Lori Fellmer Keeps It Moving
Lori Fellmer is vice president of logistics and carrier management with BassTech International, a distributor of specialty raw materials. BassTech supplies inorganic chemicals and engineered polymers to numerous industries, including paint and coatings, roofing and waterproofing, and specialty glass.
Responsibilities: Material movement and warehousing, with special emphasis on global sea and air transportation.
Experience: Logistics manager, Ashland Inc.; general manager, Express Book Freight; vice president and general manager, Clark Worldwide Transportation; operations, trade and pricing management, P&O Nedlloyd.
Education: SUNY Empire State College; B.S., International Business, 2013.
In logistics, you can't ever sit back and say nothing's going to happen because it will. It could be weather, it could be a labor strike, it could be a regulatory change. You have to be prepared, and have a second plan. That means knowing the status of your freight in real time, and your options. In supply chain management, the flow of information is so important.
For instance, when Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy in 2016, we had to identify our shipments on Hanjin or affiliate ships. Then, we had to assess the likelihood our shipments would arrive at their intended ports on time and without incident—not a given.
We considered offloading shipments at earlier ports and finding alternate transport routes, then carefully tracking shipments left on the initial ships for expedition upon arrival. Overall, we had a few small delays, but were otherwise okay. But if we hadn't had good visibility to our freight, it would have been hard to react as quickly.
After the 2015 explosion in Tianjin, China introduced new safety regulations, often without much advance notice. For example, in August 2017, the government suddenly imposed restrictions on moving certain hazardous materials through specific ports. By working with my colleagues in China, as well as with our network of carriers, we were able to re-route our material through alternate ports and, in some cases, with different carriers. We didn't miss a beat.
My role is to bring value to our core business through strategic carrier selection and negotiation, and through operational opportunities, such as building our own ocean consolidations to cut costs and improve sales.
Just as important, I have helped build a network of logistics partners that enables an uninterrupted supply chain, despite curve balls such as labor strikes, weather events, or sudden regulatory constraints. Keeping material moving is so important to maintaining business.
In 1985, I was hired to handle the accounting for a non-vessel-operating common carrier. Within months, I was handling sea freight pricing. Next, I was recruited by a steamship line, where my first role was creating rules and a rates tariff for its new trade lane.
A colleague told me, 'I hope you like this business. Once you're in it, you don't get out.' He was right. I've always thought this industry was fascinating.
I'm also addicted to the global aspect of logistics. I've been based in Rotterdam and London, and traveled to offices in India, China, and Australia and elsewhere to work on global initiatives.
When I joined Ashland, it was the first time I worked for a shipper. Seeing the pain and strain of producing and buying raw material, and getting products to customers who have deadlines, provides a different perspective than you get on the shipping side. You see how logistics is critical to keeping the world ticking and the global economy moving. It's exciting.
Thirty years ago, I regularly represented my company at meetings. It was not unusual to be the only woman—or one of two women—in the room. It's nice to see that changing. Every year, the International Commerce Club of New Jersey, a logistics industry group that I participate in, awards three scholarships. Two years ago, the three scholarship winners were women. That was delightful.
The Big Questions
How would you describe your job to a five year old?
I play with ships, planes, trucks, and trains all day.
What's the best leadership advice you've received?
Be practical. These words usually help bring clarity to complex dilemmas.
Do you have a hidden talent?
Baking, particularly crescent cookies.
Your words to live by?
No regrets. When things don't go as planned, be richer for the experience and figure out your next move.