This month, CPE talked to Enrique Vizoso who serves as a vital partner and instructor. Enrique is a supply chain consultant with over 30 years of experience in manufacturing and logistics operations in the United States and Mexico. In his leadership positions with Fortune 500 companies, he led a number of initiatives to revolutionize supply chain operations. His focus as a consultant is to guide businesses through supply chain transformations that enable profitable business growth and customer satisfaction. Vizoso holds an MBA from University of Tennessee Knoxville and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Our conversation with Enrique was extremely enlightening. He provided insight into supply chain innovation, certifications, and more. We closed with a series of questions about Enrique’s professional work life and how he maintains success.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into supply chain management.
I went to school to become a chemical engineer at Georgia Tech. About four years after becoming an engineer, I realized I really enjoyed production, manufacturing, and operations. After that, I became more involved in production and manufacturing. At that time, I was focused on a single manufacturing process. It was not until I went to another company and moved to Mexico that I had responsibilities of raw materials coming into the manufacturing plant. In those days we did not call it supply chain, even though that was what we were doing. That was my first real exposure to supply chain that showed me the importance of efficiency when it came to the flow of goods.
You mentioned you had an engineering background, so what was it about the operation side that caught your attention?
I love engineering, and it gave me the thought process to understand problems and find solutions. Those skill sets are important in production. But even from my own personal perspective, I’ve always liked to do things, to make things, to produce things. Being a part of that process of actually putting things together in a manufacturing process and transforming things to finished goods to the next customer has always excited me.
When you started working, you said there wasn’t the terminology “supply chain,” when do you think supply chain started to become a buzzword?
Wow, that’s a really great question. So, I’ll give away my age here. I graduated from college in 1985 and left Mexico in 2000. When I was leaving Mexico in 2000, the movement of goods was an unnecessary evil. Around 2000 is when I think supply chain really started coming around, because obviously, you have to manage the cost, but really the flow of goods through the supply chain is a lot more strategic than just, “I’ve got to move things from point A to point B.”
What is your definition of supply chain now and why is it important?
I would define supply chain as moving either goods or services from a manufacturer, provider or supplier to the customer. Then, there is a flow of goods, information, and cash that goes down to the customer. Some of that may come back, such as returns or warranties. Obviously, cash comes back from the customer. Supply chain is strategically looking at those flows. Once again, the flow of information, goods, and cash to take care of a customer or exceed a customer’s expectations is how I would frame the definition of supply chain. Supply chain allows organizations a strategic opportunity to grow.
One example is Amazon, but Amazon is not a manufacturer. They are strictly a logistics provider company that has brought a lot of value. In some ways, Amazon has transformed expectations for customers by the concept of next day delivery or two-day delivery. It used to be you picked up your groceries at the grocery store, but now you can get your groceries through Amazon without leaving your home. I think supply chain has proven that it can add value in many different ways that bring about growth and profitability to companies.
What do you think supply chain will look like in 10 years with the growth of technology?
I think in terms of supply chain technology there is going to be many changes. Like how 3D printing is going to transform how some goods flow, and even the delivery of goods. With delivery, you can go as far as picturing electric to driverless vehicles to drones. The growth, affordability, and simplification of robotics and automation–to how things move in and out of places–is completely being transformed. A lot of that is happening in various markets. Europe is really ahead, whereas in the US, we have not had as much of a labor constraint.
In addition to technology, what are some of the other opportunities that companies have to enhance their supply chain?
I like to put things in simplistic terms as possible. When I look at supply chain, I look for two things. One being efficiency, which is the reduction of costs and cycle times. How can I do things less expensive and at a quicker velocity. The other side of that is value. How do I bring value to the supply chain? And sometimes those are one and the same. Obviously, when we reduce the transportation cost of goods, we improve the packaging. Now, you can transport more goods in a truck. You are driving efficiency and creating value by reducing the costs. Those can work together, but they can also work independently. I think successful companies look at value and efficiency independently. You have to be looking at the value in the eyes of the customer and what will exceed expectations.
With efficiency and value, it seems like there’s a lot of room for innovation. What are some ways that companies can create a culture of innovation to improve their efficiency and their value?
A culture of innovation starts with embracing change and enabling people to embrace change. When a culture of innovation is introduced, it often brings about the understanding that people are going to make mistakes. Some initiatives you try just are not going to work. An organization must be agile and learn from errors and mistakes. I think those are some fundamental aspects of a culture that bring about innovation. After innovation there is creativity in technology that can bring about solutions to your problems. You really need to look at solutions that have been applied to other problems and how those solutions could be used to help you fix problems and your business.
With innovation, sometimes people get a little too excited, and they want to do innovation for the sake of innovation. No, you need to innovate thoughtfully and target problems and opportunities that bring value and improve the profitability of your business.
You have been instrumental in the supply chain education development at CPE. Could you tell us a little bit about the supply chain courses, what they’re designed to do and what you would hope that participants will gain?
Our curriculum is for professionals and practitioners that are already working in supply chain. Our goal is to help those professionals and practitioners obtain new knowledge, information, and tools that enable them to be more efficient in their roles. After attending a course, we want participants to bring value to their departments and companies that ultimately enhances revenue, profitability, and customer value.
Our goal is to share industry best practices. We want participants to see how these best practices can be applied. We are trying to accomplish this goal by bringing people together, not only so they can learn from each other, but so they can learn from industry experts. We are building a network of practitioners in the Greater Chattanooga area, and that value goes beyond what they might have learned in the course.
Talking about industry best practices, I know there are several certifications that people can obtain. Can you tell us a little bit about those certifications, which one you received and how it helped your career?
I think the certifications are valuable in three ways. The first element is that you are learning. Many individuals get their education from college. Afterwards, learning continues with job experience, which is good, but organizations like ASCM provide well-structured documented materials to expand your knowledge from school and on the job. The second element is you improve your performance to either exceed expectations of your customer or your boss. The third element is networking. Professional certifications bring practitioners together. We share problems and solutions with one another.
Early in my career, I studied for the Certified Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) exam I needed to know and understand the concepts of good inventory management practices and planning practices. However, at that time, I did not pursue the certification further than just studying.
More recently in my career, specifically when I got into distribution and logistics, I obtained my Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). In terms of value, I cannot directly point to a specific promotion, but I know that it enabled me once again to exceed the expectations of my customers and my boss. That inevitably, with time, brings promotions and opportunities. I think that it helps individuals to be more competent within their role. As we learn, we test things. We try things. We apply concepts. The training most definitely enables people to put concepts to practice. Practitioners have more confidence and also see better results.
Thinking about certifications even more, who should go after them?
It depends on what certification because different certifications appeal and are targeted for people in different levels of an organization. The answer is very dependent on which certification.
CPIM is targeted for people who work in materials and production planning and scheduling. Job titles would include material planners, inventory planners, production schedulers, etc. CPIM is geared towards those individuals. The CLTD or Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD) is more for department managers. Lastly, the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) takes a more strategic and big picture approach. I think executives and higher-level managers would benefit most from the CSCP.
With all these programs that CPE has going on, what are you excited to see?
There are two primary areas that I really get excited about. One is enabling people to improve their job performance as well as company performance through education. I love to see people grow in their skills and their capabilities. When I was a manager, I was always thrilled to see people when they would get promotions, and they were able to improve and expand their skills. The other part that I’m excited about is networking, bringing practitioners together, sharing of practices, and creating of a community in Chattanooga that embraces those best practices. I want to see individuals come up with innovative solutions to their problems with the ultimate goal of improving business performers such revenue and profitability.
So now we will transition a little bit. We want to hear what you do to set yourself up for success. For instance, what are some of your daily habits that you attribute to a successful day?
For me an important daily habit is prayer. And beyond what could be the spiritual side of things–setting that aside for a moment–prayer helps me focus in on what is important and set priorities. It allows me to look at things with a bigger picture, and what are the things that I need to do as an individual to impact people and organizations. I am able to get in a state of mind where I can evaluate what I have done and how I have done it. The time I set aside allows me to see mistakes I have made.
Are you currently reading any professional development books?
I need to get back to reading books. I’ll have to admit over the last couple of years I have focused on my learning to come from web-based sources. There is an incredible amount of articles and webinars promoting new concepts and technologies. I have to say that has been my focus and there are several organizations out there. I probably listen to Leancore the most because of their webinars and articles. Mostly, I have gone to digital learning. It does not replace books, and I need to look at some new books. Just the other day, I listened to a podcast that made me realize there are some books that I should probably look at. One book in particular is The Velocity Advantage, and the authors stress how you drive organizational success.
Is there a quote you live by?
I will have to say I do not think of it in terms of living by a quote. What I really try to accomplish day in and day out is to enable people to achieve their potential. Most people operate well below their potential for a number of reasons: education, not allowing people to try things, not helping people connect the dots to find solutions to problems. There is a wide range of reasons, but I think that’s what I really look at. When people ask questions, they are really looking for a solution. I do not give them the answer to the problem at hand. Instead, I answer questions with questions. I want others to discover their solutions. I want to enable them to achieve their potential by using the skills and knowledge they have at their disposal
What is one key piece of advice you would give people in their career journey?
When I think about my career, and not to say that it was perfect or a model, I reflect on the concept my parents ingrained in me to never be content. Never be content with where you are, what you have got, where you are as a person, where you are as an employee. Just to never be content and always know that things can be better. You can be better. A process can be better. Your business can be better. That continual mindset of asking yourself, “What can be improved?”
Also, embrace change because those two obviously go hand in hand. When you are always looking at how to improve, you need to embrace change. In my professional career, I would always ask my boss, “What can I do next?” Early in my career, I had a department manager and there were two operations managers, myself and my peer. I had been there maybe a year. My peer had been in that job for 15 years. At that time, I remember vividly a conversation with my boss because my boss kept coming to me and asking me to do different things. One day I had that conversation with my boss and asked him why he always came to me for help instead of my colleague. His response was, “Enrique, you know how long he has been at his job?”
He continued by saying, “How long do you want to be in your job?”
It very quickly taught me if you do not embrace change, if you are not looking to improve, you may just find yourself in the same position for a very long time. That is the lesson that my manager taught me quickly. That was the last time I ever asked him why he was asking me to do something.
I started asking, “What can I get off your plate? How can I make your life easy?” and I started saying, “I’ll take care of it. I’ll do what needs to be done so you can focus on other priorities.”
Enrique, thank you so much for your time today! It was great chatting with you!
It was my pleasure! I’m looking forward to seeing how CPE can help supply chain professionals and organizations reach new goals.