26 minutes | Jun 27th 2020

MCJ Supply Chain Solutions: Kai Beckhaus

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Kai Beckhaus of MCJ Supply Chain Solutions discusses the intricacies of learning how to interweave IoT, robotics, and the human element in manufacturing.Danny:All right. So let’s jump into today’s executive series. I have Kai Beckhaus who is the president at MCJ Supply Solutions. Thank you so much Kai, for joining me today on the IndustrialSage executive series.Kai:Thanks for having me, Danny.Danny:Excellent. So, for those who aren’t familiar and we were just kind of chatting a little bit, before we started here. Tell me a little bit about MCJ Supply Chain Solutions. You’ve got a little bit of a joint venture going on there, so yeah. Who are you guys? What do you guys do?Kai:We’re bringing Jungheinrich supply chain solutions to the North American market. Jungheinrich is one of the world’s leading intralogistics companies based out of Hamburg in Germany and is cooperating for more than 10 years with Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America, to bring forklift truck solutions and that’s mainly electric trucks to the North American market. And almost two years ago now, Mitsubishi, Caterpillar, and Jungheinrich have decided to build up a joint venture to bring automation and further supply chain solutions, which also include a specialized rental fleet here to the market. And that’s why MCJ is bringing AGVs, our robots here, to our customers in the US, Canada and Mexico.Danny:All right. Excellent. So, we’re going to dive into this, a little bit more as we get it, but right now I kind of want to learn a little bit more about you, Kai. I want to learn about your, your background, your career, how you got into this. How, tell me, you know, take me way back. How did you get into this space?Kai:Yeah, perfect. I actually have a software background there. So as a teenager that was a hobby and that’s my backbone. And then I attended the university, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and also a year at Imperial college in London with a focus on economics, computer science and law that was a combination course there. And after that, I added a PhD in Munich, as I wanted us to really see, to combine the practical aspects of the world with the theoretical university things that I learned there, and at the Technical University in Munich there, it was a good time, doing the PhD. My start after internships was Nokia Networks and the Boston consulting group really, in the worlds of real work whilst as a freelancer for a marketing agency in London.Danny:Oh, really?Kai:Right. I think it’s a really interesting sector, still. And I look back, it was exciting at that time, writing white papers for big IT companies there on success stories, customer reference stories. That was a good time I had. And then I started with Jungheinrich almost a dozen years ago now, and started off selling warehouse management systems and that was IT systems where the customers really manage all of their warehouse operations electronically. And my role was to gather the requirements, write specifications, talk through with the customers, what functions there are and what their needs are, where it was good learning, really listening to the customer and listening to exactly what the customer needs. That was a good start off there.Then the need emerged from the market, that the Jungheinrich engineers were developing really cool features assistance systems, which are, for example, semi-automation. A track with an operator on board, would drive to the destination, with just giving speed and no searching there, but the target needs to be set from the IT system. And there was this gap, the customers’ IT system being any ERP system, product planning system, warehouse management system. We’re not able to send the data in the format that the truck would ask for the data. So there was this gap to bridge and so that fitted perfectly with my work previously in the PhD. So I was tasked to really install and then head a group to do this middle of integration. We call that logistics interface as it’s really an interface to link different logistics solutions together. And that was a great time creating a software and deploying it in these applications and adding more and more applications form these VNA trucks with semi-automation, to AGVs, to dynamic racking solutions. And there’s a lot of different applications that can be connected in that now.And the next step there in the career, I was looking forward to going back international. But mine boss assigned to work from Singapore for some time there for Jungheinrich to roll out those intralogistics solutions in the Asia of Pacific region, which was a great time traveling through Asia Pacific based out of Singapore and helping our customers to make use of those technologies that were until then predominantly in Europe, with our customers. So that was a good point there in Singapore. Coming back, I quickly moved over to more management roles, portfolio product management, which is designing the future of the products and also the market intelligence department for the logistic systems which I headed before coming back to the automation sector, really, and being promoted to head the AGV implementation worldwide in the three different time zones. And there, we really saw Europe and the Middle East and Africa. In here it’s one region and really the different time zones, other world regions for your Jungheinrich there. So Asia Pacific, where I learned how they are operating, earlier on and then bringing automation to the North American markets with the focus on North America, but also Americas. So the Latin America region as well. And that was when we started really to prepare, “How is the best setup to bring those AGV solutions to our customers in North America?” And we prepared the foundation of a joint venture and that’s how we ended up here. And I was then, after the preparation, asked to head the group and act as president for MCJ Supply Chain Solutions’ joint venture between Mitsubishi, Caterpillar and Jungheinrich there to bring our robots here to our customers. And it’s been a great time here based out of Houston in Texas so far for almost two years now.Danny:That’s awesome. That’s quite the story. So you’ve kind of been around, around the world a little bit and not only that, but just, I think it was interesting how you had the stint in marketing for a little bit. It sounds that you said you were writing, like customer case study, testimonial type content, articles. And then, if I understood correctly, so you were at Boston consulting before that, before the marketing agency, or?Kai:That was an internship during my university time in Boston.Danny:Ah, okay.Kai:And that was a good learning and insight as well. And so that was a good internship there. And then as a freelancer at the end of the university time, and then full time really working for Jungheinrich then starting off after the PhD there.Danny:That’s excellent. So obviously, you know, a lot of change has happened, in the industry over the last several years. You said, you’ve been with… for almost a dozen years, lots of change there, for sure. So, if you were to kind of look back over your career, obviously you’ve had several different career moves and lots of different experiences. Is there somebody that jumps out to you that has really made it a defining impact in your career? And it could be, maybe it was even somebody not inside your career path. It could be when you’re in school or during, do you have somebody that kind of jumps out at you?Kai:Well, actually it’s one person but first of all, I think it’s very generic. What you read a lot in these books, but I fully believe in: that it’s the sum of all the bosses you have worked, really… is something which is really important. And I would really advise anyone to choose a job, not only from the task that you’re supposed to do the job description, but also who are you working for? What can you, how can you evaluate that? And what’s good and what’s bad about that. And to be able to learn and gather experience for yourself there. So it’s really different bosses that I have worked with. And one single event that has really learned me how the importance of feedback was actually at the Boston consulting group where I was as an intern, early twenties of age. They were tasked to create a big excel file and we were working on a post-merger integration. And so that was a big spreadsheet pulling in data from a database. And one of the senior consultants in the review for this task then came to me and said, “I have worked for Microsoft previously and I even joined the excel-lovers group,” or what they call it there. “I’ve seen many spreadsheets, but that’s really one of the best I have seen, you did a great job there.” And you can imagine how that really felt as a young star there, just starting your career as an internship. And that really taught me how important feedback is, that event and how important it is to really, let people know both constructive, how to improve, but also what went good and what’s good traits there in people. And that is something which I now try to pass on in mentoring younger folks. I think every age is suitable, whether you’re young, in the middle of your career or at the end of the career. It’s important to really give back and promote others. And we really support the heroes from tomorrow there.Danny:Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s some great insights, But yeah, you mentioned the power of feedback and liked how you mentioned. It’s not just, obviously, like critical feedback, not critical in a negative sense, but even just in the sense of like constructive, but also another sense of like really shining, and identifying those pos
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