Ken Bailey: Logistics Fun-damentals

“Selling fun” is the main priority at Leisure Bay Industries, says Ken Bailey, the company’s vice president of operations.

Since 1998, Bailey has been in charge of moving the furniture of fun—above-ground pools, portable spas, billiard tables, tanning beds, gas grills, and patio furniture—from Leisure Bay’s Orlando, Fla., distribution center into retail outlets. Those include 31 Rec Warehouse outlets in the Southeast, and other pool and spa dealerships throughout the country and abroad.

Bailey, who reports to Leisure Bay’s owner and president, oversees employees who run the warehouse, handle distribution to stores, and manage warehouse information systems. He also supervises operational audits at the stores.

But delivering fun doesn’t equate to a life of leisure, says Bailey. He and his team work with suppliers and carriers to keep stores stocked for the peak winter holiday season, and a second peak in late spring.

“We’re one of the biggest retailers in the industry—most of the above-ground pool and spa vendors, for example, can’t meet our demands in the middle of the busy season and still take care of other customers,” Bailey says.

To keep products in the pipeline, Leisure Bay’s factory in Orlando and its suppliers in the United States, Canada, Asia, and South America produce inventory ahead of peak and ship it to Leisure Bay’s warehouse for storage. In exchange for taking possession of products ahead of peak season, Leisure Bay negotiates favorable prices for the goods and freight.

Leisure Bay’s small company atmosphere offers a striking contrast to Bailey’s previous employer, Exxon Chemical Company. During Bailey’s 14 years in Exxon’s product planning and transportation departments, he helped implement supply chain management software—and racked up plenty of logistics war stories. During a patent dispute, for example, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Exxon from selling motor oil containing the chemical in question.

“We were caught—unable to sell the product, and unprepared to supply a replacement,” Bailey says. As Exxon developed a new product, Bailey split his time between Houston headquarters and the New Jersey plant manufacturing the product, where he crafted shipping schedules and worked to keep customers happy.

Another crisis at Exxon came as employees were leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday. Due to a leak in the holding tank, a ship in New Jersey was unable to unload Exxon’s product. “You can’t let a ship sit around with product on it,” Bailey says.

Holiday or not, he and his colleagues got to work. “Most of the terminal employees had already gone home,” he recalls. “So we dug in the files, found employees’ home phone numbers, and called around until we located a tank we could use for offloading.”

For a logistics professional, supply disruptions such as these are a fact of life. “Learning how to deal with those disruptions is something you’ll never experience from a textbook,” Bailey says.

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon.

Advice to people starting out in logistics?

Try to work outside the logistics area early in your career. Get an in-depth sense of what other business units do. It helps enormously in making logistics fit with the rest of a company’s mission.

Technology you can’t live without?

Microsoft Excel, and spreadsheets in general. I still remember filling out my first VisiCalc spreadsheet and thinking, “Ah! I get that!”

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

I enjoy playing golf, watching sports, reading, and spending time with my wife.

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