Victor Hougan: Finding a Love for Logistics
Victor Hougan joined Primus International, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Tier II supplier of engineered metallic and composite parts, kits, and assemblies to the global aerospace industry, in the fall of 2012. His role in its logistics operation is still evolving.
Experience: Finish carpenter in the construction industry; computer technician; delivery coordinator, ISEC Inc.; warehouse manager, Elegant Gourmet; shipping/receiving manager, Sensitech (a division of Carrier/UTC).
Education: Certifications: Microsoft Certified Professional, 2000; Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management, Georgia Tech, 2009; Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management, APICS, 2011.
After working in construction and information technology, I took a job in 2002 as a delivery coordinator at ISEC, a large construction contractor. I soon fell in love with transportation and warehousing, and later with inventory management, distribution, and Lean manufacturing.
I enjoy knowing how the physical movement of material correlates with planning and execution. Logistics involves many factors at one time, all working together.
One tricky aspect of my work is that as a shipper, we don’t own the capacity our partners use to get the job done. We rely on our partners to take what we created in perfect condition and deliver it to customers in the same condition. It takes trust, and collaboration over time, to get everyone working not only to make a profit, but to do a good job.
One example occurred when I worked at Sensitech, a manufacturer of electronic devices used to monitor and maintain the cold chain in a variety of industries. An injection mold machine part that we used in manufacturing broke. We had to order a replacement and have it shipped from overseas via air freight.
As that shipment progressed, I monitored status updates around the clock to avoid delivery delays. Without that mold, our production department wouldn’t have had parts to assemble. Both our supplier and our freight carrier came through.
Because these relationships are so important, whenever I bring on a new carrier or vendor, I hold a meeting to outline our expectations and explain the metrics we use to evaluate performance. If they succeed in these areas, they will continue to have our business.
One of the proudest episodes of my career took place when I worked at Sensitech. The distribution strategy we were using for one product category was less efficient than it could have been, resulting in lead times of up to three months. I recommended a change.
Instead of using a third-party logistics company, my team started distributing products made in-house and all electronic items made by our overseas manufacturing site—roughly one million units in the first year.
Some co-workers and I redesigned the transportation network, changing from a less-than-containerload/air transportation mix to only full containerload shipments directly into our facility. We cross-docked 90 percent of the inventory that arrived daily into three less-than-truckload shipments with up to 20 pallets, then moved them out the same day.
These shipments fulfilled all domestic locations weekly. The changes we implemented reduced the cost of goods by five percent and transit times by two weeks.
I also created a dashboard to track ocean shipments and give my colleagues at-a-glance visibility into inventory. The dashboard provided data for a bi-weekly conference call that included all our domestic fulfillment locations, reducing communications errors and increasing order fulfillment accuracy.
I received an award for my work on this project. When I left Sensitech, we were distributing close to six million units annually without adding labor.
The Big Questions
What has been your scariest career decision?
Leaving my first career in construction. I was good at it, and it paid well, but I wanted a bigger challenge.
Do you have a hidden talent?
I like cooking and trying new recipes, especially in the summer when produce is fresh.
What’s on your Bucket List?
Traveling the world, skydiving, and learning a second language.
How do you recharge your batteries when you’re not working?
I spend time with my family, including my three-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter, and my wife—without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.