Matthias Schulz’s career with Ford began just two days after he received his Masters degree in 1987. His path toward leading Ford’s logistics in Europe has a somewhat unexpected origin; he is a mathematics expert, with studies in areas similar to that of Stephen Hawkins.

He started at Ford as an IT specialist, and when he was given an assignment related to logistics, he found it exciting to see “the entire process of order fulfilment, which is essentially turning the wish of a vehicle into reality.” Originally from a small town near Dortmund, Schulz currently lives in Cologne close to Ford’s factory with his family, a teenage son and daughter. He was appointed to his current role in September, after having most recently been responsible for inbound logistics

AUTOMOTIVE LOGISTICS: How do you see the link between your maths background and logistics?

MATTHIAS SCHULZ: They are very related because logistics is everything to do with logic. A true mathematician never works with numbers! In logistics you are driven by a very logical and disciplined approach, and also by analysing data and information. Logistics is turning information into motion.

AL: What do you like most about logistics?

MS: It is an ever-changing environment. We recently opened up a new plant in Craiova [Romania], as well as Russia, both completely new challenges. Logistics is also very important to the ‘One Ford’ vision, which I truly believe in. One Ford is not only about acting globally, but also about linking the entire company together with manufacturing, for which logistics is essential.

AL: What frustrates you in logistics?

MS: That might be too strong a word, but we want to move toward greener logistics. Ford is trying to be ahead of the game, but it takes time to get all logistics parties together between government and the big logistics companies. Sometimes it feels like I’m pushing harder than them. There can be a lot of bureaucracy to work around in these companies when it comes to switching transport modes, for example.

AL: We’ve heard about a number of OEMs switching to road this year. Has using ‘greener’ modes such as rail and sea been harder this past year given the lower price of road?

MS: We actually have not moved a single lane off rail. Sometimes we found that people give up too early and try to cash in quickly on road.

AL: What do you like most about where you live now?

MS: Check out the Cologne carnival and you’ll know what I mean when I say that I love Cologne.

AL: What do you miss most about where you are from?

MS: People from Cologne will hate me for this answer, but the Borussia Dortmund football club.

AL: What is your favourite travel destination and why?

MS: I worked in Argentina for Ford and that was great. You have the jungle in the north, the arctic in the south and the mountains around you. In my private travels, however, I like a very small island called Langeoog off Lower Saxony. It has a beautiful beach, no cars and is very peaceful.

AL: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

MS: A few years ago I started to run. I did my first marathon in Essen. I won’t tell you my time, but I had no problems at all the day after [laughs]. I’d like to get to New York for the marathon.

AL: Are there are any good books that you’ve read lately?

MS: I’m not reading as many books as I’d like to, but recently I rediscovered Stefan Zweig’s, Die Schachnovelle [Chess Novella] , which my 16-year old daughter was reading for school. Zweig was an Austrian-born Jew, exiled to Brazil during the Nazi era. The book deals with, amongst other things, the realities of German- and Austrian-born characters during National socialism.

I do read a lot of magazines, however, and I’d have to say you might have heard of my current favourite: Automotive Logistics.

AL: That’s very kind. What is your favourite band or genre of music?

MS: I like everything, from classical music to punk rock. The last concert I attended with my family was Coldplay, who I like very much. I also discover other music through my kids. Recently I started listening to Rage Against the Machine, which I find very good.

AL: Has the ‘great recession’ changed anything about how you approach life, be it for work or not?

MS: The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no. I have strong beliefs, and the recession has only confirmed them. You need to have a clear plan for what you want to achieve. It can’t be based on a big bubble. It reconfirmed what I always believed in, which is being realistic, and moving in a closely defined direction. There is no quick way to magically generate multi-billion euros of profits.

AL: Finally, what is your top goal for work in 2010?

MS: That’s simple: don’t disappoint my new manager!