Thought Leadership

Dave Minor Of Catena Solutions: How We Are Helping To Create A Resilient Food Supply Chain

7 minute read

This article originally appeared on Authority Magazine.

The cascading logistical problems caused by the pandemic and the war in Eastern Europe have made securing a reliable supply chain a national imperative. What must agriculture companies and policymakers do to ensure secure and resilient food supply chains? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who can share insights from their experiences about how we can address these challenges. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Minor.

Dave Minor is the Vice President of Delivery at Catena Solutions. Dave brings over 30 years of experience in the consulting industry and over 20 years in the food and beverage manufacturing space to Catena Solutions. As the VP of Delivery, Dave leads a team of delivery consultants, responsible for oversight of both solution strategy and delivery execution.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Growing up in the Midwest was an integral part of my upbringing. It’s a region known for its hard working, roll-up your sleeves attitude which deeply influenced my future career. I went to college in the Midwest at the University of Illinois where I studied computer science and math.

After graduating, I transitioned into business and IT consulting. The attraction of consulting stemmed from its innovative nature and the ability to work with a wide variety of clients and technology that accompanied it. Landing my first consulting role marked the beginning of a journey that has now lasted over 30 years in the Chicago area.

My introduction into the food and beverage (F&B) industry was somewhat serendipitous. While consulting, I found myself drawn to clients and projects within that sector. Over time, I accumulated 15 years of experience in F&B manufacturing, collaborating with companies and leveraging my skills and early experiences to thrive in this dynamic industry. Today, my involvement in the F&B industry spans over 25 years, during which I’ve witnessed and contributed to its evolution.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in my career occurred while working closely with a large food and beverage company. My team was tasked with implementing a trade promotion solution and during the project, we encountered external hurdles and complexities that tested the working relationship. Yet, what stood out was the unwavering support and advocacy the client showed toward me and my team. It was a testament to the collaborative spirit we fostered and the dedication we poured into our work.

This especially stood out since typically as a consultant, you don’t often receive or seek recognition from clients. However, in this instance, I felt deeply valued and integrated into the organization. It was the first time I truly felt like a part of their team while still being an external consultant. This experience not only reaffirmed the importance of strong client relationships but also highlighted the significant impact consultants can have on an organization’s success. It underscored the value of teamwork, communication and mutual respect in achieving shared objectives.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As a successful leader, I attribute my achievements to three key character traits: leading by example, adaptability in meeting client demands and having a coaching mindset.

Leading by example — This trait has been ingrained in me from an early age, influenced greatly by my father’s management style. As a plant manager, he believed in managing by walking around and getting to know everyone on the manufacturing floor personally. I’ve carried this philosophy into my own leadership style, and now I firmly believe in not asking my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. By actively engaging with my team and understanding their tasks, I foster a culture of mutual respect and trust. One example of this was during a critical project deadline where rather than delegating tasks from behind a desk, I rolled up my sleeves, took on tasks and we all worked together to meet our objectives. This hands-on approach not only bolstered team morale but also showcased my commitment to the shared goals of the team.

Adapting style to meet client demands — In the dynamic world of consulting, each client presents unique styles and expectations. Being able to adapt and communicate a leadership style to meet the specific needs of each client helps to establish rapport and understanding with clients from diverse backgrounds. Sometimes, clients will have distinct visions for their project, which can differ significantly from our initial suggested approach. Instead of insisting on our initial methods, I take the time to understand my client’s perspective and work collaboratively to find a solution that aligns with their vision while still achieving our objectives. This flexibility and willingness to meet clients where they are has been instrumental in building long-lasting relationships and delivering successful outcomes.

Coaching mindset — While I have a natural inclination to solve problems independently, I recognize the importance of empowering others to take ownership of their own challenges. Transitioning from being a problem solver to a coach has been a transformative and rewarding journey for me as a leader. Rather than taking on more issues myself, I’ve focused on coaching my team members to develop their problem-solving skills and take initiative. Within the workplace, I try to provide guidance and resources to my team rather than stepping in and resolving issues myself. Witnessing the growth and confidence of my team as they successfully navigate challenges reinforces the value of adopting a coaching mindset. By investing in the development of my team members, I not only foster a culture of continuous learning but also develop future leaders within the organization.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Our consultants are helping supply chain organizations with various projects ranging from workforce planning and change management to data management and visualization projects.

Right now, we are working on an exciting project with a client in the food manufacturing space focused on plant improvement. Through our work, we’re increasing efficiency along production lines, improving food safety and quality measures, and optimizing the overall employee experience. By implementing innovative solutions, we aim to provide safer food for consumers, meet customer demands more effectively, and create a better working environment for employees.

What’s particularly impactful about this project is its scalability. The improvements we’re making can be applied across the client’s manufacturing network, benefiting communities and consumers on a broader scale. Ultimately, our efforts are aimed at creating a more sustainable and impactful future for everyone involved in the food manufacturing process, from employees on the production floor to consumers enjoying the end products.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. To ensure that we are all on the same page let’s begin with some simple definitions. What does the term “supply chain” encompass?

The term “supply chain” encompasses a wide array of components that facilitate the sourcing, production and delivery of products to consumers — or other businesses. It encompasses the coordination of people, processes, and technology across various stages, from the procurement of raw materials to the distribution of finished goods. Essentially, the supply chain industry serves as the backbone of commerce, connecting suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ultimately meet the demands and expectations of consumers.

Can you help articulate the weaknesses in our current food supply chain systems?

Automation and a lack of resiliency are among the most common weaknesses faced within the supply chain of food & beverage organizations. There’s a significant lack of automation and an inability to effectively utilize available data, often resulting in reliance on manual spreadsheet-based processes. This inefficiency hampers decision-making and leaves supply chains ill-prepared to handle anomalies in their business. Additionally, many supply chains are reactive instead of responsive which impacts the resilience of the supply chain. This reactive approach leaves supply chains vulnerable and increases inefficiencies and costs. Addressing these weaknesses requires a concerted effort to embrace automation, leverage data analytics for informed decision-making, and adopt responsive measures to enhance resilience.

Can you help define what a nationally secure and resilient food supply chain would look like?

Overall, a resilient and nationally secure food supply chain is one that is responsive and able to respond to disruptions swiftly. This requires as many of its participants as possible to adopt best practices — digitizing and harnessing data for action and continuous improvement, diversifying your supply base, and connecting tightly with your supply and demand ecosystems so planning and execution can change dynamically. Additionally, visibility plays a pivotal role in predicting and responding to issues effectively. Utilizing predictive modeling to anticipate disruptions and optimize manufacturing and distribution processes enhances responsiveness. Being responsive rather than reactive to issues that arise is essential, requiring proactive measures to prevent and mitigate risks before they escalate. This holistic approach ensures a resilient and agile food supply chain capable of navigating uncertainties while maintaining continuity and efficiency.

Can you share with our readers a few of the things that your organization is doing to help create a more secure food supply chain?

At Catena Solutions, we are committed to contributing to the creation of a more responsive supply chain through strategic initiatives and our approach to project engagement. One way we do this is by establishing teams comprised of seasoned professionals with relevant experience and deep understanding to address the given problem at hand. At Catena Solutions, our consultants are former practitioners from large brands who have already directly driven supply chain transformation for their companies. Our team includes individuals with a range of experience in digitization, operation automation, planning, and the expertise to train people to successfully work alongside technology. By leveraging the insights and best practices from their past experiences, our teams are equipped to implement solutions that enhance security and resilience throughout the food supply chain. This approach not only enables us to address immediate challenges but also promotes continuous improvement and innovation within the industry.

What are the “5 Things We Must Do To Create Nationally Secure And Resilient Food Supply Chains” and why?

1. We must shift from a reactive to a responsive mindset: It’s imperative to transition from a reactive environment to a responsive one. By becoming more responsive to challenges and trends, we can better anticipate and mitigate risks before they escalate. While this transformation may not happen overnight, initiating the process is crucial to long-term resilience.

2. We must prioritize the investment in technology: Investing in technology is paramount for gaining visibility into critical information and using it to inform decision-making processes. By leveraging advanced analytics and data-driven insights, we can optimize operations and enhance overall efficiency across the supply chain.

3. We must collaborate across the supply chain network with both customers and suppliers: Collaboration is key to building resilient supply chains. Establishing strong relationships with both customers and suppliers fosters transparency and enables more effective coordination and problem-solving. By working together, we can better navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

4. We must increase our focus on traceability and food safety and quality (FSQ): As the industry becomes increasingly complex, prioritizing traceability and FSQ are essential. Ensuring the integrity and safety of food products throughout the supply chain not only protects consumers but also enhances trust and credibility within the industry.

5. We must embrace and plan for change: The food industry is evolving rapidly, and embracing change within F&B organizations is crucial for staying competitive and resilient. By remaining agile and adaptable, we can effectively respond to shifting consumer preferences, market dynamics, and regulatory requirements, ensuring our continued success in an ever-changing landscape.

Are there other ideas or considerations that should encourage us to reimagine our food supply chain?

While technology undoubtedly plays a critical role in reshaping the food supply chain, it’s essential not to overlook the people involved in the processes. By fostering a culture that prioritizes the well-being and satisfaction of employees, food and beverage companies can create a more resilient and customer-centric supply chain. Employees are the heart and soul of any organization, and investing in their success ultimately benefits both the business and its customers.

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