James M. “Mike” Starling, Colonel, US Army (ret.) – Senior Associate Consultant

Mike achieved the rank of full Colonel in the US Army, but is a 5-Star General in transportation and supply chain management. Nowhere is logistics more important than on a battlefield, where it truly is a matter of life and death. It stands to reason that Mike’s no-nonsense, “failure is not an option” approach harkens back to his 14 years of active duty, starting out as a Transportation Corps Officer in Vietnam.

Exemplifying his 5-Star impact, Mike and the DKS&CO. team took over complete operational command of a 350,000 sq ft distribution center. The 4-month old facility was already failing and the multi-billion dollar outdoor equipment manufacturer was losing millions in business. After 7 weeks of commanding and improving operations, Mike and team had made up for the backlog of 90,000 unfilled orders that had accrued and left the operation completely up-to-date.

Previously, Mike expertly wielded the $70 million transportation budget of auto parts retailer Pep Boys, reducing freight cost by 25% in small package and 55% in Less than Truck Load (LTL), while managing all domestic and international transportation operations. At the same time, Pep Boys’ import container flow was intransigently stuck at an annual level of merely 200 containers. Mike proved his ability to manage transportation volume increases when he led the transition project that increased total containers imported yearly by two full orders of magnitude up to 4,000.  Never daunted by complexity, Mike also managed the Pep Boys logistics network consisting of five regional DCs, three cross-dock consolidation points, over 400 inbound vendor shipping origins, and 590 retail stores.

Before Pep Boys, Mike applied his well-honed leadership skill at EMI, a subsidiary of Germany-based Merck KGaA. There, he served as Chairman of a multi-divisional freight cost reduction team and represented the North American continent for the Merck KGaA global logistics council conducting global supply chain optimization. As Manager of Warehousing & Distribution for seven years, Mike was responsible for the import, export, and distribution of chemicals and pharmaceuticals throughout North America and the oversight of multiple plants and warehousing operations.

Previously, at Imperial Chemical Industries, once the largest manufacturing company in the UK, Mike employed the skills he developed while managing the transportation of explosives and munitions in the military. As Manager of Distribution Operations and Customer Service, Mike and his staff of 14 were responsible for the importation of all globally produced chemicals unavailable in the US, the majority of which required widely varying hazardous material handling protocols. Mike led the development of a division-wide implementation of a Total Quality Management (TQM) program and directed import product planning, logistics network establishment, transportation, storage, handling, safety, compliance, and delivery to customers throughout the US and Canada.

During his tenure with the US Army, Mike developed his observation skills to a truly remarkable level, an asset he employs to this day. He approaches each new challenge with a “blank state”, unfettered by any preconceived notions or assumptions. This empowers Mike to understand the problem objectively, thoroughly, creatively, and profitably.