Education: B.S. Marketing from Arizona State University.
My job: Overseeing the Operations for Fairytale Brownies, which includes, but is not limited to: Baking Production, Food Safety, Food Defense, Product Distribution, Service, Human Resources, Facility Operations and New Product. Development.
Which best describes your career path? I started my career in a different field and, over time, decided logistics/operations was a better fit for me.
Which of the following resources have helped you in learning to become a logistics/operations professional? College/University; Mentors (both outside & on the job); On the Job/Experiential; Self-study.
My first job in retail operations was: Shipping Team Member/Market Sales at Fairytale Brownies, Inc. Ship gifts and sell brownies at farmer’s markets, festivals and various events. Assisted in the kitchen as needed.
I’ve been in this field for: 22 Years
I’ve been in this role for: 15 Years
Roughly, what percent of your company’s operations team are women? 75%.
What is the most interesting part of your job and why? I really enjoy large contract negotiations. I get giddy when I know I can save the company a lot of money, without sacrificing quality or standards. Many of our items are commodities, so it’s watching the market and determining what to buy and when, but also taking into consideration our space constraints and how the production schedule is flowing. Many items come from overseas. We use very specific ingredients, in particular our chocolate. We buy the raw chocolate liquor from Callebaut by the container load, so I always have to be cognizant of what is going on in the world and how it might impact us directly. I also have to be mindful of the long lead times on the water to get the product here. Not many companies in the U.S. use the raw chocolate liquor (specifically Callebaut), so I can’t easily go to another vendor for a substitute if we run out. Our recipes are very specific and baking is not like cooking, any minor change can present a noticeable difference in the product outcome.
What is the most challenging part of your job and why? Seasonal staffing. We run year round with about 40 regular team members, but ramp up with about 120 temporary team members for peak season. Beginning in late July we start the hiring process and it continues up through October. We normally run one shift for production, but during this time we ramp to 3 shifts and run 24/7. We hire across the board for production, shipping and customer service. We hire direct without the use of agencies, so it’s a big task for my small team, but we have quite a few returning team members each year.
The majority of them know our hiring patterns and return each year of their own accord, it works well with other things they do off season. Returning team members get a higher pay rate and we also offer attendance bonuses, product discounts, gift card drawings and free product rejects when available. At the end of each season we host a luncheon for the team members and we usually send them home with a nice assortment of brownie gifts, just in time for the holidays!
When looking to hire logistics/operations managers, what techniques produce the best results? Networking; Working with specialized recruitment firms and consultants; Promoting from within your current team; Advertising.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in logistics/operations? Securing our own egg shelling machine (on very short notice) in 2015 and successfully completing the season’s production. We normally buy whole liquid egg, but the Avian Flu virtually depleted the market right as were going to ramp up. In terms of machines, it was a minimal investment, and it saved our season. As soon as I found out the Avian Flu was going to impact us, I sourced the machine and we were back in business. Everyone else in the industry had the same idea and the machine was very soon on back order. Fortunately, I got our order in at the start of the crisis and we received our machine just in time. We were only able to source shell eggs at the time, and very little frozen supply of liquid, but with one small machine we were able to successfully process over 80,000 lbs of eggs and complete our season’s production early.
Continually score “Superior” ratings on all our Food Safety/HACCP/GMP Inspections.
Maintain a litigation free environment. In 24 years of business, Fairytale Brownies has never had an employee lawsuit. Early on in my career with Fairytale Brownies, I became a certified employment mediator, which I believe has helped. We have always been about doing the right thing and it has paid off.
If asked by another woman interested in the field of logistics/operations, what would you list as the pros and cons? I suppose I don’t really view it in terms of pros or cons, I might just say that because it is a traditionally male-dominated field, you tend to have to prove yourself a little more, but you can be successful. The field seems to be opening up to more and more women, which is a great thing. I think women bring a different perspective, which lends itself to different ways of solving problems and dealing with situations.
We had an open position for a Production Team Leader (we use the title Team Leader instead of Manager), but instead of going into recruiting mode and automatically looking to fill the position, I opted to view things differently. I knew we had struggled in the past to bring on someone who would manage diplomatically and really work with our team members on the production floor, someone who would subscribe to our commitment of quality and how we do things at Fairytale Brownies. We’d had production team leaders in the past who were all about the numbers, even if it meant sacrificing quality and team morale in order to reach their goals. This is not part of our company culture, but I realize at other facilities it can sometimes be the norm and the numbers are all that matter. So, I really looked at the team and how we might do things differently this time, and together we figured out a way to run the department with the resources we had on hand. Consequently, a few of the team members have really stepped up to the plate and are utilizing more of their skills. The Assistant Team Leader, Vanesa Rodriguez, continues to learn and flourish in her role (she is currently my mentee in Operations). Ultimately, I oversee the entire department, but as far as the day-to-day operations, the team is self-sufficient and running more effectively than ever before. We improved the production time-line, reduced costs, reduced rejects and waste, maintained our high quality standards, and significantly improved team morale.
Are you currently mentoring other women interested in logistics? Yes
See which Women in Operations were profiled in the September 2016 issue of Multichannel Merchant: