While many industries were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, one industry became essential to the new way of life in which many people lived and worked from home. “Logistics is even more critical in a society that relies on online ordering more than ever before,” said Brian Addington, TMCC Logistics Management Professor and Director of the Frank N. Bender Center for Applied Logistics Management (CALM).
This goes well beyond Amazon: the logistics management industry has been an integral, if quiet, part of the vaccine rollout in the United States. “The vaccine requires cold storage during transportation, but [that] is a very specialized field in logistics,” Addington said. “We are all very lucky that we’re very ahead of the curve in the fact that we have one of the most sophisticated cold supply chains in the world...which is why we have the ability to move a lot of cold product.”
Addington describes this sophisticated supply chain as having the ability to be especially agile when it comes to moving between different modes of transportation: air to truck, all with the capacity to transport product in refrigerated environments. However, it’s not just the technology and the mode of transportation; so much of the success of the vaccine rollout in the United States came down to a vital part of logistics management: planning.
“A lot of the logistics companies were already meeting in March of last year and reserving their cold chain capacity for the vaccine,” Addington explained. “So what a lot of people don’t understand is that industry was already anticipating a surge and was able to actually create more resources in order to roll the vaccine out. And so you don’t hear a lot about the ability to get the vaccine into the hands of vaccinators from a transportation issue, it’s more of a production issue. The infrastructure is in place.”
Logistics Operations Management is no small field: it anticipates changes in demand plus the understanding of supply chains and the journey products take from their creation in the manufacturing process through the transportation and delivery to suppliers and eventually, to consumers.
Yet, this is the world of one of TMCC’s first bachelor of applied science programs that teach students not only to think “outside of the box” but well beyond the four walls of the manufacturing floor to the many moving parts in delivering the goods that negotiate the tug of supply versus demand.
Becoming An Expert in Logistics Operations Management
Addington was hired as a tenure-track professor at TMCC in 2015 to create a new bachelor’s degree in Logistics Operations Management. “I’d never done anything like that, but when I get bored I like to try something completely new, something I haven’t done before. [Creating a new degree program] certainly sounded like a challenge,” he said. Addington came to TMCC from Boeing where he worked as a Supplier Management Project Lead for the 787 Dreamliner.
“Operations management was always my background,” he said, explaining that logistics is something that follows you around when you work in a manufacturing or production field. Addington brings his expertise into the 300 and 400-level classes in the Logistics Operations Management Program. In Spring 2021, he created and is piloting a class in Project Management. It’s a subject in which Addington has plenty of experience and expertise; it’s also a skill set that many of his students ask him about.
“It’s really an accidental title,” he explained. “There are project manager jobs out there, but usually what they do is take people who are experts at something, and they put them in charge of a project. That’s happening more now, given the increased pace of change. So, I tell students that if they want to become a project manager, they need to become an expert at something first,” he said.
This advice is based on Addington’s own experience working at Boeing. “They made me a project manager, and then they paid for me to go back to school and get my Master’s in project management. So, I have a soft spot for that subject, and I’m excited I get the opportunity to teach that class to students,” he said.
A Program for Working Students
Beyond the hard skills taught in the logistics program—both in the two-year associate’s degree and the four-year program—above all, students learn how to think critically, analyze data and create decision models. These are skills that are expected of an entry-level employee who works in an analyst role supporting the upper management of a company. “For example, I teach a Decision-Modeling class in which students use Excel to create these models,” Addington said. “Students have told me that they are using the skills they learned in that class directly in their day jobs, making them even more valuable to the companies they currently work for.”
In fact, the Logistics Management Program is structured for the student who is currently working a part-time or even a full-time job. The associate degree program is completely online and up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the four-year bachelor degree program was offered in a hybrid format, with in-person lectures offered in the evenings. When TMCC switched to remote operations, those lectures were converted to an online format.
This suited the student demographic which, according to Addington is primarily working students who have a background in military service. “Many of our students come up working in the logistics division of the armed forces, and they are told by their current employers that it’s great to have all this logistics experience, but if they want to go into management, they need to have a bachelor’s degree,” Addington explained.
In addition to learning the theories behind logistics, though, students in Addington’s classes are given real-world examples that Addington has come across as a professional in the field. “It’s always been my philosophy to bring real-world experience into the classroom. My students will tell you, in every class, I’m talking about a real-world experience I had when I worked at Boeing. So, we’ll talk about a theory and then I’ll share slides and spreadsheets I developed to show them where these theories are actually used in the real world. And I think that helps the students to be excited about a career that definitely has its challenges, but that can also be rewarding.”
Keep CALM and Gain Real-World Experience
Seeing students succeed, finding employment opportunities, and working with local business leaders are the highlights of Addington’s career at TMCC. Although the annual Logistics Conference is postponed until 2022, Addington is still celebrating student success and finding creative ways to connect his students to local employers in the industry.
In fact, the program provides ample opportunity to put students in direct contact with employers in the logistics industry through the Frank N. Bender Center for Applied Logistics Management (CALM). Located on the third floor of the Meadowood Center in the North Building, CALM offers a space for students, instructors, and employers to meet. Every semester, Addington meets with up to four new companies in the region, telling them about what his students can do and what experiences would enrich the degree program. This opens new opportunities for student internships.
All this networking and reaching out to the community has certainly paid off: since its inception in 2016, the program witnessed its first bachelor’s degree graduate in 2018 and continues to see student success that often involves turning internships into job offers. Behind these positive outcomes is Addington’s life philosophy about how success is achieved in life.
“Much of success in life is getting involved and putting yourself out there,” he said. “For students, that means taking advantage of networking opportunities and being proactive in meeting with professionals who can shape your life.”
It’s All About Community
Addington sees TMCC as a unique environment that can foster learning not only because of its ability to combine the academic environment with real-world experiences but also because TMCC is “...a community of folks who are invested in the success of students and provide a solid foundation of services to help students take the next step in their life and academic journeys,” he said.
This includes an endowed scholarship for Logistics Operations Management students that is possible thanks to a gift by the Frank N. Bender family. The scholarship is awarded annually and supports students with up to $10,000 that can be used to offset the costs associated with tuition and supplies. The program also has an active Advisory Board that supports student success: in five years, the Advisory Board has raised over $35,000 to support students through scholarships that support these ongoing opportunities for student interactions with industry leaders at in-person or virtual events.
These events bring logistics industry experts and professionals into the program. Although the in-person annual conference isn’t happening this year, Addington created a free, online virtual event that brings together logistics industry leaders to discuss the impact COVID-19 had on supply chains, and how these companies not only survived but thrived during a global pandemic. COVID-19 Versus the Logistics Industry: A Virtual Panel Discussion is free and open to anyone to attend. It happens on May 7 at 11 a.m. - noon, and participants can RSVP on the CALM website.
“You can’t be passive in this program,” Addington said. “You’ve got to put yourself out there, because opportunity isn’t going to be pushed on you, instead, you have to find it. Students just need to raise their hands and get involved as much as they can.”
For more information about the Logistics Operations Management Program at TMCC, contact the Business Department at 775-673-7132.