CILT Mobility and Supply Chain Conference 2023

Conversation with Joe Kenny, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in Ireland discussing the Institute’s upcoming Mobility and Supply Chain Confernce on 28th and 29th March 2023.

In this episode of Interlinks, we talk to Joe Kenny, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in Ireland.

Joe has been with CILT since 2019 and was appointed CEO last year. Joe has a career background in public transport, with both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann followed by consultancy roles in management coaching, and the digitalisation of public transport.

Under Joe’s leadership CILT will be hosting the Mobility and Supply Chain Summit at the Royal Marine on 28th and 29th March.

This significant event will bring together experts, practitioners and academics form the worlds of Supply Chain and Logistics to discuss and debate the developments and trends in the industry, at a moment of enormous change and upheaval in the global supply chains of which Ireland in a key element.

Joe fills us in on all the details the details of the event in this episode.

Click here to read transcript

Patrick Daly:

Hello, this is Patrick Daly and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program about connections, international business supply chains and globalization and their effects on our life, our work, and our travel in recent times.

Today on the show, we will be talking to Joe Kenny, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, CILT, in Ireland. Joe has been with the CILT since 2019 and was appointed CEO last year in 2022.

Joe has a career background in public transport with both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, followed by different consultancy roles in management, coaching and the digitalization of public transport.

A now significant development under Joe’s leadership, the CILT will be hosting the Mobility and Supply Chain Summit at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Leary on the 28th and 29th of March.

Now, this is a significant event that will bring together experts, practitioners, and academics from the worlds of supply chain and logistics to discuss and debate the developments and trends in the industry and at this, at a moment of enormous change and upheaval in the global supply chains, of which Ireland is a key element.

No doubt, Joe will be able to fill us in on all the details of the event on the show today. Welcome, Joe, and thank you very much for being here with us today.

Joe Kenny:

Thank you, Patrick, and thank you for the invitation. Glad to be here.

Patrick Daly:

You’re very welcome. Delighted to have you. Let me see, to get going, to kick off, could you tell me a little bit about your career over the years in summary and how you came to be the CEO of CILT in Ireland?

Joe Kenny:

Indeed. Sometimes I look back myself, Patrick, and wonder how that happened myself. In fact, when I look back at my career, I suppose, in many ways, I started out in logistics. Like lots of things in life, you never plan these things. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking the opportunity when it presents itself.

But when I was quite young, 17, 18 years of age, I was still actually training to be a watchmaker because that’s my trade. So, how do you come from watchmaker to logistics and transport? You may well ask. But during that time, I got the opportunity and moved in, having bought a couple of small vans, and was doing some deliveries around Dublin.

There are other people who were competing with me at that time who went on to develop some of the largest logistics trans companies in Ireland. I went a different route. I worked as watchmaker for a while, and moved back in, then, into transport when I joined the CIE group, as it was then, in 1983.

But I had also done some HGV driving in the UK on articulated trucks there, around London, and came back and moved to a career in CIE that saw me as a driver, as an instructor, as training manager, as employee relations manager, as operations manager, and as HR director within the two companies. In fact, I had over 35 years’ service with them before I retired officially in 2016, and went and started, by accident as well, I have to say, some consultancy. That wasn’t the plan. The plan was actually to go off into Greenfield with a golf ball and chase it around until I decided I couldn’t do that anymore.

But that really wasn’t for me, and awesome opportunities arose. I had been working down with a number of private sector bus companies and those particularly in the tourist industry. I joined a board of a company that was involved in that. And through one thing and another, I started to get more involved with CILT then as well.

Initially, with the transport manager of CPC as a subject matter expert, I moved on then and was asked to take over the role as chief examiner, which I did up to 2019. Sorry. I started in 2019 and, up to 2022, was chief examiner. And then the opportunity arose because of circumstances [inaudible 00:04:41], that the acting CEO position was available. And I was asked would I consider it and I said I would.

And one thing led to another, and in January of last year, following a competitive selection process, I was selected as the CEO and have taken over. That was never the plan, either. But I’m here now a little over a year, and I’m quite excited about the prospects for the next few years as my own personal agenda is aligned now very much with that of the institute, which is to grow the institute, grow outstanding and develop it back up into a powerhouse, really, for professionals within the industry.

Patrick Daly:

And I know you have a particular interest in training and coaching and so on to help people to develop and thrive and make the best of themselves. I turn this question on you a little bit. In what ways did you actually coach yourself through your career, particularly when things were difficult or when the way forward wasn’t clear?

Joe Kenny:

Yeah, it’s a really good question, Patrick. I think that resilience is a key to any level of success no matter what industry you are in, and no matter what role you’re in, is looking to take the positives out of whatever situation you are in.

I was very lucky. I regard myself as being very lucky in two respects. One, that I got to work with some of the best managers I’ve ever seen. They were able to delegate authority and give you the responsibility to take over and carry out work, but that if you made a mistake, they made sure that ultimately, it was their responsibility and they covered you. In other words, they gave you the room to grow. And too often, I see within management that people are given the responsibility to carry out a task, and if they get it wrong, the person who gives them their responsibility to do it, unfortunately is the first one to criticize them.

We all have to learn. We all have to grow from our mistakes. And anyone who doesn’t make a mistake hasn’t learned. And it’s one of the things that I see frequently now, particularly with graduates fresh out of college and that. A lot of knowledge, a lot of learning, but not having the opportunity to apply that and to learn from the mistakes that they inevitably will make.

So, from a coaching point of view, it’s about putting support networks around people, giving them the opportunity to be mentored, which is critical. And then allowing people that opportunity to grow with whatever career that they have. I was lucky that way.

The other thing I would say that I was lucky in is that sometimes, opportunities come along and you have to be ready to take the opportunity. And there’s an old golfing saying about Lee Trevino said one time, or somebody said to him, “Gee, Mr. Trevino. You are very lucky.” And he said, “Yeah, the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

But it’s true in business as well, that if you prepare yourself, if you educate yourself, if you get yourself up to the skill levels that are needed in order to take that next opportunity, you will be lucky because you’ll find that the opportunities present themselves following on from whatever development work you’ve done yourself. So, I would always encourage people to take as much on as they can in terms of self-development.

Patrick Daly:

And then with the CILT now, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, currently, what are its aims and goals? Who are its members and what is its strategy, then, for achieving its aims and goals in the future?

Joe Kenny:

CILT is a professional membership association. It’s made of folks that-

Patrick Daly:

So it’s for individuals, then? Individual professionals.

Joe Kenny:

For individuals, yeah. And I very much distinguish it from other organizations that are in the sector. We’re not a trade association, we’re not a lobby group. We do not lobby. We do not represent a group of people. What we do is we represent a number of individual professional members.

And the entire strategy and the entire outlook of the institute is built around developing professionalization, educating, and enhancing the stature of logistics and transport as a profession.

It’s been around in one form or another since 1919. I mean, it grew out of a learning from the first World War over in the UK, when they came back and realized that supply chain was so important to success, that unless you can replenish supplies in an effective way… And it dawned on them, yeah, this should be something that’s professional. And since then, what we’ve seen is optimization within supply chain, improvements within supply chain and refinements, from technologies through to better education through to changing customer demands.

What the institute is about is allowing members with shared values about how to develop the profession to meet and to share those ideas, to network with one another and to further education. And, as I spoke about earlier, about mentoring, allowing others that have greater experience to develop younger people coming through and to learn from them. So, the focus is very much on that.

And over the COVID period, of course, we had a really difficult time because it was quite difficult for people to meet. Yes, we had Zoom, yes, we had other ways that people could contact one another, but face-to-face meetings, it’s very hard to beat them. And I think we’ve all come to that realization. There still, of course, is a place for online meetings, but the networking and the sharing of ideas is core to what CILT is about.

Secondly, I would say it’s really about development ofef professional standards. And for the institute itself, we see ourselves as the standard-bearer. We will support and reach out to those that wish to become members. Even though we will take in organizations as members, at the heart, it’s actually individual people who are the members of the institute.

So, going forward, you ask about the strategy. The strategy is to grow the institute. Over the last number of years, there’s probably just a slight disconnect between where the industry has moved to and where the institute is. So, developing the reach of the institute to include all of the new actors that are now so prevalent within the industry. And that’s from the mobility players such as bike sharing platform operators, the likes of Free Now and so forth on, as well as obviously the older technologies that are used by the bus companies, the rail companies, the ports and maritime sector, as well as aviation.

And then on the logistics side, really, we’re seeing so many disruptors into the logistics as well, primarily driven by technology. So, there are lots of new technologies that are being deployed, as a result of which, new companies are emerging that really focus just on the technology, rather than the physical moving of goods.

And that’s throwing up some really interesting dynamics so that you have older, traditional logistics companies that are struggling to keep pace sometimes with the technology, you have new technology companies that really don’t have the skill sets or the history of moving goods from A to B, and you have a mishmash, a hybrid, if you like, of those two meetings of the world that is driving skill shortages on the one hand and also driving skill demand on the other. It’s quite an interesting dynamic.

But what it does mean is that from an education and skills development point of view, there really is a gap in the market. There is opportunities for someone like CILT to fill some of those. And some of our recent engagement with industry on the logistics side has thrown up some of these requirements. And through our Skillnet network provider, we are now rolling out a series of bespoke training for the logistics side, as well as on the urban public transport side as well, because there are other skills gaps that are coming there.

We have, I would suppose over the last number of years, seen many, many instances where, from an educational point of view, we’ve almost got to saturation point in terms of the amount of third-level education courses that are out there designed to fill the needs of the sector. So what we’re getting is a huge amount of highly educated people coming out, some of which are, they’re first-time graduates. Sometimes, they’re as a result of people with the skill sets going back and learning. That’s less of a problem for the industry.

But the graduates that are coming out with no experience are actually bringing a lot of education, but very little in terms of skills and very little in terms of knowledge. And that’s really where a lot of the gaps are starting to emerge, and this is what we’re hearing from industry.

So we’re tailoring our training and education courses, quite a lot of them through Skillnet, at this more vocational approach to it. Because we couldn’t compete, even if we wanted to. We’re not in a competitive environment. We wouldn’t want to compete with the third-level institutions.

Speaker 3:

93.9 Dublin South FM

Patrick Daly:

I mentioned in the intro you’re hosting your first Mobility and Supply Chain Summit in late March in Dun Leary. What are the goals and the main themes or topics for that event this March?

Joe Kenny:

Yes, indeed. It’s the 28th and 29th of March. There’s been so much happening with industry, and if we can talk just a little bit because we would hope to address some of these points across the day. It’s a day and a half, first of all. I would say that we have a full day on the 28th and a half day on the 29th.

But I mean, we’ve got so many issues that have arisen that we haven’t had an opportunity to meet and discuss with in the last two to three years. We’ve got the whole post-COVID normalization, and I would suggest we probably haven’t seen any of that yet. Yes, we’re in post-COVID, but what’s the new normal? There is very little settlement that I can see at the minute.

We’ve got all of the labor and HR issues that have arisen out of COVID, and I’ve heard the arguments about there has been a level or a degree of commoditization of labor. And we’re seeing that in many industries, the inability to retain staff because of the market pressures, particularly in terms of wages. And now, with all of the upward pressure that we have in terms of inflation, that’s really putting a lot of pressure on companies.

Obviously, the new technology that has been deployed, it’s a big issue and it drives, as I said earlier, issues around skills gaps.

More importantly, I think, and one thing that really has challenged the industry, is the change in customer demands and our ability to be agile. We saw quite a lot of agility through COVID, but we fell back on the core skills in terms of what logistics is about. And of course, logistics ended up being… Everyone was talking about it from whether Santa was going to deliver in time for Christmas and the rest of it. And everybody all of a sudden became experts within the supply chain side, so we were all new about how our goods came from the Far East and what sort of pressures were being put there.

Now, it’s less so, but the difficulty is that, as we go to secure these supply chains and we’re seeing the emergence of onshoring, nearshoring, friendshoring, there’s a new shoring almost coming out every week in terms of what… Essentially though, many companies are now looking to see how they can bring back and secure their supply chains. That’s certainly one area we’ll be giving a lot of attention to at the conference. We’ll have Dr. Paul Davis speaking about that as well as Martin Christopher.

Patrick Daly:

At the event itself then, what kind of activities will be taking place and who will be there, both in terms of the experts and in terms of the types of people who you would hope will attend?

Joe Kenny:

In terms of our experts, our headline speaker is Martin Christopher who, as you know… I mean, he He’s the godfather of [inaudible 00:18:22].

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, he’s been on this show actually, Martin Christopher.

Joe Kenny:

Has he? Okay.

Patrick Daly:

Yes.

Joe Kenny:

Well, Martin is our keynote speaker. He’ll open up the conference on the morning of the 28th, and he will give his perspectives on where the industry is post-COVID as well as what the emerging trends are. So, he will take up the first part of that morning session.

He’ll be followed, then… We will have a discussion which will be led by John May and will include Dr. Paul Davis, looking at the reemergence of onshoring and so forth, and how the whole East-West axis is being reexamined.

Patrick Daly:

And by this, we mean the reconfiguration of supply chains in response to some of these shocks that we’ve experienced over the years to bring them-

Joe Kenny:

Indeed.

Patrick Daly:

… maybe a bit tighter to where the market is.

Joe Kenny:

Exactly. And to reestablish a greater level of security. Because nobody knew security was an issue until it became an issue. And now it’s, how do we respond to that and how do we develop from them?

Patrick Daly:

And this summit then will become an annual event, is that right?

Joe Kenny:

We’re hoping so, yeah. It’s titled the Mobility and Supply Chain Summit. This year, it really will focus on supply chain and logistics. Next year, we would hope that… Spread it out a little bit over a full two days and include a little bit more on the mobility side.

Patrick Daly:

I was curious as well, we’ve seen how Ireland, over the last number of years, despite all the challenges, Brexit, COVID, war in Ukraine, has kind of proved very resilient economically up to now, at least. What do you think have been the reasons for that, and what do you think we need to do, in both the public sector and the private sector, to make sure that we actually continue to thrive like this into the future?

Joe Kenny:

Yeah. Well, I think you’re right. We do have a unique perspective here in Ireland in terms of, the issues and the challenges that we face in a European context are quite unique. And so far as that, traditionally, in order to access our biggest markets straight across to the UK and from UK onto Europe, it was a relatively straightforward problem to solve.

Now, we’re seeing that, with the reconfiguring of the market, and because of Brexit and because of the issues with customs and so forth that there have been really quite extraordinary minds put to work to come up with solutions that are really very, very clever. And some of the ones were quite obvious, but because of the nature of the market, they’ve only developed now because of the additional sailings, let’s say, from Rosslare, the additional sailings from Dublin, the additional sailings from Cork. Whereas the land bridge was taken as the most cost-effective manner of reaching Europe and typically, putting a truck and trailer across there, you’re putting in two drivers to get across to Europe. Now, people are saying, actually, with additional sailings, we can now save the driver. We can save the costs of that.

Yes, it’s slightly slower, but from a cost point of view and possibly even from a sustainability point of view, it may actually be a better… It goes back to the word I used earlier on, and I think it’s a really key one, agility. The ability to adapt to the markets, adapt to the customer needs. Because that, above all else, I think we are pretty good at. It’s not that other people can’t do it, but I think there’s something about the Irish mindset that brings us into a better capability when it comes to that. We’re cute, let’s put it that way. We can be quite cute when it comes to things, and we take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Patrick Daly:

We’re cute in the… Meaning the old-fashioned meaning of that word. That word now means you’re kind of good-looking or something. Whereas-

Joe Kenny:

Yeah, sorry. [inaudible 00:22:39]-

Patrick Daly:

You mean we’re cute, we’re foxy cute?

Joe Kenny:

Yeah. Yes, indeed. I suppose a good clarification there, Patrick.

Patrick Daly:

Some of the people listening to this-

Joe Kenny:

I’m showing my age.

Patrick Daly:

Some of the people listening to this will be American, and they’ll go, “They’re cute?”

Joe Kenny:

Okay. We’re cute the old fashioned-

Patrick Daly:

We’re kind of wily and gregarious, I guess that’s the idea, isn’t it?

Joe Kenny:

Yeah. And that stands to us quite a lot. And we’re also very good at making connections. We’re very good at networking. We’re very good at looking at and exploiting opportunities in a good way.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah. Now, outside of work, so when you’re not thinking about all of these head-racking issues, outside of work, what kind of things do you like to do in terms of hobbies and other interests?

Joe Kenny:

Well, theoretically, I fish, but I don’t get there often enough. I like to golf as well. I’m into train modeling. I model trains at OO, but I’m not what they call a serious one. If you ask me any really serious questions, I’d be running into the buffers and all the puns intended. And I like to read. Whenever I can, I get out and walk as far as I can.

I heard a great saying some years ago by Tommy Tiernan. He was being interviewed on a radio program and they said… He had walked out to RTE from the city center and they expressed great surprise that, “Why would you walk from the city center?” And he gave what I thought was one of the greatest one-liners ever. He said, “I like to walk the eejit out of me.”

Walking is a great way in clearing down all of these things that can be in your head. And I thought that one line from Tommy is… It’s one of the reasons I like to walk as well. It’s a great way of calming down and getting your head reset.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, I’m a great fan of walking, myself. So yeah, I subscribe to that idea. Are you reading or listening to anything lately? Podcasts or eBooks that you’ve found inspiring [inaudible 00:24:39] that you’d recommend?

Joe Kenny:

Not really, not at the minute. I have to admit, I’m more of a sort of… Reading less about work and less about having to think about too much. I read to… I switch off. And I’ve never actually got into podcasts. I’m sorry about this, Patrick, to have to say this. I’ve never actually really got into them. I don’t know why. But my wife is very-

Patrick Daly:

So when you read fiction then, what kind of fiction do you like? Do you read historical stuff?

Joe Kenny:

Yeah, historical. I mean, I love all the Cold War stuff. I love all of that. I remember the Tom Clancy novels of the ’80s and that. They were my absolute go-to. And if I can find a really good novel like that, I just can become immersed in it.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah. Well, actually, I have a business mentor in a community that I’m involved in, and he’s always admonishing us to stop reading business books and non-fiction books, and to read fiction. Because he says you learn more about life and people and dealing with issues by reading fiction than you will by reading non-fiction. So you’re probably onto a winner, there.

Joe Kenny:

Thanks, Pat. That’s good. Can I give one plug just before we finish?

Patrick Daly:

Of course.

Joe Kenny:

It’s just in relation to the summit, and there are two key speakers that I just didn’t get a chance to… One is Commissioner Gerry Harrahill, he’s one of our three revenue commissioners here in Ireland. And he’s responsible for all of the customs and excise here, but also has a role greater than that within Europe. And he’s going to be speaking to the conference and giving some insights.

There was a group who has met over the last number of years called the Wise Persons Group, who are following on from work that had been done by the commission. And what we’re going to do is get some insights into how EU customs will be developed over the next number of years.

And a critical part of that, which is not really out there yet in the common knowledge, is about digitalization. We are going to see a sea change in how customs move into digitalization.

And the second one that I want to mention is John McGrane, who is the current secretary general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce. He will be leading a discussion on day two around Brexit, just before the junior minister with responsibility for transport, Jack Chambers closes out the conference.

So, we have some really good quality speakers. And anybody who wants to have a look, just go on www.ciltconference.com, where you can see and buy tickets, if you wish.

So, sorry for the plug, Patrick, but [inaudible 00:27:23]-

Patrick Daly:

No, no. Sure. I was going to invite you to do that, in any case. So it’s more than welcome. And also, people who might be interested in membership, I guess they can go to the website as well, which would be what? cilti.ie?

Joe Kenny:

www.cilt.ie

Patrick Daly:

cilt.ie. And you go to the membership tab and you can find all that?

Joe Kenny:

Absolutely. We’ll be glad to talk to [inaudible 00:27:46]. You’ll see lots of what we do on the website.

Patrick Daly:

Excellent. Well, many thanks, Joe, for being here with us today. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with you.

Joe Kenny:

Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, indeed.

Patrick Daly:

Thanks, also, to our listeners for tuning in again today, and be aware that if you enjoyed this episode, you can find a full series of well over 100 episodes of Interlinks on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Acast, and other major podcast platforms. So, until next time, keep well and stay safe.

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Interlinks is a programme about the connections, relationships and supply chains, that underpin the globalisation of our modern world.

In each programme, we interview people from around the world including entrepreneurs, executives, academics, diplomats and politicians to get their unique perspective on globalisation as it has affected them both personally and professionally.

There is a little bit of history, a dash of economics, a sprinkling of business and an overlay of personal experience both from me and from my interviewees from around the world.

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