May 17, 2020

Top Logistics CEOs

Frederick Smith
Scott Davis
Freddie Pierce
4 min
Supply Chain Digital takes a look at the logistics leaders who keep their businesses (and the world’s cargo) moving in the right direction
Written by Sharise Cruz Before you read this, check out the upper-right hand corner of this page to view this article in our digital reader. Trust us...

Written by Sharise Cruz

Before you read this, check out the upper-right hand corner of this page to view this article in our digital reader. Trust us, it's way cooler!

Frederick Smith, FedEx


FedEx Founder and CEO Frederick Smith set his sights on the global logistics market decades ago. According to legend, Smith wrote a paper outlining what would later become the foundation of FedEx in an economics class at Yale, and the paper was graded with a C. The truth is actually a bit harsher.

In 2009, Smith told the San Francisco Chronicle that the paper actually earned him a grade lower than a C and that he was a generally poor student.

While he may not have been racking up stellar grades in college, during that time and in the subsequent years, Smith started to build top-notch relationships and accolades. He was George W. Bush’s fraternity brother, flying partners with John Kerry and was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts during his time as a Ground Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1971, Smith proved that he had winning ideas in his head all along when he turned a $4 million inheritance and $91 million in venture capital into Federal Express, with the aim to develop the first integrated air-ground system. By 1973, the company was shipping small packages and documents to 25 cities with the aid of 14 Falcon 20 jets.

These days, FedEx is clearly one of the world’s top logistics brands, and Smith’s been at the helm for its entire run. (And he even passed up the chance to join his old buddy Bush’s Cabinet as Defense Secretary. Twice.)

Smith lends his business acumen to several other industries as well—he’s a co-owner of the Washington Redskins, Dream Image Productions and Alcon Films.

Scott Davis, UPS

Scott Davis surely understands that sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Davis first joined UPS in 1986, when the company acquired II Morrow, the technology company where he served as CEO.  From 1991 to 1998, Davis climbed the ranks at UPS, moving from treasury manager to financial reports and plans manager to accounting manager, but in late 1998 he wandered over to a Bermuda reinsurance company called Overseas Partners. Only two years rolled by before Davis rejoined UPS as the company’s Vice President of Finance.

During his most recent tenure, Davis joined the UPS Management Committee, started serving as the director of Honeywell International, and served as UPS’s Chief Financial Officer when the company instituted its eminent “no left turn” policy.

“Historically, we’re a strong industrial engineering-driven company, and I think we’ve always been the most efficient operators of transportation fleets in the world,” Davis said in an interview.

Davis’s journey with UPS reached its apex when, in 2008, he became the company’s Chairman and CEO.

Under his watch, UPS has improved fuel efficiency of air and ground fleet, run on the industry’s largest alternative fuel fleet and increased its cargo capacity in Central and South America by 50 percent.

Davis is a member of the President’s Export Council and he intends to continue focusing on UPS’s role in U.S. exports. 

As Internet consumerism continues to boom, so will the logistics industry and UPS expects to fare particularly well, due to its reputation and service to over 200 countries.

Frank Appel, Deutsche Post DHL


DHL is the world’s largest logistics group, so we would be remiss to not include the company’s CEO, Frank Appel.

Appel is a chemist by trade—he holds a Master of Science in chemistry from the University of Munich and a PhD in Neurobiology—but he joined the Deutsche Post DHL group in 2000 as Managing Director of Corporate Development.

In 2008, Appel was appointed the company’s CEO and made responsible for a huge network of corporate departments, including Corporate Communications, Global Customer Solutions, Corporate Public Policy and Sustainability, and DHL Solutions & Innovations. 

Appel has paid particularly close attention to DHL’s role in environmental protection, disaster response and sustainable engagement.

“We are the largest logistics company and are one of the world’s biggest employers. This is both an opportunity and a responsibility,” Appel said in a press release. “This is the only way to become the first choice and to also achieve business transportation.”

“Before I started Coyote, I had people come to me and say, ‘American Backhaulers was the greatest company I’ve ever worked for,’” Silver told “We wanted to create that magic example.”

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Jun 8, 2021

DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID

3 min
Global logistics leader DHL’s new white paper highlights what supply chain professionals have learned one year into the pandemic

Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.


This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go. 


Public-Private Partnerships

With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”. 


Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats. 


In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.


“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”. 


How Do We Sustain Immunisation? 

By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”. 


Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared. 

Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.

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