Career reset for key European defence logistics chief

UK Ministry of Defence Logistics & Support Director Roger West steps away from career after more than 40 years in the front line of supply chain

A key European military logistics director is today stepping away from a 42-year career in supply chain.

As Logistics & Support Director at the UK Ministry of Defence, Roger West has been instrumental in keeping the British armed forces armed, clothed and fed.

West worked within Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), which handles UK defence contracts on everything from food to fighter jets.

“It's absolutely fundamental that we have resilience in our supply chain,” West has said of his defence role. “We've been tested in recent years by COVID-19, and now in the support of Ukraine. We are giving considerable thought to how we need to re-calibrate our supply chains to give us the resilience we need because we can't afford to go out half-cocked into a demanding environment where people's lives are at risk.”

West joined DE&S on an 11-month contract and ended up staying a decade. In all, his 40-year career has taken him from IBM to defence, via leading consultancies and supermarkets. 

West had originally planned a career in agricultural engineering, until he “realised just how little you get paid in agricultural engineering”. 

He went on to land a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with IBM, and carved a career there in manufacturing, including the design and development of robot assembly lines. 

His next move was into sales, “because IBM was trying to diversify out of the equipment business and into software and services”. 

Sales 'helped me see procurement from the other side' 

He adds: “Unfortunately this coincided with the recession in the late 80s but the experience stood me in good stead because it was tough yards”. West said the experience shaped his view of procurement. 

“It was tough being a salesman and interacting with people you wanted to buy from you and when I went into procurement I had more empathy having been on the other side of the table,” he says.

West was with IBM for 13 years, before joining UK supermarket chain ASDA.

“It was so different,” he says. “In IBM we were meticulous about decision making but at Asda and it was completely the opposite. 

“One of the phrases I've found myself using over the years came from that period: ‘If it's not broken then break it, and do something different.’"

Following ASDA, West moved into consultancy for a decade, with companies that became PwC and Capgemini, before joining DHL as Procurement Director, where worked on its NHS supply chain contract.

“That was a fantastic job,” he says. “I've always been fortunate. Going through my career I can look back and say the job I'm in is the best job I've had at that time.”

Of his most recent role, West says: “This has been the best job in my career so far. It has been a huge amount of fun and opportunity. I’ve always felt that even on a bad day, I can still make a difference, and that’s a good thing to be feeling.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to the defence of our country, keeping us and our families safe. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.” 

He adds: “What’s next is unclear. It’s not retirement, but in the short term I’m looking forward to creating some swarf in my workshop, doing a bit more sailing, losing some weight and generally kicking back after 42 years solid graft.” 

To learn more of West's important defence supply chain work, read our Defence Equipment & Support report.

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