In Memoriam: Roddy Martin: The Great Connector (1957-2021)

Martin helped supply chain emerge as the vital professional discipline it is today

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Supply chain as passion – that’s what I felt the first time I experienced Roddy Martin in action. It was late 2000 in a Boston hotel where Roddy’s electric presence gripped the audience with a nearly religious message about our shared mission to make supply chains work better. His conviction, his energy, and the obvious depth of his personal knowledge forged an instant, and yet durable connection felt by everyone in the room. Roddy was more than a great thinker; more than a great leader; more even than a great friend and mentor – Roddy was the human embodiment of what supply chain means to the world. He was the great connector.

In February of this year when his health failed, Roddy’s friends came together out of love and respect for a man who had done so much for so many in the world of supply chain. Relationships built over a lifetime working intimately with great companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, SAB-Miller and Unilever were suddenly galvanized around the bittersweet question of how to recognize his legacy of thought leadership and commitment to truth.

Having learned first-hand during his early professional years at South African Breweries precisely how the pulse of consumer demand ripples back through countless nodes of work in the supply chain, Roddy was able to see the connections in ways others could not. The notoriously complicated 80-slide PowerPoint presentations he created for AMR Research in the early 2000’s were so rich in information that their legacy remains the foundation of Gartner’s (who acquired AMR in 2009) supply chain research to this day. His grasp of the technology and information links between customers, channels, logistics networks, and production equipment helped thousands of people to understand, explain and ultimately realize what we all now refer to as “demand driven” supply chains.

Roddy’s knack for connecting people amplified his gift for seeing and explaining the workings of supply chain. He was extraordinarily generous with his network in helping friends and colleagues extend their work improving supply chains. He was part of the Accenture team behind the Visibility and Analytics Network blueprint, since adopted by multiple countries and UN Agencies, bringing not only ideas but also trust and credibility earned through a lifetime of helping others.

That same credibility and empathy made Roddy one of the best moderators I have ever seen. A unique ability to connect individuals, nuggets of information and a sense of urgency allowed him to masterfully pull the best thinking out of conference panelists at an event or clients around the table at a strategy session. People who’ve worked with Roddy universally acclaim his ability to lead a supply chain strategy discussion with a rare blend of confidence and humility.

“I owe my career to Roddy.” This quote, verbatim in more than one case, as a paraphrase in others, sums up another special role Roddy played in helping supply chain emerge as the vital professional discipline it is today. AMR Research, which along with PRTM founded the Supply Chain Council and drafted the original SCOR model, was an early pioneer in supply chain management and the place where Roddy first emerged as a critical thought leader. More than a few people still driving the profession forward today got their start alongside Roddy at AMR. His patience and generosity with new hires whether in research, sales or account management, was legendary. His ability to see and nurture potential was a gift not only to those he mentored, but to so many whom they have since helped. Supply chain professionals, especially in consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals, owe a debt of gratitude for Roddy’s legacy of leadership.

I was travelling once with Roddy in his native South Africa when he introduced me to the concept of Ubuntu. It is a Zulu term for ‘humanity’, which he translated to me roughly as “I am, because we all are”. He invoked the idea in response to my musings about how supply chain can save the world. To him, my audacious premise was perfectly reasonable because he could already see the connections between each, and all, of us.

He will be missed but never forgotten.

Kevin O’Marah is a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Institute


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