Game Changer: Louis Bibeau, President and CEO, Logistik
After several years with the department of foreign affairs as vice-consul in Marseilles and then in Boston, Louis Bibeau was transferred over to Industry Canada. There he was assigned to a program aimed at evaluating and modernizing Canada’s clothing and textile industry.
“Following this experience, I decided to take the plunge and I bought a local tie company,” said Bibeau. At that time, most large organizations managed their own uniform programs in-house. “We were a major neckwear supplier for Canada Post, but at a certain point they told me they would no longer be purchasing directly from manufacturers but would externalize their entire program to a third-party uniform provider,” he said.
“So, I founded the company in order to keep their whole business and the rest is history,” he added.
Louis Bibeau, President, and CEO, Logistik was selected as a Vanguard Game Changer for the June/July 2021 issue. Here is the full interview with him.
What is your role at your organization today?
As President and CEO, I initiate ideas to redefine the industry’s standards. My mission is to revolutionize the uniform industry and I wish to carry out this vision for Logistik as my legacy. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a strong and versatile young team that will continue the legacy of innovation.
What was your most challenging moment?
Our response to COVID has been an enormous challenge. At the government’s behest, early in the pandemic, we had to pivot our operations and those of our suppliers for urgent PPE production and distribution for health care providers across Canada.
Facing the urgent task of overcoming the PPE shortage, we rallied our partners to bring together the necessary expertise. Adapting to the evolving requirements and scaling up the production of millions of medical-grade gowns put our people, systems, and entire supply chain to the test.
We responded to Canada’s call and the federal government: Logistik produced and provided overall 5 million medical-grade gowns.
What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?
From a small tie company to what Logistik represents today, there was a key moment in 1992 when we secured our first bid with Canada Post. With their trust in the newly founded company, we agreed on a $50M contract that would ignite our operations in the uniform industry.
I convinced Canada Posts that we would dramatically improve quality, service, and the satisfaction of people in uniform while saving them a pile of money: We could create a new paradigm for the uniform industry by fully integrating all of the individual elements of uniform programs, including the complete supply chain within a single managed system, directed at each end-user.
This opened our eyes to so many innovative, game-changing “aha” moments: “We should use sizing that is actually based on measurements!”; “Let’s deliver directly to the customer so they don’t have to go to a store?”; Let’s empower the customer with a point system and flexible ordering options their organization’s funds are spent only on uniforms, Internet ordering, etc.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Keeping Logistik at the forefront of the industry. In addition to technological tools that facilitate manufacturing, traceability, and accuracy, we are working on numerous research projects to continually improve efficiency.
One of the next crucial steps for our industry is the shift to eco-friendly alternatives from popular raw materials such as cotton or polyester. Logistik is taking part in the development of natural fibers extracted from hemp and milkweed.
What is the best advice you received?
“Quit your job and become an entrepreneur,” said a Canadian business leader.
An entrepreneur advised me to leave my job as a civil servant to start a business. I wanted to go beyond office work, to initiate and complete concrete projects that would bring innovation forward. Since then, I have had the freedom to seize opportunities that match my ambitions.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
I was raised on a farm, and I have kept the habit of waking up and starting my day before dawn.
I continue to enjoy this way of life and taking care of my land. I often find myself leaving the field with clearer ideas. Before the day has even started, I know what my next challenges will be and how I intend to overcome them. It keeps me grounded and I always know where I am headed.
I always incorporate reading into my routine; it keeps me up to date on industry and world news and stimulates my ideas. I subscribe to a number of business magazines and industry publications.
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
I have been looking up to Patagonia a lot. I admire their forward-thinking, their way of being ahead of trends by proposing green solutions never presented in the past. They embody the boldness innovation requires to convince users and stakeholders to adopt novel ideas.
How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
Logistik has spearheaded many of the innovations that are now commonplace in our industry. A recent example is the complete integration of RFID technology in our operations, with our suppliers, and even at clients’ own facilities. We are now committed to advancing these technologies with artificial intelligence for our operations. We are also heavily focused on developing alternatives to cotton such as hemp, in order to reduce the environmental impact production.
We have several projects in the works…. But I can’t reveal all of our secrets.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
The Canadian manufacturing industry is depleted of its garment workers, forcing us to redouble efforts to retain local expertise, while competing with globalization. As is the case for most sectors, the workforce is scarce.
With the right investments, the apparel industry would be a major asset for our country. In the face of the pandemic, we witnessed how resourceful and strategically necessary our industry proved to be.
To compete with high-growth, high-margin markets, the apparel industry needs to innovate and take the necessary risks. If we want perennial success, we need to set the ground now, but changing mindsets is not always the easiest of tasks.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Logistik is built on innovation, and the very purpose of its foundation was to reinvent how uniforms are made and delivered to people. Innovation has been key to our success at every stage. From creating an internal raw materials lab at the outset to being the first uniform company to provide web-based ordering, to today’s Artificial Intelligence initiatives across many areas — identifying new and better ways of doing things is the key to business growth and sustainment, in the light of globalization.
For our culture, this is also engrained in continuous improvement, which is not just a mantra but a core requirement from the functional/specialized level to the managerial/executive one. To achieve integration and application across the company we have a full-time process engineer constantly and systematically mapping, reviewing, and challenging our processes and practices at all levels.
We encourage innovation at all levels and surround ourselves with experts in each field to have all the resources necessary for progress. Having our own research and development teams, laboratory, design, and information technology experts allows us to provide the highest quality of service.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
Online solutions are trending and we will see more hassle-free ordering solutions with the assurance of always ordering the right fit. The tools for taking measurements will become more and more advanced.
The garments in themselves are changing, becoming smarter and more adapted to the work environment. Smart textiles and apparel are the new tomorrow, and the possibilities are endless. We are taking part in the overall improvement of textile performance and equipment design, to ensure the safety and comfort of people in uniform.
What is your parting piece of advice?
Encourage people to make a difference, challenge the status quo and create innovative solutions for the future. When obstacles arise, when something is not working the way it should, you must question what is limiting you. Like the five whys of the lean method to find the root cause of an issue, dig into your ideas, and take them further.