Andy Gustafson: Logistics for the Rich and Famous

To keep the rich and famous cruising in style, someone has to overhaul the engines, install the saunas, and replace the teak railings on the world’s largest yachts. Andy Gustafson’s job is to make sure the technicians who repair and refit these luxury vessels have the materials they need—whether that means sandblasting sand, electronic equipment, large engine components, or custom-made windows.

“I move anything. I look at the world as my store,” says Gustafson, director of logistics and customs compliance at Bradford Marine, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Bradford Marine specializes in “mega yachts”—vessels 150 feet or more in length. To service the largest of the large, in 1998 the company opened a satellite facility in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. Gustafson joined Bradford at its Florida headquarters in 1999 to manage the Freeport yard’s supply chain.

Gustafson sources items needed for work on yachts. He also ships mechanical components from yachts in the Freeport yard to specialized repair shops in South Florida, then ships the repaired components back to Freeport.

Recently, for example, he booked some repaired propeller shafts onto a boat leaving Fort Lauderdale on a Sunday night, filing pre-clearance documents with Customs in Freeport so the shafts could move quickly to Bradford’s yard there on Monday morning. Because many of the yachts are available for charter, they must be ready in time to sail off and meet passengers as scheduled. With only so many repair bays available, that makes Bradford Marine a just-in-time operation.

“If I don’t have the shafts and propellers going back on time, that creates a day or two delay for the first boat. Then take a second boat coming out of the water and add two days’ delay to that,” Gustafson says. “The third boat now is going to be almost a week behind, and that can become a real issue.”

Gustafson approaches this challenge with 28 years’ worth of military discipline. As a Navy logistics supply officer, he ran distribution centers and supply ships, managing the flow of goods for nuclear submarines and other vessels. One major accomplishment, he says, was developing a strategy for collaboration among Navy logistics facilities in the Northeast.

In both his military and civilian roles, Gustafson attributes his success to pride and a sense of ownership. “Logistics professionals need to understand the whole process” and follow through on a job until it’s complete, he says.

Once, Gustafson had to transport a set of propellers to Louisiana so an insurance facility there could certify that they were properly repaired. The propellers were due in from Freeport at 9 p.m., but the truck driver from Louisiana wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 2 a.m.

Gustafson gave the driver his home telephone number and persuaded the president of the ocean shipping company to allow him on the dock after hours. When the driver called, “I drove down at 2:30 a.m., got the forklift, and helped him get the equipment ready,” Gustafson says. “By 3:45 we had everything loaded and the driver was on his way.”

So what if nights like that aren’t part of his job description? “The end result was, the customer was happy. It took that extra step to do it, so why not do it?”

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

I just finished Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of a Terrorist by Adam Robinson, and I’ve started The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House by Bob Woodward.

What’s in your briefcase right now?

Business motto?

Professionalism and ownership of the job.

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

I’m an avid sailor and windsurfer. I traditionally try to take trips to Aruba for the high-wind months.