends, especially for our extended Italian cooking events. Wecelebrate our familyheritage and try to re-create my grandmother’s recipes.
What’s one characteristic every leader should possess?
The ability to understand how your decisions affect the rest of the company, and how corporate decisions affect your department. You need to comprehend the big picture and be able to explain those connections to your team in order to get buy-in.
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what music would you want to have with you?
Country, 80s, 60s surf music, swing. I’m still a big fan of Pink Floyd and Kansas. I also love contemporary music.