David Fisher: Raising the Roof
David Fisher is director of global logistics at Johns Manville, a leading engineer and manufacturer of residential and commercial insulation, roofing materials, and engineered products.
Responsibilities: Managing inbound and outbound activities, including international logistics and compliance.
Experience: Air export agent, Schenker International; various positions, culminating in district vice president, Danzas AEI (now DHL-DGF); global logistics procurement manager, manager of global transportation, Goodyear Tire and Rubber.
Education: University of Colorado, Metro State College, BA in political science, 1985. Graduate studies in international business management, Thunderbird School of Global Management, 1985-1986.
At one of my previous employers, each region within the global organization managed its own logistics affairs. We decided that this wasn’t an optimal strategy. Why have the European region negotiate its own ocean carrier rates, then have North America conduct the same process with the same carriers, ending up with two different contracts and rate structures?
My team set out to find opportunities for global collaboration. Our first major project was to combine all ocean freight contracts by region, consolidate the spend, and organize a single bid. We engineered solutions to analyze the data efficiently, working with a third-party company that specializes in optimization.
We also developed new metrics to monitor compliance with agreements globally. Those metrics had the additional effect of creating better relationships with our carriers. Service improved significantly, and the contracts were easier for our company and carriers to work with.
Our company gained additional benefits. Communication and visibility improved exponentially. We were able to give better control mechanisms to manufacturing units that were expecting materials. Also, the project became a model for turning other kinds of regional spend into global spend.
When I first accepted that job, I was concerned that I would meet a great deal of resistance to change. That turned out to be true—and then some. Within months, though, I knew that the decision to consolidate was correct. There was so much opportunity to make improvements and reduce costs, my team couldn’t help but succeed. Many of the changes we put in place became permanent, and they made the organization much more efficient.
The drive to improve is a major goal in my current job as well. One especially tricky area involves our carrier relationships. As a manufacturer shipping direct to customers in a highly competitive industry, Johns Manville often works with very short lead times to meet customer demand. That creates pinch points throughout the supply chain. It’s essential that we get our loads dispatched and that they arrive on time. To achieve that, we and our carriers must live up to our commitments.
Shippers must resist the temptation to drive rates down, and carriers need to honor their agreements with shippers. If a carrier agrees to support a particular volume at a particular rate, it cannot refuse a load because other freight becomes available at a penny or two more per mile.
In our outbound distribution, we maintain strong carrier relationships through our Top 50 program for van carriers and our Top 20 program for flatbed carriers. Trucking companies in these programs must be a certain size, belong to the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program, and comply with our service criteria.
By steering freight toward preferred carriers, we deepen service partner relationships. We gain better leverage for negotiating, and carriers gain greater revenue opportunities. Most importantly, our customers gain better delivery performance resulting from these deeper relationships.
The Big Questions
Who has been your most important mentor?
Juan Molina—now vice president and chief purchasing officer at Westinghouse Electric—was my boss and mentor at Goodyear. He taught me not to fear large projects, and how to assemble and manage a focused group of specialists from supply chain, manufacturing, sales, and other departments.
What’s in your laptop bag?
If Aristotle Ran General Motors, by Tom Morris. This book explores the idea that interpersonal relationships within a company determine its success or failure.
How do you recharge?
I ski, golf, and work out on the rowing machine. I also like to spend quality time with colleagues, read, and train my bulldog.
Do you have a hidden talent?
A friend at Johns Manville introduced me to the science and art of making cheese. So far I’ve mastered how not to make mozzarella cheese.
What’s on your Bucket List?
Applying my logistics knowledge to the distribution infrastructure needs of charitable organizations working in developing countries and disaster relief.