Supply Chain Executive of the Year Martial Hamel leads a team at the forefront of Sanimax’s environmental mission.
At some companies supply chain is an afterthought, left off the agenda at executive meetings and shuffled off to side, left to flounder under the direction of someone who doesn’t have the foggiest idea of its importance to company’s bottom line.
Nothing could be further from the truth at Montreal-based Sanimax, home to Martial Hamel, senior vice president, supply chain and the 2017 recipient of the Freight Management Association of Canada’s Supply Chain Executive of the Year award. Hamel was hand-picked for his role several years ago as a result of a shift in management’s thinking around the role the supply chain played at the company.
What triggered the move in 2014, according to Hamel, was a reset of the vision of the company initiated by CEO Martin Couture. “At the heart of the vision was the customer,” recalls Hamel, “And in order to do that we needed to realign the supply chain.”
The fourth-largest rendering company in North America, Sanimax serves the agri-food industry and its role revolves around what the company refer to as the three R’s—reclaim, renew and return. Each day the company’s fleet of trucks and equipment travels more than 40,000 kilometres collecting materials such as meat byproducts, used cooking oil and grease, hides and organic material from supermarkets—two billion kilograms of byproducts that would otherwise be sent to landfills. At some of its 17 operating sites in Canada, the U.S. and Brazil, Sanimax renews these materials into high quality products, which are returned to the market to its customers who use them to manufacture numerous household products, including animal feed, pet food, soaps, leather, esters, lubricants, cutting oils, paint, rubber, tires, shampoos, cosmetics, perfumes, cleansing creams, medicines, inks, adhesives, solvents, antifreeze, fertilizers, and more
Sanimax was founded in 1939 by brothers Alex and Déziel Couture. Alex learned the basics of rendering, where fat and bones are processed into useful goods, working at slaughterhouses in the St Malo neighbourhood of Quebec City. Following the untimely death of his brother, Alex carried on and began a vertical integration of the business by establishing a feed mill and an experimental farm that, at its height, would include some 30,000 poultry and a pig house.
“Our business is reclaiming, renewing and returning organic byproducts that society has chosen not to use for food consumption,” says Hamel. “And our vision of Sanimax is to be recognized by its customers as the very best environmental solution provider to the agri-food service industry and a key part of that is making sure our supply chain works.”
Photo: Denis Bernier
According to Hamel, Sanimax’s supply chain is everything that comes into the company in the form of a byproduct as well as everything that goes out as a finished good. “What’s unique to our company is that what we transport is organic, which deteriorates very quickly with time and temperature, so the quality of our finished products are very dependent on how effective our supply chain is.”
Hamel joined Sanimax, a third-generation, family-owned company, in 2010 as vice president of sales and marketing, after nine years at chemical distributor Univar Canada, where he was involved in sales and logistics functions.
In addition to working for a family company, Hamel was drawn to Sanimax’s environmental values. “Everything the company does is part of its green mission and that, along with the fact that it was a family business, was what appealed to me when I joined,” Hamel says.
Hamel’s recognition came about as the result of the determination of his colleague, Todd Strickler, manager of logistics for Sanimax, based in Guelph, Ont., who nominated his boss two years ago and despite not having his efforts rewarded, didn’t hesitate to re-nominate Hamel again this year.
“In the five years I’ve worked with Martial I’ve found that he’s one of the more forward-thinking bosses that I’ve had in my 20-plus years of working in the supply chain,” enthuses Strickler.
“Sanimax values are doing what’s best and finding better ways and Martial is always looking for those better ways.” Strickler adds that another reason for his nomination of Hamel is his boss’ habit of challenging those who work for him.
From his perspective, Hamel sees his job as one of leadership, not micro-managing.
“I’m a true believer in empowering people,” he says. “There is so much talent around us and sometimes as leaders we’re not giving it a chance to grow and shine.
“It’s also about making sure they have the right tools and processes to do their jobs,” Hamel continues. “Once you shape their expectations and share the vision, sometimes they deliver results that you didn’t expect. When people are listened to and given the tools to do their job, guess what, they do great things and they deliver great results.”
As an example of putting his beliefs into action, Hamel points to a recent project Sanimax is undertaking over the next 18 months to develop new routing systems with the installation of telematics systems in its trucks and the elimination of handheld devices, where the input of drivers, gathered through engagement surveys and interviews, was invaluable.
“When it comes to my philosophy of working with people it’s about listening to employees and that starts with our drivers, because they’re the ones servicing our clients day in and day out.”
The goal, says Hamel, is to bring Sanimax’s supply chain together as a driver of profitability for the company by making smarter decisions and optimizing the network.
“We’re investing massively in technology and training and we’ve found that there is quite a bit of efficiency and customer service gains that we will see as a result of our investments,” he says. “It’s really about leading ourselves into the next generation of tools.”
With Hamel’s appointment in 2014, there was also a bringing together of what, says Strickler, had historically been separate departments—transportation and logistics.
“Transportation used to equal raw materials and logistics used to equal finished goods,” he says. “And Martial has been very instrumental in bridging that gap and bringing the two teams closer together so that now transportation is doing more finished goods on our own fleet and logistics is reaching out and assisting transportation in outsourcing to third-party carriers to move our materials when we can’t do it ourselves.
“Martial really recognizes the importance of the supply chain, not just the raw material collection, which is one piece of it, but we work very closely together on the return piece as well,” continues Strickler. “We have a full logistics team that I lead, with team members in Guelph and Green Bay, Wisc., and Martial is always helping to drive that part of the supply chain forward and making sure we’re using the right solutions.”
Despite the recognition that comes with being named Supply Chain Executive of Year, Hamel is very forceful in deflecting any accolades directed his way.
“When I look at what we’ve accomplished at Sanimax over the past few years, I truly believe it has been a team effort with no one person single-handily being responsible for the performance improvements or the customer experience improvements we’ve achieved.”