Manager of Planning and Engineering at FedEx Canada
IE Professional and Ryerson University Alumnus
*as seen in our October 2013 issue
Would you mind telling us a bit about your educational background?
SALEH: Sure, I graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree from Ryerson in 1987. After that, I did some courses in business administration at York University. I almost got my master’s de-gree, I was so close to it and I regret that. I also minored in economics and business at Ryerson so I completed quite a few courses in business. Primarily Industrial Engineering is where it led me.
Describe your current role at FedEx.
I am the manager of planning and engineering for global trade services which is customs and regulatory operations for FedEx. I manage a group of engineers and business analysts that work on anything and everything related to productivity, process improvement, project planning, and quality.
What previous industries did you work in before logistics?
After graduating from Ryerson, I started off in the manufacturing industry with magna auto parts and ford electronics. I started in manufacturing electronics and circuit boards and did some Industrial Engineering related work there for 2 to 3 years. That’s when I found that manufacturing was important to industrial engineers, I just had a keen interest more so in the service industry. I like airlines, logistics, and cargo, and an opportunity came up at FedEx so I applied there. When I started here at FedEx, for the first 7 to 8 years I did ground operations years. Basically supporting all courier and ramp operations, typical of what one would expect of getting a pack-age from a to b, all the logistics movements around our prime service at FedEx. Then I switched over to customs, I was the first engineer to support customs. While I was in that role, they promoted me to manager of engineering. Ever since, for the last 13 to 14 years, I’ve grown the group in supporting GTS operations in Canada from a customs and regulatory perspective.
What are the responsibilities of you and your team?
FedEx is world renowned for overnight delivery and excellent quality of reliable service. A lot of processing goes on in clearing packages through the night in order to make sure they’re available first thing in the morning and that all the information is available in order to assess duties and taxes on international shipments. My team sup-ports a brokerage staff of about 400 people across Canada that assess the duties and taxes and clears the shipment so that it’s ready to go out in the first wave in the morning with a courier for on time delivery. They also handle all the exceptions and manage the processes and productivity work systems, IT and regulatory requirements for the GTS organization in FedEx Cana-da.
What is the difference between the engineering departments at FedEx?
The larger of the two industrial engineering departments is called service engineering. They focus on the bread and butter of the organization, that is, the pick and delivery operations, aircraft and vehicle planning, sort and facilities planning, My team focuses on the information movement of a shipment, the customs handling and processing, the regulatory environment and project planning.
What is your favorite part about your job?
My absolute favorite part of my job is working with a very motivated, young staff of engineers. I really enjoy working with recent graduates and even people from other industries with a little bit of experience. Once they take on a role here at FedEx, nurturing and evolving them into senior employees and engineers.
What differences or similarities did you find working in manufacturing and service?
Obviously it’s very different, manufacturing is very product oriented and service is a more people based industry. Some of the metrics and techniques used and the skill sets needed in things like process simulation, process improvement or time studies were used in the manufacturing environment. However, these ideas can be also employed in a service environment, whether you’re working for an airline or financial institutions or hospitals. The tools that we learn from an industrial engineering background can be applied in any industry.
What is the key quality a new grad should possess when looking for a job?
Well, being an engineer myself, one would think your technical and analytical skills are important. Well, they are and that’s your base education you’re achieving. But by far the most important skill set a person can bring to set themselves apart from everyone else applying to a job is interpersonal skills. That is critical. It’s the ability to get along with people, to communicate, to work in teams, to be accepting of people from diverse backgrounds and different sets of experiences to collaborate and produce whatever the mandate is. So I think your interpersonal skill set is definitely the most important thing.
Do you have any advice for IE students?
What I would suggest to students nowadays is to think about Industrial Engineering as a very di-verse basis of education don’t fixate or trap yourself into one career type of industry or focus, try to get as much background as you can for your work experience. You may be surprised that one industry you did like or focused on may not be one you want to end up working in the rest of your life. As you evolve and switch jobs, you’ll gain knowledge from each experience.
Is internship in third year a good idea for students?
Absolutely, absolutely. When I was at Ryerson we didn’t have the third year program, we primarily relied on summer work terms for 4 months to get engineering related experience. I think the fact the Ryerson reaches out to potential employers to recruit students for the Industrial Internship Program is a great thing. I think it’s a win-win, not only for the students but the company as well. I’ve had success with all three Ryerson students working for me. I think it’s beneficial to the company, they produce very good quality engineering work, and they work well together with the engineers that are here at the company. FedEx has a good history of hiring a lot of Ryerson engineers. Since I’ve been here for the last 20+ years, we’ve had 12-15 engineers come through FedEx at one point and the majority of them are still with us.
I have a personal liking for Ryerson and it’s pro-gram because of the practical nature of the pro-gram, especially the courses related to time studies and work measurement. A lot of students come with knowledge of MOST and predetermined time studies that really allow Ryerson students to hit the ground running. Whether they’re doing coop or permanent placement, they bring that great skill set that can be applied immediately to projects like process simulation and productivity modeling development. So I have a keen interest in Ryerson students.
What do you like to do on your free time?
I like to watch hockey. I’m a keen maple leafs enthusiast. My son plays hockey and I coach his team. Also sports and reading, I like politics and keeping up with current events.