Well over 18 months ago I learned that Ron Bone was stepping down as SVP of Distribution Support at McKesson. He immediately became a solo consultant and was engaged directly with McKesson again, but this time he filled a part-time role. This was Ron’s way of staying connected with the activities at McKesson related to meeting the federal Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) which was on its journey toward enactment, and it was McKesson’s way of maintaining continuity in those efforts. Win-win.
Ron originally intended to fully retire last July…then December…and now, someday. Does anyone think it will happen this time? Frankly, I hope not. I think Ron is having too much fun, and everyone in the industry who knows him enjoys having Ron engaged as much as he is willing. So take your time Ron. No need to rush.
Like Bob Celeste, who departed GS1 US last month after serving as the lead traceability facilitator and motivator for the U.S. pharma supply chain (see “Thank You Bob Celeste!”), Ron was one of the founding members of the EPCglobal Healthcare and Life Sciences (HLS) Business Action Group (BAG) serving as one of the first Tri-Chairs along with Pat Rizzotto of J&J and Jack DeAlmo of CVS (now CVS Health) and he was one of the longest serving in that role. The HLS is where I first met Ron. I was a representative from Cardinal Health at the time.
Of course, McKesson and Cardinal Health were, and are, competitors so our interactions were always conducted under the tight controls of the EPCglobal (and GS1) anti-trust rules, but both companies participated equally, along with AmerisourceBergen and many other companies, in a drive to figure out how the supply chain could meet the various state ePedigree laws as efficiently for everyone as possible. Just like today in the GS1 Healthcare and GS1 Healthcare US groups, the goal back then was to find the lowest cost way to meet those laws (and now the DSCSA), and we all knew that meant using some type of data standards, so EPCglobal and then GS1 were the right places for us to congregate.
I have many fond memories of brainstorming with the group and working through ideas. It was always a pleasure to do that when Ron was present because he had worked for McKesson since 1972. He served McKesson in various capacities over his 42 year career with the company so he knows all the industry history over that time, and he knows exactly how the supply chain works in all its complexity. He can explain just about anything about it.
That incredible loyalty between company and employee is rare these days. My dad worked in the same school district in Galva, Illinois for more than 35 years before he was forced to retire due to my mom’s illness. I lasted 18 ½ years with my third employer (PCC), but I’ve always admired those who were able to find a great organization and figuratively “surf” it through multiple roles for their entire career like Ron and my dad. That kind of loyalty needs to run both ways. McKesson was lucky to find Ron when he was so young, but Ron was lucky to find McKesson at that time too, I think.
Ron’s success at McKesson certainly has a great deal to do with his cheerful outlook and his willingness to help others. I think many who were regular members of the HLS group and the follow-on groups would agree that Ron was something of an inspirational mentor in our careers. Not because he offered any career advice, but because he set such a glowing example of someone with seemingly infinite knowledge, the ability to communicate it, and the willingness to cheerfully tolerate a steady stream of questions from those of us who had a thirst for that kind of knowledge. And he would listen to the ideas of others, and adopt and extend those that he agreed with. Ron was the perfect member on our industry work groups. With him around, we always made sound progress.
I asked Ron to provide us with a little bit of history about his beginnings with McKesson. I asked him if he started with the company right after college or perhaps after military service. Here is what he told me:
“I was commissioned in the Army upon graduation from college in 1969 and allowed to complete my Business MBA with concentration in computer science before entering active duty. I spent my first 9 months of active duty at the Adjutant General School and then became the Post Systems Analyst at Ft Lee, VA. In those days I was an IT hot shot (such as it was in those days) and graduated at the top of my class. My job was to set up and conduct computer simulations for logistics General Officers using an RCA Spectra 70 60 series which was one of the biggest beast of the day.
About that time the Pentagon decided they had a real war going that would adequately train the logistics generals and I got orders for Vietnam. I was Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of a company responsible for 10,000 troops in the center of Vietnam. Part of our role was running the data center for this section of the country. We were very good at what we did.
What I did in Vietnam caught the attention of the 6th Army and I was assigned to FT MacArthur in Southern California to computerize the Morning Report – if you don’t have military experience the military takes an exception (those missing for some reason) headcount of everyone in the service each morning. I spent between September and November 1971 leading a team to computerize this sacred document.
I left the military in November to return to the Bay Area with the assumption my computer science teaching job at Chabot College was still available. Due to the sad state of the economy it turned out the job was only ¾ time. I had to find a real job so I interviewed with McKesson & Robbins Drug Company for a trainee position. They were looking for someone with operations and computer skills as they were just beginning to roll out computers to the DCs. For me, it was just to fill the time until the enrollment in the college increased enough to necessitate another full time position. The rest is history. My dad worked for PG&E for 43 years so company loyalty must have been in the blood.”
Incredible! Thank you Ron for your service to the country, and to patients everywhere. We are all glad we know you. Have a wonderful retirement…whenever you get there.