Ax Torres: Plowing Ahead
Ax Torres is outbound shipping supervisor at AGCO Corporation, one of the world's largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery. Based at the AGCO Parts Division in Batavia, Ill., he has worked in this position since 2013.
Responsibilities: Supervise outbound processing and shipping of parts; monitor warehouse functions and supervise materials handling operators; work with carrier procurement and customer service teams to expedite urgent parts requests.
Experience: Air transportation journeyman, U.S. Air Force; ocean import agent, Yusen Logistics Americas Inc.; field service supervisor, DHL.
Education: B.A. in transportation and logistics management, American Military University, 2013; M.A. in transportation and logistics management, American Military University, expected 2014.
I started working in logistics in the Air Force. I decided to learn as much as I could about it, to ensure I did a good job. When it was time to transition to the private sector, it made sense to stay in the field and start working toward a logistics degree.
I work at the AGCO service parts hub for North America, from which we ship parts to AGCO's independent dealers, smaller parts distribution centers, and our manufacturing facilities. My job is to make sure we meet our commitments to customers every day. I supervise a team of 10 people, including forklift operators, and workers who pick, pack, and load parts.
Sometimes we receive requests for expedited shipments. If a machine breaks down in the field, or if a manufacturing line runs low on certain parts, we need to deliver those orders as quickly as possible. To meet our customers' needs, I work closely with the customer service group, and prioritize the work before assigning it to our warehouse associates.
Some of our associates have limited English skills. After I give work directions in English, I sometimes have to repeat them in Spanish—and fortunately, I'm fluent. Not only does that ensure good communication, but it helps me develop a rapport with the Spanish-speaking associates, and makes them feel welcome in the workplace.
One challenge we face is the impact of weather on the supply chain. When a storm closes roads, it may keep carriers from picking up freight. If the weather forces a delay, the customer service team notifies our customers. Then we determine whether to reroute the shipment to make the delivery on time, or wait until the following day.
I recently started cross-training my associates, allowing them to step out of their comfort zones and learn new skills. This will make me less reliant on single employees for certain jobs, and reduce the impact when an employee can't come to work.
The training also breathes new life into the associates. Some of them have been doing the same job for five, 10, or even 15 years. Learning new tasks and skills makes them excited to come to work every day.
In addition to applying my logistics skills on the job, I've had the chance to lend my knowledge to several disaster relief efforts. I was working at DHL during the Chicago floods and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. DHL offered transportation for any donations we could collect.
My experience taught me you have to identify what items people need, then work backward. Once we discovered what people were hurting for, we would find a distributor and a way to ship the items to that organization. Then we'd set up a collection point and start asking for donations.
So many people are willing to give. But if you don't have your supply chain in place, soon you'll be overwhelmed with donations, and have no way to get them where they are needed.
The Big Questions
What's a career achievement you're proud of?
I was the top graduate of the Air Force's logistics training school. Often, when the airmen were allowed to spend the night on the town in San Antonio, I stayed in my dorm room to study. I felt a little nerdy and foolish at the time, but staying focused paid off in the long run.
Is there a place in the world you haven't visited but hope to see someday?
Europe in general, and France in particular.
If you could go to school to study something purely for fun, what would it be?
Astrophysics. I'm deeply interested in the stars.
If you had an extra hour of free time each day, how would you use it?
I'd spend more quality time with my daughter. In addition to working, I've been in school almost nonstop since she was born, and that has required some sacrifices.