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  • Role: Operations Manger
  • Location: Hemel Hempstead
  • University: Durham
  • Degree: Geography

James Turner

How did you get into Logistics?

For a break from full-time education, I took a gap year before going to university, taking a job managing a local golf club and restaurant. This gave me a great background in managing teams and training them to deliver a high level of service.

I went on to study Geography at Durham University, mainly because I enjoyed the subject at school and liked the idea of summer fieldtrips to the Alps rather than stuffy lecture theatres.

By the time I reached my final year I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk 9–5, I wanted every day to be different and to work with people.

Supply chain management seemed to tick all the boxes, and the graduate programme at Gist offered the greatest support and development both on their scheme and further through my career.

Gist is a Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider and is the largest mover of chilled and perishable goods in the UK, working for some of the largest names on the high street. Gist specialises in delivering exceptional, innovative solutions to its customers within incredibly tight timescales.

I joined Gist’s Accelerate Trainee Management Scheme. This scheme aims to provide the training and experiences I would need to become a First Line Manager. Lasting 18 months to two years, I was to be given several six-month placements.

What kind of roles have you had at Gist so far?

My first placement was in a fast-paced chilled distribution centre and the second was in a slower stock holding environment. As well as understanding the day to day operations, I also gained important experience in building relationships with customers, delivering results in very tight timescales and most importantly how to engage with and motivate large teams of people.

Throughout the scheme my peers, experienced managers on site, the HR department and mentors on the Board of Directors have all offered advice and help when I needed it.

After 12 months on the scheme I was asked to become a First Line Manager in a fast paced chilled foods distribution centre in Hemel Hempstead. I had spent some time there during my first placement, so I already understood the role and knew the people I would be working with. This role would mean I had significantly more accountability and could better influence the performance of the operation.

I did this for six months before being seconded to implement a new business, which was very challenging, and very satisfying once, complete.

What are you doing now?

My current role requires that I plan each shift with a high degree of accuracy to ensure that our customer receives excellent service whilst also ensuring we adhere to our budgetary constraints.

I am often the face of my company to new and existing customers; I demonstrate what we are doing for them and how well we are doing it. Overall, I must ensure that every aspect of the operation runs smoothly and efficiently.

There are three of us responsible for the day to day running of a 24/7 warehouse operation, we have a team of eight First Line Managers who directly manage the teams of drivers and warehouse team members during each shift.

There is no such thing as a typical day for me. I usually work closely with my team to ensure that everything for the coming shift is in place and ready to go. Once I am happy that my team of managers are in control of the operation I will work on everything from long-term projects and strategies to employee queries and financial analysis.

Throughout my day, unless I am in a meeting, I am asked for advice and solutions to operational problems that arise. This is the main reason I like my job, there are always solutions needed that require benefits and risks to be identified, keeping me on my toes.

What are the most challenging parts of the job?

By far the best part and most challenging aspect of my role is the ability to influence a whole operation through the people I directly and indirectly manage. It can be sometimes difficult to know exactly what the best course of action is to take. It’s a fantastic feeling though when my whole team has worked together to deliver within a tight deadline. The people most definitely make the role what it is.

What do you think is the biggest myth about supply chain management?

The biggest myth of supply chain management is that it is all about truckers, dirty warehouses and low skilled jobs. Gist uses cutting edge technology right across the business, from GPS and RFID tracking to voice enabled and mechanical picking in brand new, spotless warehouses.

Do you have any plans for the future?

I would like to consolidate my knowledge and gain experience over the next few years before taking on a larger operation of my own or specialising in implementations and business development. Either way, I’d like to be a part of driving our business forward.

I am also hoping to gain my Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and a MBA in the very near future. Most of the courses I have attended have been in house and focused on my role.

What advice do you have for graduates?

Any graduate going into supply chain management must ensure that they can build a rapport with people of all ages and backgrounds and understand how their part of the process fits into a much larger one. If new starters are prepared to listen to others and gather as much information as possible before acting on a problem they should have no problems succeeding.

I always try to listen to my team, to understand any issues that they may be facing and support in solving them. Whenever I come across a problem I try to ensure I have all the facts to weigh up before making a decision. I’ve found that if your team believes that you will listen to and care about their concerns, they will work well for you.

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