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Distribution Analytics Pioneer Stephen Pearce Dies at 68

Distribution industry loses leading thinker in inventory management and asset optimization.
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The distribution industry lost one of its leading thinkers in inventory management and asset optimization a month ago when Stephen Lamar Pearce, 68, died on Sept. 29, 2019. He built an impressive career as an educator, consultant and speaker who helped industrial distributors and global manufacturers save millions of dollars by managing their inventory more effectively and efficiently based on his guidance. 

After serving in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s, Dr. Pearce attended Texas A&M University where he received a B.S. in Industrial Technology in 1978, an MBA in 1985, and a PhD in 1995. He then served at Texas A&M University for 11 years as Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology and Assistant Director for Research at the Thomas A. Read Center for Distribution Research. He taught many students at Texas A&M in the art and science of distribution inventory management, and had many devoted students whose careers he helped develop. 

Dr. Pearce continued to build a successful career as a consultant and speaker on best-practice inventory management practices, the quality process and use of bar codes in distribution, among other subjects.

In addition to his work and consulting in inventory and asset management, he was an early pioneer in the application of Activity Based Costing in distribution, at a time when the industry was focused more on quality control programs to meet customer requirements than proactive internal analytics programs that could significantly impact the bottom line. He was also the co-author of Strategic MRO, A Roadmap for Transforming Assets into Strategic Advantage, published in 2002. The book outlined a best-practice methodology to improve performance and maximize return on assets for an organization’s MRO supply chain.

At the time of his death, Dr. Pearce was Vice President of Research & Development, as well as a partner and co-founder in 2006, of Xtivity, London, Ontario, a global professional services firm that provides optimization solutions for asset and inventory lifecycle management to manufacturing, mining and other industries that manage large MRO inventories. He brought to the company his deep understanding of supply chain processes to identify waste and process breakdowns in multi-million-dollar manufacturing operations.

I worked with Stephen on several projects in the early 2000s and learned a lot about core distribution operational analytics. He was pragmatic and methodical when it came to distribution processes. Stephen attacked any subject he concentrated on with a 150% attitude.

That extended to his love for flying and airplanes. An excellent pilot, he owned a Citabria, an aerobatic airplane, and was also passionate about antique airplane restoration, including a 1930s Stearman biplane. As an accomplished machinist, he crafted aviation replacement parts and engine components. We shared a love for flying. He generously let me fly his plane, and one time took me out along the Brazos River in Texas near his home in Bryan, where in addition to a few beautifully executed maneuvers, he landed us under a power line on final approach into a corn field – not FAA-approved but one of the more memorable and fun landings of my life.

Dr. Pearce’s career advanced distribution and manufacturing inventory management practices, and continues to impact the performance and efficiency levels of distribution and manufacturing operations globally.

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