Meet Logistics Pro Huntington Wilkinson: Making Moves for JMCC
Huntington Wilkinson has only travelled so far around North America and the Caribbean, but with over a quarter century of experience in custom brokerage, international shipping and logistics, he knows his way around the globe.
As Logistics Officer with JMCC Distribution in Jamaica, Huntington is an essential player in the company’s self-contained supply chain, overseeing the myriad processes and procedures for both getting essential equipment and supplies that can’t be found locally onto the island and for sending our high-quality medical cannabis products – and those of JMCC Distribution’s third-party clients -- on their way to distributors and other customers in Australia, Canada, the UK and Europe.
Huntington has been the in-house compass at JMCC since January 2021 and he is relishing that role. Landing a job at JMCC took patience and determination, but that is Huntington’s life story. Like some shipping routes, the path to his destination was sometimes choppy. However, he has stayed the course and remains on track.
Huntington shared a special bond with his late mother, a single parent who, Huntington said, sacrificed a lot for him. He remains close to his three older sisters who helped raise him –and his three younger brothers whom he helped to raise.
The family lived on a sugar plantation in the parish of St. Catherine, adjacent to Kingston, in a community called Gregory Park. They eventually moved to Portmore, a densely populated dormitory/commuter town, also in St. Catherine. He described that area as one in which mischief-making, begging, smoking and illicit activities were rife. The fact that he didn’t fall into any of those ways was no accident.
“My mom was protective and didn’t allow us to go outside and run around with the others. I credit the church as well because many of the members looked out for us to ensure that we were we on the right path,” he said.
Shortly after earning his diploma from St. Catherine High School, he got a job as a logistics and import/export coordinator at a shipping company. Thereafter, he spent 23 years in different roles – broker clerk, import and export coordinator and operations manager – at another company.
Though Huntington has amassed certificates for courses in accounting, shipping and is completing another in customs brokerage, they are not his endgame.
Major surgery delayed him from taking his spot at the Caribbean Maritime University, (CMU) last year. That was not his first attempt at becoming a college graduate. He thought he had completed a degree in business administration earlier, but later found out that the college was not accredited. However, come September 2021, he will begin a logistics and supply chain management degree at CMU.
What is your fascination with logistics and shipping?
I’d gotten to know a lot of people around the world during my import/export coordination work. I also get to learn about other cultures and how thing are done elsewhere.
The industry also causes me to think strategically when I’m trying to move a product from here to its final destination, wherever that may be, securely and cost effectively. Whenever something is not working out, I sit up at nights and think about it until I figure it out. That satisfies me.
How did you come to JMCC?
I realized it was time to do something else. I was not going to get another promotion (at my previous employer) because it was a family business.
I did all the import brokerage work for JMCC through my previous company. Through that work, and providing ongoing advice, I developed a good relationship with John (John O’Neill, Global Head of Logistics & Distribution) and Ashley (Ashley Foster, Chief Legal, Compliance & Regulatory Officer). I enquired if there were vacancies at JMCC but there weren’t at the time. It took almost two years before the right spot became available. I was surprised and pleased when I did get that call.”
“Huntington had shown a great level of detail and diligence in his work with JMCC on our earlier imports, which led to my decision to offer him the position of Logistics Officer. He is thoughtful and detail oriented, paying close attention to all of the small particulars when working on a task. Plus, he’s a complete pleasure to work with,” John O’Neill noted.
What does your job entail as Logistics Officer?
I prepare documents for testing and routing plans from Montego to wherever the testing facility is located. I prepare the documents on the export side, get the approvals, book the cargo and see the shipment through to its final destination and into the hands of the consignee.
I have to be very detailed because we have to submit a plan to the Cannabis Licencing Authority (CLA) before there is any movement of anything containing cannabis be it young plants, testing samples going to the lab or final product. Our shipments are all secured with outriders, security personnel and police. If there are diversions, we have to have alternative plans in place because we have to preserve and secure the product at all cost. Track-and-trace and related recommendations here in Jamaica are very strict and actively enforced by the CLA.
How do you build relationships with the people/agencies that you rely on?
It is similar to how I ended up at JMCC. I try to communicate with them regularly. I generally call to see if there are updates, I remain cordial and we can call on each other for anything. If I have a query about a document, I can send a message at any time day or night and I know I will get a prompt response.
How do you maintain collegial relations and the culture within JMCC being that you’ve been working remotely due to Covid?
Our weekly meetings and reports help. Since coming on board, I have been able to share critical information with members of the team that has helped to improve our processes. I have also benefitted from the knowledge and experience of those who have been with JMCC much longer.
How is working in the medical cannabis industry different than what you have done previously?
It is really fascinating. I am motivated by the possibility of easing pain and improving people’s quality of life. I volunteer with folks who are taking many different medications per day. Wouldn’t it be good if cannabis could provide a better way for them? It is part of the reason I am so passionate about this job.
What are some of the constraints you’ve encountered and how do you deal with them?
The newness of the industry still poses challenges. We don’t know everything yet but once I follow the established procedures and take care of the details, there is not a lot to worry about.
Interest in logistics as a career seems to be growing in Jamaica. Why do you think that is the case?
Within the past decade, new ports were being opened here and elsewhere, and the Panama Canal was being enlarged. Jamaica was emerging as a strategically situated trans-shipment port, so I can understand the attraction to the industry as so many new opportunities were being created.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
I want to complete the bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in supply chain management. Then, I have to do a PhD. It is a must. I want to become a university lecturer eventually.
What do you do for fun?
I am the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (a voluntary organization in the Catholic church) and treasurer for the national council. I also volunteer at our senior’s home.
I love going to be beach and having a drink. Other times, I like going to the Kingston waterfront to relax and look out. I like the mountains and hiking. I can’t wait for Covid 19 to be behind us so that I can get back to the things l love. Right now, it is just work, home and sleep.