An extraordinary talent with intensity to match his passion for the business, Kerry believes a person is “only as good as your last project.” His belief in the strength of a good team and hiring those “who are smarter than himself” makes him stand out from the crowd.
Kerry is responsible for managing the Technology Sector globally and Service Logistics business in Asia Pacific for DHL Supply Chain. He also serves on both the DHL Supply Chain Asia Pacific Management and Global Service Logistics Management Boards.
Having worked for Accenture before joining DHL, his early background in consulting gives him a better understanding of the customer’s operational needs beyond a mere functional environment.
Considering himself a “maverick”, Kerry is a sports enthusiast, with interest in all kinds of sports as he was an athlete in his younger days. He has special interests in F1, Cricket and American Football due to the tactics and strategies used to win. He is also an avid golfer but he laments the lack of time to play more often and achieve his goal of becoming a single handicapper.
Kerry is married with two daughters and a son, and holds a First Class Honours Degree in Accountancy from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
SCA – Could you share with us more about your role in DHL?
KM: I have two major roles in DHL. In the first role, I am the global sector head for the technology sector. In this role, I am responsible for the overall growth, development and strategies relating to the technology sector globally. I have sector teams in various regions across Europe, Americas and Asia. Each region has a Sector Head with a dotted line to me. My work typically requires me to meet up with customers to understand their needs on domestic, regional and global basis. The technology sector is a major business contributor to DHL Supply Chain.
In Asia, I am also responsible for running the Service Logistics business. A big part of our Service Logistics business is also related to the technology sector. Today, the technology sector is going through a major transformation, with changing consumption patterns and operating structures. Unlike the consumer sector whereby an established distribution network could fulfill service requirements over the long haul, the evolving needs of the technology sector would drive more dynamic requirements on a global basis. At the same time, our customers are also facing cost pressures due to the competitive markets they operate in. This in turn creates pressures internally in terms of how we can manage these changes and continue to make it a profitable business for the company.
SCA - DHL is recognised as a leading player in logistics in Asia and globally. Does this mean that working in DHL is easier than in any other 3PL?
KM: The answer is a yes and no. In a way, having a recognised global brand name means that by default, most global sourcing councils will want to invite DHL as one of the bidders. As such, we do get a lot of opportunities flowing through. But as we know, logistics is often driven by in-country needs. In mature markets, we are doing relatively well as many of these customers appreciate our global service standards. However, in emerging markets, there are many competitors out there with different appetites for risks and standards. This is where we find it tough to compete, especially when we place a high value to the global standards that we have put in place and adhere to for our multinational customers. Such standards come with a cost as well as an assurance of service quality but in emerging markets, cost may become the deciding factor whereby we find it difficult to compete. While I agree that certain services in our industry are increasingly being commoditised, such as transport and warehousing, supply chain management today is becoming more complex. It is no longer just about moving boxes from one place to another in the cheapest way as investment into IT, visibility tools and solutions design comes into play. At the same time, there is also a factor of risk management as we work with our customers to design processes to add resiliency into their supply chain and mitigate risk such as natural disasters – which I believe is going to become a normal trend.
SCA – As someone who work closely with many customers, do you see the customers today as more collaborative or merely contractual and short-term oriented?
KM: I believe this will depend on different service segments of the relationship that we have with our customers. In the areas of freight (ocean & air) whereby it is a lot more commoditised and subjected to fluctuations, the relationship will tend to be more contractual and shorter. But when we start reviewing the overall solutions that include IT and service network, I do think that customers are trying to take a more collaborative approach. Clearly, this will also depend on the maturity level of the relationships that these customers have with us. We have started to notice that those who have been adopting a transactional approach are moving towards a more collaborative relationship but there will always be questions on what they will get in return for a longer term relationship as well as the fear of the operating team sinking into complacency. As a service provider, it is our duty to ensure that our customers are comfortable with us by building trust at the executive level, working closely with the execution teams and ensuring that we will constantly deliver value for them as part of their strategic partnership with us.
SCA – Have you walked away from customers before? Why?
KM: Yes, although I can tell you that this is a tough stance to take. Saying “no” to a prospective customer is difficult but can sometimes be liberating. There are times whereby there is just no strong fit between our proposed solution and price point that a customer is able to support. Of course, some of the customers may not be happy since not having DHL as one of the bidders may potentially affect their overall evaluation process. I believe that sometimes we need to take a stand and adopt a fair and balanced approach. I have told customers specifically that ultimately it is part of the overall supply chain costs and these costs need to be borne by a party. We are all here to add value for our organisations but not at the expense of each other. But I have to say that I have met many senior management executives who do not adopt the “beat you down” attitude and they value relationships with service providers who are able to deliver on what they promise.
SCA - We understand that your team is involved in reverse and service logistics. Would you be able to share your views on trends and challenges in Reverse Logistics in Asia?
KM: As my role is in the technology sector, I will be focusing on that. I see that there is a blurring of lines between being a consumer user and a business user and this has significant implications to the service logistics propositions offered by companies. Traditionally, if you are a corporate user, the service level you get differs from the consumer user. Increasingly, we are operating in a 24/7 world and you can no longer differentiate a business user from a consumer user who may need their products service immediately. I think many companies know that this is coming but they may not know what is the most cost effective manner in serving these customers. I believe there is a need to reinvent the service logistics model to manage this set of customers – who are more technology savvy.
The other challenge I see is the enterprise service logistics model for large server farms. With the advancement in cloud computing and technology, the need for urgent orders may not be as critical as the failure of one server can be managed through resiliency in other servers. As a service provider, we will be obligated to manage all urgent orders, but we question if all of these orders can be managed more cost effectively.
SCA - In relation to Talent Management, do you see a gap in this area in Asia? Can you share with us on your management style with regard to recruitment, retention and career advancement for your team?
KM: The talent gap is a unique industry problem we have today. In the supply chain world of the future, we need people with diverse skill-sets. You need people with broader views and competencies. Our ability to attract talents from various fields may be one reason for our success in solving our customer’s problems. To me, it is the culture and the people that make an organisation. In DHL, we maintain a “Can Do” attitude that permeates throughout the entire organisation. As such, it makes it easier for me to work with DHL team members across different countries and nationalities. For any company who wants to succeed in Asia, you need to have a talented pool of individuals who can work together as a team. I am not afraid to hire someone smarter than myself as I believe he or she will be able to contribute to the team’s success. The two key attributes that I look out for when hiring people are attitude and aptitude. I always tell my team members “you are only as good as your last project”. Without such a good team mindset, people can set into complacency and they may not be able to engage their customer well.
Attracting talents to our industry will also mean that we need to show the world that we are beyond merely moving boxes. Sometimes I find it hard to even explain to my family what I do and I try by telling them that the food that they eat and the things they buy are only possible because of the work we do as supply chain professionals. Again, it is difficult to articulate our work and maybe this is one reason why we find it hard to attract good talents.
SCA - Is there anything that makes you hopeful or concerned for the future of logistics in Asia?
KM: I am rather optimistic for the future and I believe the future for Asia is good. This is definitely the Asia Century and we need good talents and people to join us. I remember vividly a conversation with the CPO of Flextronics, Tom Linton, who says that he strongly believes the CEOs of the future will be those with supply chain background. We are already seeing such a person in Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple Computer.
However, I am concerned that this industry is not innovating enough in Asia. We need to design solutions that fit Asia and not take wholesale solutions from outside Asia. At the same time, I am also concerned about the political situations here, especially when governments turn toward protectionism. If that happens, then it will certainly set us back, although I remain hopeful that this will not happen and trade blocs, such as ASEAN driving initiatives to create a single market, are signs of good things to come.
SCA - What is next for you in your work and life? Is there anything that you are looking forward to?
KM: I enjoy what I am doing today. I enjoy interacting with customers and I have a special interest in seeing Asian enterprises grow. I am always learning and my current role allows me to interact on a global level as well as at the senior management level. I hope that this will provide a strong platform for me to utilise my knowledge and skills to help these companies later on in my life. Building a strong team is also something that I focus on, as I believe that a good team is the base for an organisation’s success. That being said, I am also a sports enthusiast. I used to be an athlete and played rugby and soccer. While I don’t have much time for physical sports nowadays, I enjoy watching almost all sports games. When I read the newspapers, I always start from the sports sections. I have particular interest in Cricket and I know the game fairly well and the players in it as well. I also like American football as there are lots of tactics and strategies involved and I am very intrigued by these types of games – which include rugby and soccer. I am also a huge F1 fan. You can say that I like sports in general and sometimes I wonder whether I will end up managing a sports club in the future or make a complete switch and go into the sports industry.
Those may be crazy ideas but it really keeps me sane. I do not play many sports today other than trying to play golf at least once a week and bring down my handicap. Finally, due to my hectic travel schedules, I do hope to spend more time with my 3 kids – my two girls and one boy. This is especially important for me, as I do not want my kids to grow up with a straight mindset and inability to challenge the norm and status quo– as I always see myself as a “maverick” seeing things from a different perspective. Our education system in Singapore today focuses too much on the IQ side and the EQ side is lacking. We need our children with the ability to connect with people with different backgrounds and cultures and ask critical questions.