LOUISVILLE, Ky. - "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics," said Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist from circa 496 B.C. The FedEx team shared best practices and leadership principles that keep order in their organization.
Logistic leaders of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) conducted a professional development event April 25 at FedEx Ramp and Station facilities in Louisville to learn about how FedEx does logistics.
Capt. Tasha Urban, Support Operations Plans Officer 1st TSC, planned the event because she participated in the U.S. Army's Training with Industry (TWI) program at FedEx. The idea of TWI is to expose participants to innovative industry management practices and skills to bring back and benefit the Army.
"So, I really got to take advantage of that by learning different things in logistics. I also got to attend their leadership course like the location that we visited today, the ramp, and a station. I got trained on how they did those things," Urban said.
The FedEx team knows that time is a critical factor when delivering packages. The goal of the FedEx Ramp is to download an airplane as quickly and safely as possible. The team at the Ramp tries to make up as much time as possible so that the next destination has more time to deliver the packages.
"One minute for us could be 10 minutes for the next location," said Jeff Bishop, Aircraft Operational Manager Louisville. "Even though I can do what I can do in my 29 minutes, any delay will cause that chain reaction."
Similar to the 1st TSC, on site maintainers conduct vehicle inspections, dispatch, tow broken equipment, and schedule services to prevent breakdowns at FedEx.
"We try to put as much stuff in place to be as proactive as possible. Again, Mother Nature and mechanical problems are almost two things that you cannot fight. They are going to happen and those things impact you guys as much as us," said Bishop.
Both organizations are proactive in tracking and letting their customers know if packages or supplies are running late. 1st TSC leaders track time delivering mail and supplies to units in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations that includes Afghanistan and Iraq. FedEx is diligent in letting customers know if deliveries are late due to unforeseen circumstances.
The FedEx Ramp downloads the packages and delivers it to the FedEx Station. The Station in Louisville sorts and delivers the packages to the customers and 1st TSC leaders were able to witness how fast the packages were sorted and out the door. Each driver has route with 80 stops that they all know by heart.
"I think it is great that we let you all come in and learn what we learn. Because it is a great program, you can definitely be a successful manager going to those classes, learning, taking it back to your home station, and applying those skills and everything you learn into your station," said Karen Mayer, senior manager domestic ground operation, Louisville. "I think it is really cool that the military is being involved in that."
The professional development session ended with two senior FedEx management team members talking about leadership from their perspectives.
Susan Sweat, vice president of regional operations, described how she worked her way up from being a manager at Station the 1st TSC leaders visited.
Sweat shared that she learned more from what she did wrong than what she did right. The difference is that she reflected on those mistakes and learned from them.
"I would encourage you to be open to change your leadership when it is needed, because every group doesn't need to be managed the same. Part of being a leader is determining what motivates the people that work for you," Sweat said.
Bobbi Wells, vice president for safety and airworthiness, talked about her experiences and why she chose to leave the Army to go to FedEx. She was in the TWI program.
Wells mentioned that, similar to the Army, FedEx has a strong culture that is aligned with their values. She encouraged 1st TSC logistics leaders to understand that being right is not always important. She said leaders should have the courage to change their minds if they get signals that they are wrong.
The professional development event at FedEx Louisville provided a great opportunity for Army logisticians and their civilian counterparts in the shipping industry. For the 1st TSC, it shows the value of the TWI program in sharing innovative industry practices and giving back to the Army. It also provided affirmation for the FedEx team that their practices are respected to such a degree that the U.S. military looks to learn from them in support of warfighters on the battlefield.