Oct. 29, 2021

#10 - Michael Stolarczyk. Why planning is more important than plans.

#10 - Michael Stolarczyk. Why planning is more important than plans.

Michael Stolarczyk is Senior Vice President, CakeBoxx Technologies. He has held various C-level roles with companies like Ports America, Kontane Logistics, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and he spent 17 years with the A. P. Moller Maersk Group.

In 2002, his efforts led to Maersk’s quantum growth in Central Europe, and he was named to Fast Company magazine’s debut “Fast 50" list of Global Innovators.

Michael published his first book, “Logical Logistics – A Common Sense Primer for your Supply Chain” in  2011. In 2013, he was named Port Executive of the Year by Global Supply Chain Management Leaders.   

He earned a BSBA in Organizational Design and Development from West Virginia University and is a founding member, and currently sits on the board of, the Almost Heaven Scholarship Fund, and is also a 15 year member of West Virginia University's John Chambers School of Business and Economics.  

Prior to joining CakeBoxx Technologies in March 2020, he did stints at Veristor Systems and Microsoft, where he was Director of Global Logistics in Asia.

We talk about the innovations that CakeBoxx Technologies have brought to shipping and the value of continuous business planning for thriving in disruptive times.

Highlights and take-aways

CakeBoxx Technologies is a bespoke engineered container solution. It's a twist on the classic intermodal container that you see every day, where it's a reinforced flat deck that could be loaded onto a ship, but the top of the container comes off so that the actual twist locks and seal is between the top of the container and the and the deck. This adds multiple levels of security, especially versions that don't have the traditional end doors on them. Companies like Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, even Danish wind power company Vestas, require specific transportation solutions.

CakeBoxx containers allow such companies to avoid having to use break bulk shipping that can struggle to stay on schedule. The design also allows 360 degrees access to the payload so you can stow and lash it in a much more efficient manner, without having to use a lot of dunnage. Loading and unloading can also be much faster.

This innovation grew out of the frustration of wasting time unloading equipment and needing specialists to unload and distribute the payload, plus the risk of injury from working in standard containers. 

The CakeBoxx business model is very different from those of traditional container makers. The processes around design and engineering the right deck for each specialized cargo is as important as the hardware. That also means that, while traditional IP protection avenues like patenting are important, the relationships and customer experience are not easy to copy and paste.

With customers like Boeing, Lockheed and General Dynamics, the high level of trust required takes a long time to build. This includes being very careful about data. CakeBoxx therefore do monthly training on updating awareness and systems to protect customer and internal data.

Using an outside organization to train your employees on cyber security is often effective. It doesn’t require a lot of time, but because the threat landscape changes rapidly, the refresher training needs to be frequent, say monthly.

CakeBoxx work with a partner that consistently sends fake notes to staff to check if they'll click on links etc., as part of such constant training and awareness building, 

Plans are useless, planning is priceless. Business continuity planning should be done continuously throughout your whole organization, from human resources to operations to sales. Specific individuals need to be responsible for various scenarios, for example an accident that cuts off the electricity supply to your warehouse. Michael recommends tabletop exercises on an annual or biannual basis to work out how to manage various scenarios. 

As the pace of disruption keeps increasing, switching between optimizing and innovating also needs to speed up to keep up. Top management needs to be in touch with the front lines, the people facing the customers and operations, now more than ever. You can’t afford a lag between your model of the world and reality. 

You must create a culture that supports this and you must empower the believers within that culture. Genuine empathy and respect is needed to foster the desire and the willingness to take on responsibility. Training and education and allowing for risks to be taken and mistakes to be made - but new mistakes, because we must learn from our mistakes so as to not repeat them.

Maritime Makers Quality Quotes

“If you have the same kind of people all sitting around the table, you're not going to get anywhere. You need to have people that challenge you, you need to have people that are different from you.” - Michael Stolarczyk

“If you make a new mistake, and you learn from it, that means you and your organization are learning, growing, and evolving.” - Michael Stolarczyk


CakeBoxx Technologies.