Calum Laird, by his own admission, stumbled into the supply chain industry somewhat by accident. “When I was 18, I had a part time job in a big, old-world department store - kind of like New Zealand’s version of Harrods,” he recalls. When the manager of his department ended up in hospital for a long stretch, Laird approached his manager and put himself forward to take over the department’s procurement, stock control and inventory duties. “I said ‘I’ll stick my hand up. I know how the computer system works and I’ve got a friendly relationship with all the sales reps so I reckon I can do this.’ So they gave me the reins and off I went,” Laird recalls.
He stayed with the store for around five years, before moving on to the management development program at a New Zealand supermarket chain operator and then into a beverage distribution company, where he worked in customer service and purchasing for a further five years.
In 2013, there’s a seven month gap in Laird’s career history. However, it’s a space that he’s all too happy to talk about in interviews. “I spent seven and a half months in Brazil. My wife is Brazilian, we first met in high school 20 years ago and I spent that time over there with her family, friends and culture. It was absolutely the experience of a lifetime,” he recalls.
Upon returning to New Zealand, Laird got to work in a warehouse management capacity for Hilti, where he learned valuable lessons about the process of transforming a supply chain and logistics function. “During the course of my time there, there were a lot of space constraints in the warehouse when I arrived. It was a self-managed warehouse at the time. Some discussions needed to happen about the best way forward in terms of space, because moving premises is very expensive. Not only the physical move, but the fact that, when you go into bigger premises, it’s often considerably empty when you arrive. Then, it takes quite some time to fill up the space,” he recalls.
“Considering the aggressive growth plans that Hilti had at that time, they just didn’t have the facility to try and move every five years. It can cost a million dollars every time you move buildings just because of associated expenses. Then, you move into a building that you have to pay for the entirety of for five years, even though it takes that whole time just to fill, and then you have to move again.” The company which won Hilti’s tender to provide third-party logistics solutions ended up hiring Laird. “I joined Röhlig Logistics around October 2015 and left in October of last year, so I watched that business grow from a 1,300 square metre contract logistics facility with three customers in it to a brand new, purpose built 6,500 square metre building with 16 customers, a retrofitted cool store, a dangerous goods bunker, etc,” he recalls. “It was a fantastic learning experience to be able to amalgamate a freight forwarding facility and a dedicated contract logistics facility into one purpose built facility.”
Laird and his wife had their first child in December of 2019. To focus on supporting his family, Laird stepped away from Röhlig in the wintertime. “Now, in the new year, we’re all doing really well,” he smiles. “Our baby was happy and healthy, so that’s when I got into contact with McAlpine Hussmann, and here I am.”