A proud history in supply chain logistics: Philip Norman

An economist by trade, with deep roots in transport, Philip Norman has had a hand in shaping our industry. His latest work in progress is a container handling concept which could streamline intermodal operations in Victoria.

Philip Norman was born in Hawthorn, Victoria, in 1949. His family firm was Norman Bros Stationers which was established in 1898; it was the Officeworks equivalent of the time. His father, Howard Norman, died in 1959 leaving his mother, Jean, to manage the business which had 400 employees.

Philip went on to study mathematics and economics. During the holidays he would work for the business. His first vacation job came along in 1963 when Norman Bros had its own delivery fleet. In 1977, he joined BHP Minerals and learnt something about railways and ships carrying iron ore.

Back at Norman Bros in 1979, Philip learnt more about shipping as they exported stationery to a Bookshop in Honiara, the Solomon Islands. The firm switched from rail to road in supplying the Shepparton branch and by 1988 Philip learnt how to transport sewage in pipes.

From 1990 to 1996, Philip was secretary of the Transport Task Force of the Business Council of Australia at a time of great reform. At around 1999 he was Manager Ports and Grain Handling in what is now named the Essential Services Commission in the Victorian public service.

“There has been a move away from owning an internal fleet towards using large specialist firms,” Philip says. “Rail lost market share. Coastal shipping collapsed. Competition law began to be enforced. Trucking boomed.”

Philip had a small role in the 1991 establishment and economic framework of the National Road Transport Commission now National Transport Commission which allows Performance-Based Standards (PBS) regulations to change to accommodate technical progress.

Philip Norman speaking at the VTA annual conference.

At this year’s Victorian Transport Association (VTA) State Conference, held in March, Philip spoke about moving international shipping containers slowly using patented technology from the Port of Melbourne to the freight hub at Truganina.

“We need a pipe of internal diameter 5m,” he says. “We attach steel wheels to rails about the mid height of the pipeline walls. We use the structure of the container as a chassis, supporting it by two cradles at each end – 20 kph is our speed. Pipes each way to take full and empty containers. Many containers can be stored in our slow-moving inventory.”

Of the people in the transport industry, Philip admires Peter Anderson, the CEO of the VTA. “Peter Anderson is a true leader at all levels and thinks strategically,” he says. “ It was wonderful privilege to be invited to speak to the excellent VTA annual conference.”

Industry Icon
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.