Mister Beacon Episode #139
Mr. Beacon Sits Down With Mr. Supply ChainNovember 09, 2021
Suddenly, supply chain wonks are the most-in demand experts of the moment, and given that we were privileged to have the opportunity to grab Bob Trebilcock and get his perspective. Where is the global supply chain now - how broken is it, really?? - and where we are headed.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation that ranges from the intersection of IoT and supply chain - a subject near and dear to Mr. Beacon’s heart - to how adoption of an “omni channel supply chain” will separate winners and losers. And lots in-between.
We guarantee Bob’s insights will make you smarter, and you will read every article about the shortage of semiconductors and paper towel in a fresh new light.
We’ll wind up talking about supply chain in another direction - what elements of Bob’s career supplied him with the greatest experience, and what music supplies him with the greatest joy.
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Steve Statler 00:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon Podcast. Supply chain is right at the center of so many of the use cases that we work on with this auto ID technology that this show is focused on. So I've been delighted to get a chance to talk with one of the experts in the field. Bob Trebilcock, who's editorial director at Supply Chain Management Review. And in our conversation, we talk about the future of supply chain where it's headed demand chain, what is it? How brands and retailers reacting to omni channel, and what's happening as a result of the crisis that we're going through? That's impacting all of our lives? I think you'll find it interesting. It was certainly a fun conversation. Have a listen, check it out. The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, Intelligence for Everyday Things, powered by IoT pixels. Bob, welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast.
Bob Trebilcock 01:09
Well, thank you, Steve.
Steve Statler 01:12
It's a privilege to have you on. You are the editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review, which is like the Harvard Business Review for supply chain. And I've got a whole bunch of questions for you, I want to get your view on why we are where we are enjoying this situation that we are with chaotic supply chains. And then there's some things that I think are relevant to our listening audience, which is, you know, our brands and retailers ready for omni channel and getting into what demand chain is and where things are going to go into the future. But as I was looking forward to our conversation, I was sort of asking myself, well, you know, why are we talking about supply chain? We're a podcast about auto ID and indoor location. But clearly, the technologies that we follow are really coming to bear on supply chain. So why why is supply chain important? And I think the question is almost redundant for anyone that's living in the UK, which I don't anymore, but apparently they've got cardboard cutout pictures of vegetables in Tescos. We're looking as people that have to exist in this economy at spiraling inflation, which seems to be driven by the supply chain, our lives are dependent on the supply chain with vaccines shortages, and PPE is the whole state of the world is, is really being driven by supply chains. You look at the what China is doing, in order to secure its supply chains, and historically, Suez Crisis, crises, things like that are being driven by supply chain, we have climate change, being I think, our way out of the climate change crisis is actually driven by efficiencies that we can gain in supply chain technology. And then you look just at our day to day lives and the giants that are successful, a really successful because they've mastered supply chain, you look at Tesla, Apple, further back, Dell, their positions are driven by supply chain. And then you come back to well, how do I how do I become successful in supply chain? I think part of it is technology. So that's why we're talking to you. And I don't know whether you have anything to add or disagree with my little monologue on supply chain. But what are your thoughts?
Bob Trebilcock 03:47
Well, first, nothing to disagree. You know, it, it we're at this kind of weird, I guess it's like everything in life right now, at this kind of really weird point. A year ago, November, I was writing my column for the November issue of supply chain management review November 2020. And we were hearing like, you know, things about the vaccines coming and distribution was going to start to roll out and it seemed like a pretty optimistic time. And you know, after all of the supply chain failures that happened in the spring when everything shut down, right. And I wrote this line saying, you know, after all the chaos and whatever, you know, its supply chains time to shine or I hopefully I wrote it better than I just explained it. So I was review I was review my prior years column before I write my new problem. I was like, I don't know I can just like take that. Change the date because we were still in office. The chaos and the you know, the upheaval and hopefully, you know 2022 will be supply chains time to shine another sort of weird data point and and I'm sure somebody out there smarter than me when it comes to economics and finance and things will will write right in are calling to say why? You know, I just am completely missing the boat. But a couple of weekends ago, I was reading the Saturday Wall Street Journal. And I started it was during earnings report season, right, everybody was reporting their their earnings. And we actually just came off a very good earnings report season. So there was an article on Chipotle. And the first half of the article said, Chipotle doesn't have enough workers so they're having to close stores and they can't do their normal operating hours. And it's, it's costing them sales. Wages are going through the roof, their raw materials and supplies are going through the roof. So if you only read those two, those two paragraphs, he thought, terrible, horrible time. And, and certainly Yesterday, I went to the movies last night and went by the local Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell at five o'clock on a Sunday with football games going on, right. And normally, there's cars like lined up a Kentucky Fried Chicken, they were close, and they had a sign in the window that they didn't have enough help. So at five o'clock on a Sunday, you know, dinnertime on football Sunday, Kentucky Fried Chicken was close, you read the second half of the chipotle earnings. And it turns out that their profit margins have never been better, that despite all the closings, they had record sales. And their stock has doubled in 2021 to $1,800 a share, which means it was $900 a share at the end of 2020. And, and I know that it was in the mid four hundreds in like 2017 2018. So in a matter of you know, three or four years, their stock has quadrupled. So, you know to quote Charles Dickens, since you're a Brit is at the best of time. So the word or the worst of times, or the best of times, I'm going to reverse it right. And I read down and there's CSX railroads earnings report, same thing, top two paragraphs. Their, you know, their auto business is tanking because the automakers can't make cars. So they're not shipping cars. Oh, that's terrible. They can't hire enough engineers. So they're having to, you know, not run all the routes that they want to run. Wages are going through the roof. It's it's the worst of times. It's right before the guillotine comes down at the end of you know, the tale of two cities. And then you read below and it says Oh, meanwhile, by the way, our intermodal business has gone through the roof, it would be even better if we had more chasse ease. It's so good that we're telling commodity producers that we don't want to haul their stuff. Oh, and we just we just reported record earnings. So you have this interesting dichotomy out there that on the one hand, businesses are really struggling around supply chain issues, on the other hand, really struggling around supply chain issues. On the other hand, Blockchain issues, on the other hand, have been two points better. Okay. But 5.8% is considered like a raging economy. Right. Two points better is sure. But but two points better isn't sustainable, you'd really have inflation going through the roof, if we were at nearly 8%, GDP unemployment at 4.6%. So not to minimize, you know, people out of work and all of those things. But if you look at the raw numbers, it's any administration would be thrilled with those numbers. I'm sorry. Go ahead. Yeah.
Steve Statler 09:12
Just to interrupt. So I guess the takeaway is that there's some definitely, overall things could be worse. Yes. There's some winners, there's some losers, and your mastery of supply chain. And I would say the technology that enables that is a key factor. I want to get into some of these questions that we had lined up. But before we get into it, and people can go to other places to get this summary. But what's your take on? Why is it that the bad things that are happening are happening? We have ships that are still like sitting outside of the docks in LA and even though the chip companies are doing great, there's a whole bunch of other companies that can't get the chips they need for their products? They're doing terrible. How did we ended up in the mess to the extent that it is a mess has served.
Bob Trebilcock 10:03
So two quick takeaways. Yossi Sheffy from MIT, I interviewed Yossi one day, and he said, people say supply chains failed. They didn't, they operated exactly as they were designed to operate. They were designed to operate just in time. And, and with Lean inventories. They weren't designed to operate in global, you know, tumult and turmoil, and a global shutdown, and then startup. So he was saying, we need to rethink the design of supply chains. I interviewed the key supply chain officer for a medical supplies company who said to me, you know, none of these issues are new, by the way, the labor shortage in warehouses and factories is 15 years old. I gave presentations on it eight years ago. So it's none of it is new, the way he put it is, all of these things were problems before COVID Just made all the things that were bad, even worse. So I think there's part of that. And I think it really is a perfect storm in that, like in 2008, we shut down the shutdown was even bigger than the financial crisis. But we shut down because everybody just hunkered down and was gonna, you know, protect their own. The comeback was faster than 2008. Number one. And you know, the pent up demand was greater than the comeback in 2010, after the 2008 crisis. So I think you had people hunker down even more, and then the rebound was more than anybody ever anticipated. So people didn't have supplies, it didn't have that. And then you throw in a whole bunch of things that might have happened, maybe one of them might have happened, or two of them might happen. But you have the Suez Canal, did, you know ice and had a major Kip factory burned to the ground. You've had all sorts of weather interventions, in addition to the Texas thing with like, I live in New England, we had record flooding, you know, this this summer, so you've had all of those things in then you've had this thing that I don't still don't know what quite to make of it. But the resignation, like, you know, my little town in New Hampshire is kind of microcosm in that New Hampshire has always had low unemployment, like New Hampshire typically is between two and 3% unemployment. So it's pretty low. There were help wanted signs everywhere in my little town, pre COVID. But you didn't have Kentucky Fried Chicken having to close, you know, on a Friday or on a Sunday afternoon, I don't understand where. And the population didn't suddenly grow during COVID. We've been 20,000 people since I moved here in 1984. So it's not like there's a whole lot more mouths to feed or a whole lot more people buying whatever it is, it's the same population. So how, and I think that's true, most everywhere. So how we went from a tight labor market to I just can't get anybody no matter what I pay them. I to life, me, I don't understand. But it seems like all of those things happened at once, along with just an incredible spike in pent up demand. That's the best I can give you.
Steve Statler 13:34
And it's amazing that labor aspects to supply chain is incredible. And you're right, it's kind of this perfect storm, I was interviewing someone for a job at Wiliot and trying to understand what we needed to pay them. And so it was a bit of a delicate subject. So I asked the you know, what, what sort of what do we have to compete with? What's your total compensation now? This is a technology person who kind of director level who's working at a fortune 500 company? And he said, Oh, yeah, that's about $400,000. I'm, like I said, How can you start a massive company full of people that are being paid? I mean, obviously, it's not getting a salary check of 400,000. But you add stock stock programs, that sort of thing. And I don't know, maybe he's exaggerating. But if that people at that level are getting that much, then it's kind of hard to operate company. So. So I so we are where we are, as technologists and entrepreneurs that are designing solutions, we have to try and figure out well, what does that mean for the future? What is your take on the way what we're seeing now is changing the way systems are going to operate going forward?
Bob Trebilcock 14:58
Well, I you know, What the I just did Supply Chain Management Review does a conference called the next gen supply chain conference that I did last week. So I'm not picking on the conference. But I had some great presenters from some major retailers gap American Eagle, Nordstrom, we had somebody from GM, it seems to me the and a lot and a bunch of others without going through, you know, the the whole list. But it seems to me that planning was the first casualty first supply chain casualty of you know, of COVID, that you had no historical precedent to figure out how to plan your way through it, when we shut down. And they had no historical precedent for how to predict or plan for coming out of it. So I think everybody's going to be rethinking their planning systems. And, you know, what did we learn from this, and I think since we're not through it, it's going to take us some years to do that. I'm hearing from supply chain officers that they're moving from, just in time to just in case, one of my presenters was Cardinal Health now, they're a different organization, you know, if the gap runs out the blue shirt, nobody dies. But if Cardinal Health runs out of certain things, well, you know, the health of patients is at risk. And the Cardinal Health, president of Cardinal Health definitely said that they're moving to a to adjust in case inventory model. But, you know, planning, he said, they're trying to get much more predictive about planning. So I think, you know, coming out of this companies are before even rethinking, you know, my network, and do I have warehouses in the right places, and transportation and all of that, that they're really taking a hard look at planning systems and saying, How do I get more accurate about planning, because if your plans are off, kind of doesn't matter if your warehouses working or your you know, your trucks are running. Then after that, you know, the sudden went really ramped up in terms of Evo filament e commerce and direct to consumer fulfillment, that just puts, you know, it takes so much more labor. To do that, you think about it, if you're in a pallet focused warehouse, and you ship out, you know, 2000 pallets a day that have 200 cartons on them, you get shipped out 400,000 units, well, think of all the stuff in those in those cartons. And now you're doing the same number of units, but they're going out one at a time. So instead of, you know, a couple of lift truck drivers moving those pallets, you've got to have an army of people, if you can't get people, that's going to put a real focus on automation. So, I mean, I think planning and automation are going to be the two big themes over the next couple of years. Because I don't Well, I Well, I do think we'll go back to the stores and we're seeing, you know, foot traffic back in the stores. It won't be like it was and so those those problem, just those physical problems of how do I fill all those orders, is going to, we're going to require changes. And then again, I think planning at the upper level, is really in, you know, is really going through a transformation right now,
Steve Statler 18:43
that all makes sense. And that's what I'm hearing as well that we you know, the retailers that we speak to say we are we have to compete with better service, but we're actually gonna have to do that with less people. Therefore, we need to basically tag everything to know where it is, is kind of one of the underpinnings of this and then we have have to have the new systems to use it. And so I think kind of how do I plan for the worst case and resetting and catastrophes that all make sense, what you talked about just in case as opposed to just in time did you get a sense from your, your speakers, what does that mean? What does just in case mean?
Bob Trebilcock 19:32
That means that inventory can no longer be the equivalent of a four letter word. You know, the four letter word before it was cash, but people are going to have to think about you know, cash tied up in inventory differently in order to go forward particularly in critical industries, and that may drive all kinds of things you know, in the in the parts industry. It may be the thing that spurs on something like 3d printing and additive manufacturing, because, you know, there are parts that you really can 3d print, and 3d print on demand. I think it means bringing inventory in earlier if you can, if you can get it off, if you can get it off of a ship, I think it's going to mean if you think you're going to sell, you know, 1000 units during the season. And you'd gotten used to bringing 100 units in and then just doing a lot of reorders, you might be bringing 500 Or you know, 500 units in at the beginning of the season, and then doing your reorder. And again, in critical industries, people just saying, going back to the, if I think I need three, maybe I'm going to be by five. So I've got two on the shelf, just in case.
Steve Statler 20:57
Very interesting. So going back to your Dickensian reference best of times, worst of times, it was certainly the best of times for Amazon, it seems like they just did even better. And that's putting pressure on people or brands, retail brands that have brick and mortar they have this huge cast of people and and, and spaces that they have to deal with. And so they're all doing the omni channel thing. It's like, well, how can we compete with online? Well, we do online, but we do it better, because we're using those brick and mortar, places for people to come to and maybe we're doing local stocking and we can have a supply chain that leverages that. How ready Do you think brands and retailers are to do that to really do omni channel or whatever the today's buzzword is of, of selling online and selling through real stores?
Bob Trebilcock 22:01
Yeah, so it's a great question. And I think the answer is wishy washy. It depends. You know, if you think of the big guys target Walmart, clearly they're already doing it. You know, and they've made investments in last mile, everything from last mile delivery to whatever else you can think of. If you think of a specialty, I would think of the gap as a specialty retailer, the gap Old Navy, Banana Republic. They've been doing omni channel for years and are quite successful at it. If you go to a gap campus, they'll have a building dedicated to store replenishment, they'll have a building dedicated to E fulfillment. They're not doing joint inventory.
Steve Statler 22:55
What's doing is inventory, one building
Bob Trebilcock 22:57
that can do both EECOM fulfillment and store replenishment. So they're, they're doing a shared in but you know, the inventory can stay in a carton and go to a store or a broken carton and piece piece picking. But But I know during COVID They ramped up using their stores as fulfillment points. And you know, started doing buy online pick up in store curbside pickup, all of those things, I think COVID really hastened the development of those kinds of those kinds of brick and mortar strategies. Even for some companies that already had a brick and mortar presence, I think at some other industries had mentioned that I had, I had the VP of innovation and technology for Pandora, the largest jeweler in the world on Pandora had started thinking about an omni channel strategy prior to COVID. But in the jewelry business, it was still very much a hands on I want to touch it, feel it, I want to put it on and see what it looks like, you know, on my wrist and all of that. And they had to figure out a way to sort of replicate that customer experience online. And then also started looking at, you know, how do they ramp up their omni channel capabilities, working with three PLS, but also investing in their own places. And then also trying to replicate the customer experience with things like virtual technology or AR Online. So I think, you know, in some niches that were very hands on historically where people still wanted to touch it, you know, feel it. They're they're ramping up now. So I I think it's a little bit all over the map. But I think every retailer knows they've got to do something.
Steve Statler 24:52
Yeah, I think that's true. And just as a consumer I see a huge disparity between what you're told is incorrect. Stock and what is actually in stock and the people that do a better job of that seems like that. That to me is it's not the end of the world. But it's kind of a towel on how chaotic things may really be. And just anecdotally, as a vendor, because a lot of our technology is used to address this, then it seems that there's a huge amount of activity going on to retool and an acceptance that it's not just about getting product to the store and having something on the shelf. It's about having the right thing on the shelf, because someone just ordered it online. And so it's I think it's fascinating. And I think it's a great time to be in this industry, because you're seeing just a whole retooling and re engineering of the systems to respond to this kind of very thing that we're all living through the kind of reshuffled the deck. Fascinating. So we've been talking a lot about demand chain. And I want to make sure I'm not misusing the can you? What's your perspective, Bob, on what demand changes?
Bob Trebilcock 26:15
Well, the way I think of demand chain is, Gartner uses the term demand driven, which is the idea of in its ultimate form, the idea is I order one I make one where you get much, much closer to customer demand, so that you're planning around what customers really want as opposed to what you think they want. And so you know, we're seeing Gartner came up with that term some time ago. But I think what we're doing is seeing now that kind of the fruition of that coming into place, and to do that is calling for, you know, all kinds of things that maybe we've done, maybe we haven't done in the past to get more and more visibility, for instance, your space. So how can I capture more and more information, you know, with more and more nodes in the supply chain? So I understand what is my true demand? And can you know, operate to that demand? Yeah, my
Steve Statler 27:21
take on it is we're transitioning to a point where increasing levels of visibility allow you to make smarter decisions about the way you operate this supply chain, if you know where everything is, if you know what's in the delivery vehicle, if you know what's on the shelf. And maybe in the future, if you know how it's being consumed, then that's what's going to allow this major leap forward in terms of even leaner supply chain and how you get over you know, the need to sometimes in some cases, we're going to need to stock pot in other cases, we are stockpiling in places that just don't make sense where there's no demand and if we if we can get help harness these demand signals we can we can move to this this future more efficient state. What is your view about what the major trends are for the future of supply chain? What's what's I want to ask you to make predictions for the future but what what what does the future look like for supply chain? It's not perfect is it's not done?
Bob Trebilcock 28:38
Now I think the the two kind of really interesting trends to me if you read like Gartner's top 25 One is this transition to customer experience or what Gartner calls CX. I can't tell you how many times I've had conversations with a supply chain leader who has said, caught you know, we used to be a one size fits all cost driven supply chain. And cost is still important. But instead of being number one, it's number four or five customer experience, you know is number one and if you think of Jeff Bezos has been writing letters to shareholders for a number of years talking about how you know the number one thing that drives Amazon is not the stock price or cost but delighting the customer. So I think how other companies translate interpret and and roll out the customer experience in whatever industry they're in. Is going to be you know, a significant trend. I do think that we're seeing post COVID An increase once again, interest in the the social side of supply chain, the ESG. So that sustainability, governance, how my company operates within the community where I operate, it feels as if those things are coming to the fore again. And it felt like they had sort of, you know, fallen to the, to the wayside for a while. I think that's a good thing. You know, companies and supply chains are going to be really rethinking their relationships with their employees, just like they're rethinking their relationships with their suppliers. And then I just don't think we can get away from automation as a trend. And all that that implies. And so, you know, if visibility is important, automation, how am I going to get visibility? You know, that's the the IoT part of it, wherever, you know, companies may play, but how can I get, you know, how can I get closer to a true demand signal? And then how can that demand signal translate back into my operations, to where I can respond? You know, I've got automation in place that allows me to respond to a customer order very quickly. I think those are the three big things that I'm watching.
Steve Statler 31:19
I think that, you know, my observation from our own work is, you know, we, as a company, very focused on getting these demand signals to companies. But unfortunately, just having the demand signal doesn't seem to be enough to reap the rewards of the insights, suddenly, I know, where I'm overstocked where I'm under stocked, but then you have to re retool the delivery systems to go from a milk round to dynamic distribution. And so it seems like there's a lot to come. And that's more of an observation than a question. But if you've got anything to say about that,
Bob Trebilcock 32:04
no, I think you're spot on. You know, I think how we get you know, how we get visibility, how we get closer to that demand signal is, it is is a fundamental and underlying issue, and how we then make sense of even the data that we have, is is a challenge right now. But all of those when I talked about thinking that plant, you know, this emphasis on planning is is a major issue right now. You can't plan if you don't have data. You You have to have good data. Somebody at my conference last week said, If you don't have good data, if you haven't cleanse the data, you're making bad decisions in a sophisticated way. And I thought that was a great line. So this idea of visibility data, analyzing the data and now being able to do you know better planning, closer to the customer, I think is where supply chain is going.
Steve Statler 33:10
Bob, how did you get to be the editorial director at Supply Chain Management Review.
Bob Trebilcock 33:19
They met me in a bar. I grew up in this industry, although as a as a working journalist, I didn't start out in supply chain but my family I grew up in northeastern Ohio. My family has been in the industrial packaging business since I was about four years old, and I'm almost 66 And my joke is most people's dads take them to Disney World. And my dad took me to the BorgWarner autoparts plant in North Tonawanda New York when I was a kid in the summers, my dad would take me and my younger brother on sales trips with him. And and you know, growing up in in the Rust Belt, quite literally I grew up outside of Youngstown, Ohio, which was a steal an auto town, you know, all those small Midwestern towns had a factory and my dad, you know, sold the factories. And so my brother and I grew up seeing small town, you know, Midwestern industrial America through the back end of a factory. And we really did used to go to North Tonawanda New York North Tonawanda is a suburb of Buffalo. And our favorite trip was when dad would take us to Buffalo because he would stop work Thursday afternoon and we would cross the bridge to Niagara Falls and stay Thursday night in Niagara Falls and you know, do things in Niagara and Canada on Friday and then drive home for for dinner. So my Introduction to supply chain was you know, as a kid growing up my dad's company I, you know, I didn't go off to college to study business. I was actually a creative writing major and I wanted to be a fiction writer. And when I got out of college, I worked for three years in our primary business was pallets. Today, the family business is still one of the largest pallet manufacturers in the country.
Steve Statler 35:28
Bob Trebilcock 35:32
my dad's company, it's kind of complicated because they're a bunch of trouble cogs in the pallet business. My dad passed away. In 2017, my dad's company was called Liberty industries. And they also had a stretch wrap division called Liberty technologies. And there's another family company called Lift co international still around. Let go stands for Lionel trouble Kok company. That's my, my oldest first cousin, and third company called kings company that my dad and my cousin, long trouble founded. And then there's a great big company called Millwood. And when my dad retired, and eventually after my dad retired, the Millwood guys, which is one of my another cousin. The Millwood people bought my dad's company after my dad retired. So my dad's company was called Liberty industries but it exists as part of Millwood today and no what is a very large manufacturer of pallets. If you use cap, it's very likely that Millwood either built the pallet or repaired and delivered it because they run something like 27 sortation centers for cap. So anyway, I went to work for three years in a pallet shop, I spent three years on the road, selling pallets, and then stretch wrap equipment, which turns out to have been great training for a writer. Because you you had to learn, you know, working in the sawmill, I was the only non Amish man working in an Amish sawmill. So you had to learn culture shock pretty quickly, you know how to adapt to to a completely unknown culture, which is kind of pretty good as a reporter. And then as a sales guys, you know, you get used to cold calls and people slamming doors in your faces, which, you know, happens to reporters just like those. So I did that for about six years and started writing magazine pieces on the side, my roommate, after I got out of college had lived in the same dorm as I in college, and I bought a I bought a house for for $13,000 at a VA auction and rent out a room to Jim and he was a budding journalist. And we started writing Sunday magazine articles for like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and places like that. And after doing that, for about three years, I discovered that I was pretty good at it. And I left the family company had an opportunity to leave the family company, starting right writing magazine articles, and I worked in I guess what we call mainstream media for about 30 years. That was my primary you know, it was my bread and butter, wrote for Sports Illustrated and Reader's Digest and Prevention Magazine and the women's magazines and Boston Globe Sunday magazine just about everybody you can think of I always had kind of one foot in the in the material handling business, writing a little bit for the company that now owns modern materials handling logistics management, supply chain management review. And starting around 2000 I started doing more work for them kind of got interested in supply chain always was a freelancer never went on staff. And lo and behold, fast forward 2013 the founder of supply chain management reviews and it was Frank Quinn kind of a legend in our industry. Frank was retiring sided. He I think Frank was 70 or 71 had enough. And I was at a conference. And Brian Cirillo, who's now the president and CEO of the company, and Michael Evans, who's the group editorial director, asked me to go to dinner with them and they offered me Frank's position and at the time, I was 57 and had been a working journalist since 1980. had written about every story you could think of, you know, 120 times had never had never been an editor and had never run a magazine. And it just seemed like a unique situation one taking over from a founding editor, you know, where I was going to be the second editor on the magazine to take a shot at to see if I could go from I described the transition as going from a player to a coach. My whole career, I'd been a player, right? Somebody will call me and say, Hey, can you do an article on X, Y, or Z, and you'd go out there and you know, and try and put the story together write the story. Like a quarterback gets a gameplan, and goes out and tries to execute the game editors or coaches, you know, they, they come up with story ideas, they work with an author to develop them, they edit them, they work with the art department to put them together, I'd never been a coach. And it just seemed like an interesting way to end my career. And given that I'm almost 66 Supply Chain Management Review is definitely my, you know, the end of my, whenever I stopped, it's going to be as editor, a supply chain management review. I'm not looking for another rep position. Anyway, that's how I came to the job.
Steve Statler 41:16
That's great story. So play a coach. So your writing as well as editing now, is that correct? I
Bob Trebilcock 41:22
still do, right? I mean, writing is what I did for so many years. And, you know, others may disagree, but I think I'm pretty good at it. And, and I still enjoy it. So I do a lot of writing online. Now in in supply chain management review in print, most of our content comes at work, work, we're called the Harvard Business Review for supply chain managers. And so the similarities are that we have a, you know, a senior level audience, or an aspirational senior level audience. And most of our content like HBr, or MIT Sloan Management Review, comes out of either the academic research community, the tier one consulting firms, or, you know, case studies that we develop with big companies. So I do like I've done some of our case studies and things like that, but I'm more working with the academic community and the consulting community. To develop content, I still write on modern materials handling, I'm the executive editor there and I, I write the cover stories there and do interviews and things like that. But on scmr, most of most of my job is Coach
Steve Statler 42:37
pretty good. And I often is it like being a actor, director, where you kind of there's a little bit of a conflict where you know, your, your, as a director, you have to sort of stand back and be objective, can you be objective about your own pieces?
Bob Trebilcock 42:53
Oh, I've always so when you're a when you're a magazine writer writing for magazines in New York, which is like the mecca of magazine publishing in America, thin or thick skin doesn't even begin to, you know, cover it. Like I've gotten manuscripts back from, you know, from editors with all of the editorial notes that you're usually you wouldn't see. And, you know, they they mostly make you want to open a vein and just bleed out. And many of them read along the lines of Is this guy a complete idiot? What was he thinking when he wrote that? So I've always been you, I've always been brutally objective about my own stuff. And so that part isn't hard. But the hardest part for me in the transition, you know, not that listeners care about this stuff. Because it's real insider baseball. The hardest part of the transition for me is I was a working writer for 30 years. I mean, that's, that's all I did for 30 years. And when I get a manuscript that is in difficult shape, my first reaction is, it's faster for me to just rewrite it and turn it into what I wanted than to send it back to the author, because I'm going to spend as much time explaining what needs work as I would just to do it. And my first reaction is always to want to fix it. And so that that's, that's the most difficult transition for me. And frankly, often end up doing that, and then sending it back to the writers and say, you know, what do you think, you know, do you hate me? Did I butcher it? You know, is it still in English?
Steve Statler 44:44
So I guess, you know, what can you do that's gonna help them do better next time? And is it give them the nodes or give them the kind of the model answer and hopefully, if you give them the model answer, they'll actually pay attention and learn from it.
Bob Trebilcock 44:56
So that's a great question. Again, this is all sort of inside Baseball stuff on modern materials handling. When I assign things on modern, I'm assigning them to professional writers. When you're assigning something on supply chain management review, you're working with people whose first job is not to write. Their first job is in the academic community, their researchers, their teachers. They've written scholarly journals, which is a whole different thing, you know, scholarly work, which is a whole different thing. Or if you're dealing with somebody at you know, Ernst and Young, or, you know, one of the big consulting firms Accenture or something, their first job is working with clients, it's not writing. And so this isn't to sound arrogant, it's just that I don't know that one set of notes for me, helps them the next time around, because their day job. Similarly, you know, if I went out and tried to sell, and somebody tried to give me sales tips, it would be okay. But I'm a writer, I don't know what kind of impact it would have. So on on modern materials handling, you hope that when you're giving professional writers advice on how to fix their piece, that it sinks in for the next piece they're going to write for us, it's a different thing with the academic community, you know, it because it's a magazine writing is different from your academic journal writing. And those are just hard transitions to make. So if they've done great research, I can do the rest. And frankly, that's what I tell my authors all the time, you know, do the research, and I'll make you sound good.
Steve Statler 46:45
Very good. Well, switching topics ungracefully, to music and the kind of this the second part of the show is really about the person that we've been interviewing in the first part of the show. So my understanding is that you're you're into music, and so that I don't know whether that made it harder or easier to come up with three songs
Bob Trebilcock 47:04
made it made it harder. So you and I could spend the next hour just talking about music, trust me, and songs. So yes, I had one of my older cousins, was a guitar teacher. And when I was about six, I was hanging around his house one day, and his guitar was out on this bed. Johnny is 1010 or 11 years older than I am. And he saw me like trying to strum around and whatever. And he said, Would you like to learn how to play? And I was like, yeah, so I was in first grade. And so he told my parents, you know, I'd like to give Bob guitar lessons. And he, you know, got me my first guitar. And I've played off and on. Since I was six, at one point, I thought I was going to be a professional musician. I studied classical guitar when I was in high school. And I went to conservatory for one semester and discovered that I would starve as a performer. I didn't want to teach and that what was I thinking when I, you know, I was good enough to get into conservatory, but it's, it's kind of an eye opener when I was pretty good as a freshman. But I wasn't as good as the sophomores who weren't as good as the juniors who weren't as good as the seniors. And the seniors probably were going to starve to, you know, so. So yes, so three songs. I picked three songs that made my head explode, and said, Wow,
Steve Statler 48:39
it's Hi, Bob. Yeah,
Bob Trebilcock 48:40
there's a there's a jazz guy. He since passed away a jazz guitar player that I long admired, named Jim Hall. And I've seen interviews with Kim and he talks about discovering the jazz guitarist Carly Christian, who was in Benny Goodman spanned, and Jim Hall, who's, who was just a remarkable player said, the first time you heard Charlie Christian play he, he said, I didn't know what he was doing. I just knew I wanted to do that. And then he goes, and I still want to be able to do that. So the three things, the three songs that made my head explode, and they're very specific, were purple haze. I was 12 years old. And I didn't really play electric guitar. And my older brother came home from college. And he put he had this, you know, album cover. And if you remember what the Jimi Hendrix Experience, that first album cover looked like, you know, it was like, something to a 12 year old and, you know, semi rural Ohio was like, whoa, what are these guys about? And Rick goes, I want you to listen to this because you play guitar. And he put, you know, Are You Experienced on the turntable? And the first cut is Purple Haze. And I had no idea what that guy was doing. And just remember thinking, wow, I'd love I have to be able to do that I still can't do that. The second, the second, there's actually two here and they're related. My cousin taught me how to finger pick fingerstyle guitar. And James Taylor came out. And I remember listening to sweet baby James and saying, Wow, I want to do that. And I kind of actually can back that. So I really was like working on my finger picking and got to a certain point and said, I, you know, I really want to learn how to get better at that. And I went to a local guitar teacher who was in a, in a rock'n'roll band was a great electric player, and played, you know, some stuff for him and said, you know, can you teach me how to do this? And he goes, No, you're better at that than I am. But if I were you, I would study classical guitar. And I was like, What's that all about? And he goes, Oh, like Segovia and Julian Bream. So I went to the record store, and bought a Julian Bream album and listen to Julian Bream play bore Ray, which is a back piece. It's kind of a famous piece. Lots of people have Jethro Tull did on one of the Jethro Tull albums as an electric piece. But it was it was kind of a popular piece. And it turned out to be one of the things that I learned and played to get into music school. So re listening to Julian Bream. playbar re just like listening to purple haze, it was boxboro Ray was like, Oh my God, I don't know what he's doing. But boy, would I like to be able to do that. And the last one, I studied jazz guitar now. And, you know, not not very good at it. But when I was a senior in high school, somebody gave me a record called Bird and does, which was Charlie Parker. And Dizzy Gillespie and I'd like never listened to Cass and certainly never listened to Bebop. And I put the first cut on there, which is called Bloom. dedeaux. And so similar to like listening to Jimi Hendrix, and, and box Baray. It was like, Holy crap, I don't know what those guys are doing. But wow, would I love to be able to do that. And I still I've been studying Blum dedeaux, you know, whatever it is, 48 years later, and still still haven't learned like Charlie Parker solo and you know, all of that. But those, I guess, four if you throw in sweet baby James, but those those were like seminal moments in my, you know, amateur musician life.
Steve Statler 52:37
Wonderful. Well, I love this because it's given me three or four albums that I got to now go out. There you go. Again, really enjoy. So, Bob, it's been a delight to have you on I feel like it's a real privilege. You've got some amazing insights, and you've got a great way of conveying them. So thanks very much for coming onto the onto the show.
Bob Trebilcock 53:01
Well, thanks, Steve. It was it was a lot of fun. I appreciate the opportunity.
Steve Statler 53:07
Thanks so much for joining us on this week's episode of Mr. Beacon. I hope you found that interesting. I certainly did. Bob is just an amazing individual with a great perspective on the supply chain ecosystem. If you like the show, please tell your friends rate or review us on the platform that you use. And please join us for the next episode of the Mr. Beacon podcast.