August 2018 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Erik Snyder Keeps His Spirits Up

Tags: Logistics, Careers, Supply Chain

Erik Snyder is president of North America supply and procurement with Diageo, a leading premium spirits company and producer of brands including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Smirnoff, and Guinness.

Responsibilities: Oversee Diageo's end-to-end supply chain and procurement operation in North America, including sourcing raw materials, distillation, manufacturing, packaging, planning, and customer service.

Experience: Senior vice president, global logistics; vice president manufacturing, Plainfield Illinois; supply director, Australia; vice president, logistics, North America, and other leadership positions with Diageo; senior manager, logistics, Nabisco; regional operations manager, The Pillsbury Company; zone operations manager, Frito Lay.

Education: B.S., business administration, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 1995


At Diageo, we sell more than 200 brands in 180 countries and operate in 21 geographic markets. To drive efficiencies and process standardization in our global operations, we implemented a new manufacturing management system (MMS) about one year ago.

It involves running "tier one through five" meetings, across all supply operations. Tier one includes frontline employees at our plants and warehouses, and tier five is senior management.

We measure 20 key performance indicators (KPIs) in logistics, manufacturing, customer service, and other functions across all tiers. Within 30 minutes, we know what's going on in the business. It puts a sense of discipline and rigor into our business and makes it clear to business owners what they need to do.

As a result, our case fill rate runs at about 98 percent, up from about 95 percent prior to implementing the MMS. That has helped us cut about $100 million in inventory by turning it more quickly. We also finished our year with zero lost-time accidents.

I gained significant experience when I spent three years with Diageo Australia. My role was similar to what I'm doing in North America, but in a smaller market. It was a huge opportunity to learn how to get things done in a different culture.

First, I had to learn a new distribution system. In Australia, we can sell directly to retailers. In the United States, we're required to go through distributors.

I also learned a lot about working in diverse cultures. For instance, while Americans and Australians speak the same language, the words can be different, for instance tomato sauce versus ketchup. Or, some words can have separate meanings altogether. It taught me to be more thoughtful when choosing my words.

I learned supply chain from the ground up. I went to college to play basketball and hoped to turn it into a career. When a serious injury permanently sidelined me, I took one year off and worked at the distribution center for Weis Markets, a grocery chain in Pennsylvania. I picked orders, ran forklifts, and loaded trucks. When I went back to school, I continued to work full time in supply chain.

I'm proud to have worked for Diageo for 17 years. A commitment to reducing our environmental impact led our North America logistics team to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program to reduce freight-related carbon emissions. Also, we work hard through our Alcohol in Society programs to ensure our products are consumed responsibly.

My job ultimately is to help our organization grow market share by delivering great service, innovation, and cost savings.n

The Big Questions

How would you describe your job to a five year old?

I buy the materials, put all the liquid in a bottle, and get it to our customers at the right time and the right price.

If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world—living or not—who would you invite?

I would invite Warren Buffett because of the way he has built his business; John F. Kennedy because I think that time in history really changed the world; and Martin Luther King because he fundamentally changed the way we view the world.

What words do you try to live by?

Lead through inspiration, support your people, and then get out of their way.

If you had $1 million to start any new venture—business or philanthropic—what would you like to do?

I would start something around education. In my global logistics role, I had the opportunity to travel all over. I saw people who were incredibly bright and had lots of energy, but who lacked the educational opportunities people in the United States have. I'd try to provide education for everyone so they'd have the same opportunities.






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