Huw Jenkins, formerly Vice President, Public Sector at DHL and Head of Distribution at Poundland & Dealz, is currently the Business Unit Director for General Merchandise and Ireland at Wincanton. Ben Lyons, Operating Director, Michael Page and Page Personnel Logistics, spoke to him about his career, role at Wincanton, and the general merchandise sector.

How has your career progressed to your current role? 

Since graduating I’ve taken every opportunity to progress which has allowed me to work across numerous companies including Coca Cola and now Wincanton. I’ve had the opportunity to work in-house as well as in 3PLs (third party logistics) and from a career perspective that has been really valuable. To achieve this, I’ve lived in lots of different locations across the UK and have found that if you want to progress you need to be flexible. 

Talk us through your current role and responsibilities? 

It’s a very broad and varied role which I’d compare to being CEO, CFO, Marketing Director, Property and Facilities Director along with full P&L (profit and loss) responsibility all rolled into one. One way to look at it is it’s managing your own business within a bigger business. The autonomy that comes with it is really exciting.
Within my role two parts are key. The first is making sure we have the best people doing the best possible job they can for our customers. The second is working with my team to identify customer’s problems and how we can build better solutions.

The general merchandise sector is experiencing some big changes in terms of e-fulfilment, click and collect etc. How can a 3PL add value to brands and retailers with regards to these changes? 

It is about understanding the customer’s pain points and how their world is changing. For my customers change is really exciting but it can bring new challenges, not least in terms of cost. This is where we can assist in providing the agility to help them grow at the right pace in terms of people, property and infrastructure.  
Our role in protecting the customer’s brand is also critical. The demand for product anytime, anywhere, challenges many existing operations and as a 3PL we need to consistently provide great service and add value to the customer experience. Increasingly it’s about how we can share resource to get each order from the manufacturer to the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible, wherever they are. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the UK logistics sector heading into 2017? 

Making collaboration work. As our behaviour changes as shoppers it’s creating a more complex supply chain and this in turn increases costs. This isn’t going to change and therefore we need to save money elsewhere in the Supply Chain. For me, it is about where can I bring retailers together to facilitate cost-effective growth for all involved. For example, through sharing warehouse space or sharing deliveries. 

What would you say to a school or university leaver considering a career in logistics? 

I would say it is a really rewarding and expansive industry to work in! It also needs a variety of skills. You can be a process person, a people person or a transport person and love working in logistics. It is a big industry, everything needs to move and if you are good you will progress really quickly. I think it is a great industry with lots of opportunity!

What are your biggest areas of skills shortage?    

Innovators. The speed of change in the industry means that we need fresh ideas from people who are keen to think differently about what has been a very traditional industry. This could be ideas from another company or sector or your enthusiasm to drive change.

What does leadership mean to you? 

Authenticity. To mean what you say and have a compelling vision of what you want to achieve. Anyone can talk about what you are going to do and what you are going to achieve. If you are authentic about it people will trust you and follow you. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned about managing people? 

That you can be brutally honest, give people direct feedback that’s fair and they will thank you for it. 

What advice would you give your younger self?  

Not everybody looks at the world the way you do! Try and understand other people’s experiences and put yourself in other people’s shoes. Unlike me, not everyone thinks Welsh Rugby is the most important thing in the world! If you can supplement a decision with other people’s opinions and experiences, then that lends itself to more informed decision making.

What does a typical working day look like for you? 

A typical day is diverse, fun and really pacy. I don’t like days on my own so I ensure I meet lots of people through a mix of individual meetings and workshops. I talk to customers every single day and try and pinpoint what is important to them and anticipate what their problems are. Once you’re back home you need to be able to park your car on the drive and say you have enhanced someone’s life every single day.