Q&A with Lenox’s Greg Petro: Collecting Ops Wisdom

Greg Petro is the vice president of distribution for Bristol, PA-based collectibles manufacturer/marketer Lenox Group. A seasoned executive, Petro previously worked in operational roles at Revlon, Packaging Corp. of America, Baker & Taylor, Popular Club Plan, and Dr. Leonard’s Healthcare, among other companies. Petro has combined, eliminated, and created facilities, operations, and systems for wholesale, retail, and direct-to-consumer businesses.

In 2004, Lenox opened a 500,000 sq.-ft. wholesale and retail distribution center. Though the launch went far from smoothly — mostly due to a lack of training and the classic struggle between the marketing department’s vision vs. the operations department’s ability to meet that vision — it is now Lenox’s highly efficient flagship distribution facility.

What’s your biggest challenge in the distribution center?

Maintaining profitability in nonpeak time periods.

If I weren’t in operations, I’d be in…

Customer service, because without customers, nothing else matters.

You’ve worked at many direct-to-consumer operations. Is there any one thing they all have in common?

They are all usually highly seasonal, and your largest variable costs are labor, packaging, and transportation. Efforts are continually focused on reducing costs in those key areas of the profit-and-loss statement.

Can you tell me about an interesting work-around in your DC?

“Operations management” is really code for “how successful can you be when everything is going wrong, systems fail, deliveries go awry, and there is never enough labor when you really need it to meet your customers’ requirements in the most cost-effective and timely manner.” Essentially our days are one large work-around all blended together.

Describe your “welcome to operations” moment.

I was an industrial engineer working on a DC improvement project that I was trying to get the management team to implement. As management resisted, the operation continued to fail, and eventually, the manager spearheading the project was released. They then turned to me and said, “Okay, now you’re the manager, so go make your project happen.” Well, what I thought looked so great on paper and so easy to implement was really a lot of hard work. We made the project happen, and it was very successful, but I really had a terrific, albeit slightly embarrassing, work experience and bridge into operations.

If money were no object, what sort of equipment would you bring into your operation?

Being on a tight budget and always focused on using existing resources, I don’t know how to answer this question. I think that our material handling equipment, automation direction equipment, and direct-to-trailer lines along with equipment for our growing personalization businesses would continually have my finance department’s attention.

What’s the most interesting possession in your office?

My personally autographed photo of hockey legend Bobby Orr.

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