There’s Always Something to Make Better
Daniel Politowicz is logistics & transportation manager of Tubelite, an architectural aluminum manufacturer and division of Apogee Enterprises.
Responsibilities: Oversee freight movement, distribution, and continuous improvement initiatives for the transportation and logistics of Tubelite's storefront, curtainwall, entrances, and daylight control systems.
Experience: Supply chain manager, Velocity Glass; operations & procurement manager, Palogix Supply Chain; sr. transportation mgr., Coca-Cola Refreshments; U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, as a 0431 Logistics and Embarkation Specialist.
Along with producing and shipping doors and frames and miscellaneous parts, at Tubelite we move a lot of 24-foot aluminum extrusions on our dedicated carrier base. Occasionally, we have to ship these extrusions by common carriers.
The less-than-truckload (LTL) world can be scary. Sometimes a 24-foot extrusion is bent and returns as a 22-foot extrusion. Or, some might disappear. Most LTL carriers are not willing to move this type of material.
In reviewing the processes we used to load and move the extrusions, as well as the volume of damages, I brought together the carrier, the packaging engineer, the safety people, and others, making sure everybody who touched the items was involved. When you bring together the affected departments so they have input on the project, they're going to help make sure it works.
We went through about eight renditions of the packaging before we came up with the final design. It works really well. We dropped our damage claims down to less than 0.01%.
Similarly, when I adjust customers between routes and carriers to make the routes more efficient, I bring the carriers into the same room and we go over the changes together. The open communication with our carriers, who also communicate with each other, makes a working partnership. For instance, at times one carrier may be short a driver and another carrier will help them out and vice versa.
A Marine Corps Start
I started in the Marine Corps the year after I graduated high school. They needed people in logistics—embarkation as they called it. I didn't know what logistics meant, but I took classes and started to learn.
My job was to move everybody into the necessary operational area, and support them with whatever they needed, such as food, ammo, and repair parts. Then, I'd dissolve everything and bring them home.
Then we'd do an after-action report and ask what we learned. It was always important to talk with each other. In the Marine Corps, you got the guy on your left and the guy on your right. That's how you survive. If you don't communicate with them, there are problems.
The military has acronyms for everything. One is SMEAC, which stands for Situation, Mission, Execution, Actions, and Command Control. You look at every situation in that order, a practice I still use daily.
If something goes wrong, I ask: What needs to be done to correct it? What are we solving for? How do we put a plan in motion and communicate it to the proper people?
If you think that you have everything running perfectly and nothing can be improved, that probably means you need to move on. There's always something to make better.
Daniel Politowicz Answers the Big Questions
1. How would you describe your job to a five-year-old?
I would get some trucks and say, 'I'm going to put this Lincoln Log on this truck, and bring it over here to this guy, so he can build his house.'
2. Who are your heroes?
My dad passed away early in my life. My next-door neighbor, Mr. Goodenough, really helped me through a difficult time. Without stepping in, he took care of and guided me.
Then when I needed a place to go, my brother Rich took me in and let me finish school. I also admire his motivation. He owns a big company that does home remodeling and repairs, and he makes sure everything is done right. As a kid, I'd watch him put a 100-pound sack of feed on each shoulder, walk down a big hill to the pasture, and feed the cows. His strength and fortitude stayed with me.
3. As logistics manager, what three things do you check each morning?
First, I make sure everything shipped out the previous night. After that, I get coffee and check my thousands of emails for emergencies. Then, I walk out on the floor and ask everyone how they're doing. I like doing that.