Dial P for Procurement
Episode 24

My friend sent me a picture last week from a Target in Rhode Island, her sister in law is looking for formula and there IS NO FORMULA on the shelves. We live in North Carolina but she asked if we could keep our eyes open for any when we went to the store. Everyone is trying to help her find what she needs to feed her 3 month old… Today, another friend sent me a message looking for help. It's crazy. This is not an accessibility issue because of race or income - this affects anyone who needs formula.

- Maureen Woolshlager, Vector Global Logistics

Episode Summary

In this week’s Dial P audio podcast, Kelly Barner makes a thorough and data-driven examination of the current baby formula shortage. Although the earliest news coverage started in January of 2022, we actually have to go back to September of 2019 to fully understand the source of the crisis parents are facing today.

From out of stock rates that have been increasing since November of 2021, to plant closures and recalls, to any available prognostication about when the shortages are expected to end, this story is a complex one – and it serves as a sad but fascinating study of what can go wrong when quality concerns meet lagging inspections and unpredictable consumer demand.

Kelly covers relevant information about:

  • How long the Sturgis, Michigan plant was an issue – and who (beyond the whistleblower) knew about it
  • How the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance program may have contributed to the market over-concentration we have today
  • What procurement and supply chain professionals can learn from this set of unfortunate circumstances to apply in the future

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:01):

Welcome to dial P for procurement, a show focused on today’s biggest spin supplier and contract management related business opportunities. Dial P investigates, the nuanced and constantly evolving boundary of the procurement supply chain divide with a broadcast of engaged executives, providers, and thought leaders give us an hour and we’ll provide you with a new perspective on supply chain value. And now it’s time to dial P for procurement.

Kelly Barner (00:31):

Hi there, and thanks for joining me for Dial P for Procurement. Part of the supply chain. Now family of shows, I’m Kelly Barner, a career procurement practitioner with a love for business news, and most of all good ideas, no matter where they come from. In addition to video interviews and live streams, I’ll join you each Thursday to share my point of view on a current news story that presents an interesting twist for business leaders or a new way of looking at a common challenge before I dig into this week’s topic, and it’s a big one. We’re also building out dial P’s independent following. So no matter where you encountered this podcast, give us a review like share. And if you’re using a podcast app, please click as many stars as you feel. So move to give us five is nice. Thank you in advance for being an active part of our listening community.

Kelly Barner (01:32):

And now for today’s topic by now, supply chain pros are used to our field being in the news, the latest drama baby formula parents, all over the country are freaking out and quite understandably, I had been watching the story. You can’t have the news on and not know what’s going on, but I wasn’t overly focused on it. Truth be told, I didn’t think it was ready for me to dig into it yet. Then I talked to Maureen will Schlager from vector logistics and she encouraged me to take a closer look. So I did, I started with the obvious news stories, the horrible sadness parents talking about bare shelves, the amazing pictures of stores just completely wiped out of stock. And in every article there was a comment about of course supply chain problems. And the more I looked for details, what I found was that it was the pieces of information that weren’t there, that were the most interesting.

Kelly Barner (02:39):

And that is what hooked me. So a big, huge, thank you. First of all, to Maureen for pushing me to look into this more closely, for those of you listening in, bear with me, this is a really big story. It actually goes back timeline wise a lot further than I expected when I started doing my research. So I’m gonna do my best to prevent you with this information in a logical order, but there’s a lot here. So if you have any questions after you’ve listened, please reach out. And I will be glad to share some of my sources in the articles that I read. So first the basics, there are four domestic producers of baby formula that make up 89% of the us market. There’s Abbot labs. They make Similac, they represent 43% of the market record. Ben kisser. They make famil they’re at 37% and then rounding that out.

Kelly Barner (03:38):

We have Nestle who makes Gerber and Pergo who makes the brand or private label formulas. So it’s just those four producers that basically are creating all of the formula. That’s gonna be really important as we go through what cause the disruptions we’re seeing today now at a very high level, again, knowing there are a lot of procurement and supply chain professionals in this audience. It’s not what you’re hearing about first in the news, but the bullet effect has been in play with baby formula since the pandemic began. So in 2020 parents started hoarding formula like toilet paper. Not because there were necessarily any reported problems, but just because that’s something you don’t want to be stuck without therefore in 2021 demand eased, because there were so much oversupply out in the market and parents were starting to exchange locally. If their child got to the point where they weren’t eating the formula anymore and, and they were able to pass it off to a friend and in response to that producers eased off on their production.

Kelly Barner (04:44):

Now 2022, it hasn’t been officially declared yet, but according to some sources, it looks like we may be at the start of a baby boom with a greater number of mothers than before turning to formula to feed their babies. So we’re coming off recessed production and demand is going way up. You’ve probably heard a lot about the month by month out of stock numbers. So according to the tracking site data assembly, I went back to November. That’s the month where most of these news stories are referencing in November out of stock rates started to tick above the 10% level, which is considered not acceptable, but the point below which there’s not a panic, it was back in November of 2021 that out of stock hit 11%. So that was the very first time this hit the radar screen for most Americans by December, it was at 15% early January.

Kelly Barner (05:48):

It was around 20% by February. It had hit mid twenties by March. It was in the thirties. Now we know as of April 24th, when this story was in full swing, baby formula was running average out of stock rates between 40 and 45% in most states. But there are a handful of states, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas, and Tennessee. Those out of stock rates are over 50%. Now, a quick note on these out of stock rates because we do facts here and not hype. What do we actually mean when we’re talking about out of stock percentages, those are measured by SKUs, right SKU. So it’s 40% of SKUs that are out of stock, not 40% by volume. And part of why that’s so important is because like any other product, there are a couple of SKUs of this product across brands that run right down the middle of the road.

Kelly Barner (06:55):

They’re sort of the common case formula. A lot of the stories that we’re hearing about are parents who have infants with special nutritional or digestive needs. They might have another illness that requires them to have a specific type of formula. But when you think of out of stock rates, being based on skews, think even rows in the supermarket or target or CVS, the out of stock rate is per type, not necessarily simply how many containers. The average out of stock rate, as I had mentioned over time is about 10%. And so when we saw that 11% now keep in mind, nobody was following it yet at that point. So things had started to rise before people were necessarily watching. Now we come to the other part of the story that has gotten most of the focus over the last few weeks, there was a highly publicized plant closure, right?

Kelly Barner (07:51):

This one plant in Sturgis, Michigan that produces an enormous percentage of the formula used in the us. But that didn’t happen until February. We now know because we’re tracking the data. There was a problem months before that plant went down and their inventory was pulled back and there was a recall taking product out of parents’ homes. So here’s the timeline on the plant closure. And this too goes back a lot further in history than you would think to read the new stories today, you would think, okay, the plant was closed in February of 2022. Maybe there’s something going back to September of 2021. And the September part is right. But to actually get the beginning of this story, we have to go all the way back to September of 2019, the regular FDA inspection of the Sturgis Michigan plant that happened in September of 2019, noted that Abbot at that time was not testing a representative sample of the product at the final stage before distribution to discover quality issues.

Kelly Barner (09:03):

So anyone that’s in manufacturing knows that quality inspections, especially around food are supposed to happen at multiple times in the production process, especially with something like baby formula, the inspections that happen closest to distribution are the most important because that’s where you’re gonna have the most control over the product that goes into stores, family homes and baby’s mouths. And the sample that they were testing was not enough in the FDA’s belief to catch potential quality issues. So that was September, 2019 in 2020, that plant was not inspected because of the pandemic. So they went a full two years from September of 2019 to September of 2021 before there was a subsequent inspection, even though there was a quality testing issue documented by the FDA. Now, when the FDA arrived in September of 2021 to do their inspection, they uncovered unsanitary conditions that had clearly either existed or gotten worse over the two years because there had been no inspection.

Kelly Barner (10:13):

They filed their report, but publicly not a lot happened. It wasn’t until October of 2021 that a whistleblower came forward, making allegations of lacks cleaning practices of the company, falsifying records of them releasing untested formula and of the company hiding information from the FDA audit. Now that is all ongoing. That is simply the report from the whistleblower that did however, spur the FDA to act as well as the company at that point, Abbot began the Similac product recall, unfortunately enough of the product was out there that infants had begun getting sick. In fact, the contamination led to an illness and there are allegations were being careful here that two infant deaths resulted from consuming the formula. At that point, there was also a total shutdown of the Sturgis Michigan plant in early March. The scope of the recall was increased to include more batches of product.

Kelly Barner (11:24):

At this point, Abbot has denied responsibility for the infant deaths and Abbot and the FDA have yet to come to an agreement that would allow the plan to reopen. Now, what Abbot has said is that it will take two weeks to bring the plant back online, and then it will take six to eight weeks beyond that for their product to actually be going on store shelves. So we’re talking about potentially a 10 week delay. That’s rolling forward every day that that factory is not safe to be open. There’s a 10 week rolling delay. If you are one of those parents desperately trying to get formula, that is certainly not what you wanna hear. So now that the attention around this formula shortage has read a fevered pitch. We read the same thing in nearly every article, some version of inventory shortages, starting in November due to supply chain issues.

Kelly Barner (12:18):

That of course was exacerbated by the recalls and plant closure. And that type of news coverage makes me crazy because if we don’t get anything more specific, then supply chain issues. Those of us in the field know that it could mean so many different things. It might also in some ways have nothing to do with the supply chain itself, but with different players within the supply chain. So sometimes these things require a little bit more research. I personally like specifics. So I went back through the wall street journal month by month, looking for relevant stories. I didn’t go as far back as September, 2019 because we know nothing was being reported publicly. At that point, what I did do is go back to September of 2021. When we know the FDA inspection happened in advance of the whistleblower and in advance of the out of stock rate, hitting that 11% that triggered people starting to be concerned, at least in the wall street journal.

Kelly Barner (13:26):

I did not find a news story about concerns over formula being out of stock until January 12th, 2022 in an article titled baby formula is hard to find brands and stores are divided over why. Now this is maybe where some of the supply chain blame is coming from at this time. There’s not really discussion of the plant. What we read is that retailers like CVS and Walmart were blaming manufacturers and manufacturers were blaming retailers because of labor shortages of not getting the product that they had out on store shelves. Quickly enough, the infant nutrition council of America. That’s an industry group representing baby formula manufacturers, blamed logistics providers and consumers, which is always a classy move. We do know that people had bought an access of this product, but by 2022, we should have worked through that. And famil tweeted out that they were having trouble with production and shipping and blamed both on the pandemic.

Kelly Barner (14:34):

Abbot talked publicly about intermittent, slow shipping and expected their issues to have improved quote in the coing months. Now that was at least four months ago and a month prior to them closing the Sturgeis Michigan plan, even beyond the involvement of the FDA, the government is very heavily involved in infant formula. And this was something that I didn’t previously know. So if you are familiar with WIC, WIC is the federal women infants and children assistance program. I used to work in a supermarket. I remember when the checks would come through. It’s a very detailed process for redeeming these pro these vouchers for food. Here’s the interesting thing. WIC is federally funded, but it’s administered at the state level relevant. Here is that 60% of all us baby formula is bought through the WIC program, which is run by the department of agriculture. And it has led over time to market concentration.

Kelly Barner (15:39):

So here’s how it works. Each state, individually bids out their contract for their entire WIC voucher volume. Now, once the contract is signed, the vouchers that go out specified brand and container size Abbot that makes Similac is currently the supplier for over half of the agencies administering WIC. So if 60% of all formula purchased in the us is associated with the WIC program. Half of that is associated with Abbot based on those state level contracts. Now the Biden administration has called for states to loosen the requirements. Meaning if you have a voucher and you live in a state, and it says that you’re entitled to X ounces of Similac, but the store only has alpha mail. They’re trying to work out a way for that to happen. But these are legally binding contracts that are in place. And we know how quickly contracts are changed.

Kelly Barner (16:39):

Unfortunately, all of this has led to panic buying hoarding and worst of all, price gouging, a 12 and a half ounce container of formula makes about 15 bottles depending on the age and size of the infant. That’s just a few days. And of course the other story that we’ve all been following is inflation. The average cost of the most popular baby formula products is up by about 18% over the last 12 months. So where does the supply chain come into this? Now we can think about it from the perspective of key ingredients, the sort of typical average, one of the meal baby formula consists mostly of dehydrated cows, milk vitamins, and lots of sugar. So it’s relatively simple products, but they have to be available in the right quantity and at the right quality level to be fed to infants, some articles did mention packaging.

Kelly Barner (17:39):

So maybe the ingredients are available to make the formula, but the liner for the jar or the lid or the seal or the label isn’t. And so it’s holding up production. We of course know that labor shortages are an issue and that can affect multiple points in the supply chain. Now, due to the news stories, starting to begin in January, we know that Enfamil, the primary competitor to Similac was seeing an 18% surge in demand as parents started switching away from Similac. And the hard thing is there are only so many options for what we can actually do. Abbot is currently shipping inventory in, from their FDA cleared plant in Ireland. And they’re trying to increase production at a second facility in Ohio Pergo. That’s the company’s sort of fourth on the list. Volume wise that I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, they make the private label formula for Walmart and target.

Kelly Barner (18:38):

They have stated publicly that they expect these shortages to last through the rest of 2022 and end famil 22 ANFA meal is increasing production as much as they can, but they’ve already been dealing with the surge. Now, the other thing that we’ve all been following, although it hasn’t come up specifically in a while was the 100 day review of supply chains that the Biden administration kicked off immediately after coming into office, the initial report was released in June of 20 21 5 months. Before that out of stock rate started to tick upwards to 11% in November, there is no mention of baby formula in that initial report that came out even above and beyond that subsequent reports were ordered. And so on March 9th, 2022, we get the sectoral assessment, the U S D a agricultural commodities and food products ecosystem report. There was also no mention of formula in that.

Kelly Barner (19:38):

In fact, in that report, the only mention of infants was in a discussion of the wick farmer’s market initiative. Formula was still not on the radar screen from the federal government’s perspective, drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS, as well as stores like target in April, they started putting limits on how many baby formula products consumers could purchase at a time. And one of the retailers specifically mentioned that they did this at the request of the FDA. The FDA asked them to ration product to five containers per customer per day. And very quickly, many retailers actually ratcheted down further than that limiting purchases to three containers. So what on earth are we supposed to do with this situation? So in the short term, and if you are a parent, the best you can, right? You reach out to family, you reach out to friends, you drive.

Kelly Barner (20:37):

If you have to, you call your pediatrician, please do not attempt to make your own formula. That is the number one thing. Every article agreed on the danger, if that is not worth the associated risk, but longer term for us as procurement and supply chain professionals, this is an acute and cautionary tale that we’ve, well, at least we should have been able to see it coming for years resulting from the over concentration of markets. We talk about this in procurement all the time in the past, all that mattered was leveraging the maximum volume or demand so that you could price, leverage and drive down prices as much as possible. And that has led to concentration in a lot of markets because companies and suppliers were looking for efficiencies of scale. Once you have a supplier in an industry like this, that represents 43% of national production, you have a critical item and you are basically asking for trouble.

Kelly Barner (21:38):

At that point, you are expecting supply chain failure. Now government oversight of the mind that we shouldn’t be necessarily looking to the government for solutions, but from an inspection standpoint, I think it’s fair to ask why it took so long for news to become public. Why follow ups were not done? Why two years worth of infants were consuming formula from a factory that the government knew was not properly quality testing. So unfortunately the government, the way it is structured is slow to respond and it proved to be ineffective when it came to preventing issues as professionals. Therefore we need to have a new way of looking at and determining what’s an essential product. I have three kids, my heart breaks for parents with young children, trying to feed their babies. It really puts the toilet paper shortages that we now sort of joke about into perspective.

Kelly Barner (22:36):

We need to be aware of the intent behind quality testing. We need to take a broader perspective on what should be produced by how many companies. I mean, we’re looking at this from a corporate standpoint. Now, how much of a company’s demand do we want dependent on one supplier at the first tier. And we’re starting to investigate at the second tier. Clearly that same kind of thing needs to be done with infant formula being a very sad example. Now that’s my point of view. And that’s the research I did on what has proven to be an incredibly difficult story. We’re still watching it play out. And based on what producers and retailers are saying, I don’t think we can expect this story to go away anytime soon, but we will continue to follow it because there are both additional developments that are yet to break and additional lessons for us to learn.

Kelly Barner (23:32):

Whether we work in supply chain, procurement, retail, manufacturing, distribution, there are lessons we need to learn from what has happened here. That’s my point of view anyway, but if you have feedback on any part of what I’ve shared today, please don’t sit silent and just listen, join the conversation. All voices are welcome until then. Thank you for listening to this audio episode of I O P for procurement, please join the conversation and let me know what you think on this topic or others let’s work together to figure out the best solution until next time. This is Kelly Barner for dial P for procurement on supply chain. Now have a great rest of your day.

Intro/Outro (24:17):

Thank you for joining us for this episode of dial P for procurement and for being an active part of the supply chain. Now community, please check out all of our shows and events@supplychainnow.com. Make sure you follow dial P four procurement on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to catch all the latest programming details. We’ll see you soon for the next episode of dial P for procurement.

 

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Kelly Barner

Host, Dial P for Procurement

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Adrian Purtill

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Kelly Barner

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.

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Amanda Luton

Chief Marketing Officer

Amanda is a marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2016, Amanda founded and grew the Magnolia Marketing Group into a successful digital media firm, and now she develops modern marketing strategies, social campaigns, innovative operational processes, and implements creative content initiatives for Supply Chain Now. But that’s just the beginning of her supply chain impact. Amanda also served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah for several years, and is the face behind the scenes welcoming you to every Supply Chain Now livestream! She was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain by Supply Chain Digest and IBM.  When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now marketing team, you can find Amanda with her and her husband Scott’s three kids, in the kitchen cooking, or reading.

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Clay Phillips

Business Development Manager

Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.

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Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.

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Billy Taylor

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.

An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.

A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.

A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning.  He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.

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Chantel King

Social Media Manager

My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.

Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.

Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.

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Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.

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Katherine Hintz

Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

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Ben Harris

Host

Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.

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Page Siplon

Host, The Freight Insider

Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).

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Kristi Porter

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.

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Kevin Brown

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics.  He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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Sofia Rivas Herrera

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.

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Jose Miguel Irarrazaval

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.

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Demo Perez

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.

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Kim Winter

Host, Supply Chain Now

The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.

He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.

A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).

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Nick Roemer

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.

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Alex Bramley

Sales Support Intern

Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.

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