Faculty Spotlight: Seckin Ozkul's Specialty: Moving Freight Safely and Efficiently
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (August 23, 2019) -- Moving loads of freight from one place to another is what Seckin Ozkul is all about. For years, even before he became a faculty member in the Muma College of Business’ Marketing Department, he studied the best ways to get freight from one location to the next with high efficiency and reliability. He has amassed a world of knowledge on this topic and his expertise was recognized recently with an appointment as an adviser to the Florida Department of Transportation’s multimodal freight transportation/logistics planning effort.
For the next three years, Ozkul, who teaches and conducts research on operations and supply chain management, will offer advice to transportation policy makers on how to make Florida realize its goal of being a global hub for commerce. His objective: to enhance the benefits of every mode of freight transportation and improve intermodal connectivity throughout the state.
It’s a big responsibility, one Ozkul is ready to assume.
“I believe I have been appointed to this position because I’ve lead a multitude of research projects for the state over the past five years and they wanted to consult my expertise in freight optimization and planning,” he said.
Specifically, his research has looked at the optimization of locations for creating freight activity centers, or clusters of logistics firms located in one area and not spread around the state.
“The advancement of these locations is key. It would optimize investments while also serving the interests of freight companies as well,” he said. “Ultimately this could increase employment through new logistics companies moving to Florida, increase state taxes paid by these companies, improve road safety through strategic investments and reduce costs for products.”
With Florida’s abundance of seaports, airports, rail lines and highway connections, the state is poised to become a hub for global business and growing the logistics side of things is paramount to making that happen, Ozkul said. Already building is the commerce between the state and Latin America, Europe, Africa and, through the Panama Canal, the Asian markets.
One major obstacle to efficient freight movement within the United States are trucks that bring goods to Florida, but leave half-empty/empty for the return trips. Local residents pay a price for products that include shipping and that empty truck heading back north is rolled into that cost, essentially forcing local consumers to pay more for the product.
“The price of goods would drop,” Ozkul said, “if we can effectively solve the freight imbalance.” He has very recently lead a statewide research project, together with Muma College of Business Professor Donna Davis, that looked into generating solutions for this imbalance.
However, that’s just one of many issues Ozkul will tackle during his tenure as an adviser to Florida Department of Transportation.
“My job is to help steer Florida into the direction where investments achieve the state’s global hub initiative,” he said. “My appointment will examine the optimization of our funds to get the biggest bang for our buck.”
Supply chain management is an emerging field of study and a growing opportunity for business graduates. The Muma College of Business's Marketing Department offers a new major in the field, starting this fall, through the support of the Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability. Graduates will find plenty of jobs in the widening field, with higher than normal salaries.
U.S. News & World Report has predicted that logistics jobs will expand by 7 percent – more than 10,000 jobs – over the next several years and identified logistics as one of the "20 Best Business Jobs." Median salaries for logistics and supply chain management positions hover around $75,000 a year. The center, along with Ozkul’s appointment, puts USF in the forefront of this trend.
“It further establishes USF’s freight expertise within the state, compared to other universities,” Ozkul said. “Being at the table will help us develop and receive future funding for our research because the state knows we utilize cutting edge freight/logistics planning and research. The state may turn to us for future transportation projects involving freight planning and that means additional funding, locally, statewide and at the national level as well.”
The state invests $10 billion a year in transportation and approximately $1 billion of that goes into handling freight. Some of that money goes into buying cranes at ports and building infrastructure to get goods out of and into airports and rail stations more efficiently. Some is spent on highway improvements to safely and reliably get goods to where they are destined.
“For the people,” Ozkul said, “this is taxpayer money and through my appointment I will look to help optimize how that money gets spent to achieve the best results.”