A Passion for Supply Chain: Interview with Jacques Chaput
Jacques Chaput, HealthPRO’s Business Director of Pharmacy, is retiring after making his mark in this evolving and challenging field.
Jacques wrote his last exam for his Bachelor of Commerce degree on a Friday in 1981 and started his first job in healthcare distribution the following Monday. Now, three decades later, he feels fortunate to have played a role in the evolution of supply chain into a field that’s respected for its ability to innovate and reduce cost pressures in the system.
We spoke with Jacques as he reflected on his thirty years in the industry.
What made you decide to get into the healthcare business over 30 years ago?
I really hadn’t thought that much about what field I was going to work in. Fortunately, I landed in healthcare distribution where I was able to use my skill with math and numbers to do business forecasting, a relief because I didn’t want to be an accountant! My first job was with a small healthcare distributor, Dynatech in Etobicoke. There were 12 of us and we bought and imported supplies into Canadian hospitals. When our largest supplier cut us out and went direct, we lost half our business and I could see the writing on the wall.
Looking for a job was a lot easier in those days. I responded to an ad in the newspaper for a company called Baxter. I sent in a resume and started there in August 1988.
How do you think your colleagues (past and present) would describe their experience working with you?
I think I’m a pretty laid-back guy, definitely not in your face. I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker. I learned that from my grandmother who always said, when you start talking before you listen, you let people know how little you know.
Did you see the impact of technology pretty early in your career in the supply chain?
This was the 80s, and they were already looking for ways to do things faster, better and cheaper. As fuel got more expensive, distribution costs went up. It was getting more expensive to move boxes, especially when those boxes (like the ones we shipped from Baxter) were filled with water. For that reason, the supply chain got more of the limelight. These were profit-driven companies and we were under pressure to meet our numbers.
One of the things you quickly learn in the supply chain is that you don’t have control over everything, so you learn how to make the best of the situation in front of you. You have to stay light on your feet because change can happen in a minute.
What are the most significant challenges you see ahead, and thoughts on how we can tackle them?
When it comes to healthcare, taxpayers want affordable medications, MRIs and faster, quality services.
It can be a challenge to continue to find ways to reduce costs, but with that challenge comes opportunity and there is heightened interest in procurement as a way of saving money.
I think that to make best use of the taxpayer dollar going forward, we also need to make the best use of our national buying power. Canada may seem big, but we’re very small globally speaking. We’re seeing this happen more and more from national pharmacare to the Federation of Premiers and the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance.
Whenever we’re able to consolidate buying power on things that all hospitals use, the better value we’ll achieve – it’s just simple economics.
The most successful provinces across the country have adopted this model – pooling national volumes on commodities they all use while focusing provincial efforts on more specialized products.
It’s exciting to see our industry committed to doing things better and getting better value for money for taxpayers.
What have been some of your proudest achievements during your career?
It always feels good to tell people I work in healthcare. It’s easy to feel proud of our contribution. You only have to walk into a hospital and see one of the products that you helped get there and that brings it all together.
How would you summarize the last 30 years in one sentence?
One sentence! That’s pretty tough. It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years. If I said to a young person today that they would be working in a certain field for 30 years, they might look at me with horror! But when you do it one day at a time, only when it’s done do you realize it’s been that long. And it’s not just work – you have a personal life too, which also helps it go faster. I don’t really see it as 30 years – just two-year stints done 15 times!
What advice do you have for your colleagues?
My main advice for someone working in the supply chain field is that this is a small world and you shouldn’t burn bridges. The person working for you today could be your boss a couple of years down the road. Take the long view and treat every person with respect. I also advise people to build their network – my relationship with industry colleagues like Liana Scott, HealthPRO’s VP, Member Support and Cynthia Valaitis, our CEO, was what convinced me to come to HealthPRO. It’s been wonderful working with such high-quality people who do everything with the patient in mind.
What are your plans for retirement?
Aside from vacation time, I have worked every Monday to Friday since 1981 so I’m looking forward to doing things that take longer than two weeks. My wife is already retired – we’ll be travelling and hopefully going somewhere warmer in January and February!