Although he’s reluctant to admit it, Cardinal Logistics CEO Brendon Furness is, in fact, a world-beater. A stellar logistics career has run alongside a stint in professional tennis in Germany, an appearance at the Australian Open, peaking at last years’ World Masters Games, where Furness was crowned champion for his age group.

“I’m not going to say which age group, but it was at the lower end,” he said.

A trained accountant, Furness stumbled into the supply chain industry while working in South Africa. Working for Walmart Africa, he found that the entirely manual system simply wasn’t up to standard. He later co-founded an IT company with the intention of harnessing technology to improve supply chain processes.

His return to New Zealand could be described as shaky – the main reason being the decision to relocate his young family to Christchurch at the end of 2009 – and compounded by finding similar issues with logistics systems to those he had just left behind. “New Zealand, as a whole, has a great opportunity to innovate logistics and the technology for better outcomes for everyone,” he said. “The challenge is to integrate and align the various stakeholders and platforms.”

The challenge is particularly daunting in a country like New Zealand, which offers unique logistical hurdles. The small, narrow country is matched by its small, narrow motorways – having the Cook Straight running through the middle doesn’t particularly help either. “There are a lot of players in the supply chain, there are many things that can go wrong, which creates waste along the way in a tight margin environment”.

Waste leads to margin erosion for logistics companies, higher stock costs for customers, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to frustrated stores and even more frustrated end consumers.

“There are smart people in the whole supply chain, but the motivations can be different,” said Furness. “Technology and the data delivered is a key platform to reduce the emotion and deliver better outcomes. I don’t see Cardinal as a logistics company. I think of us as a data management company that operates warehouses and trucks.”

Although he’s only been in the role since February, Furness wants Cardinal to engage with like-minded organisations to create a more efficient logistics network in New Zealand, ultimately benefiting everyone. “As an accountant, I’m focused on the bottom line,” he said. “We want to achieve our financial targets by operating safely and delivering for our staff, customers and the environment.”

Whilst the Cardinal client base is approximately 60, there is a concentrated core group of leading FMCG customers which allows Furness to interact meaningfully with all of them. With 95 percent of its clients being involved in the sector, food and beverage is Cardinal’s core business – something to which Furness feels an affinity. “Working in Africa, then experiencing the Christchurch earthquakes, you get a good appreciation of the importance of food,” he explained. “With no food or water, things go south very quickly.”