January 2008 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Jamie Meadows: He's Got Your Back

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Jamie Meadows was still completing his college degree when he reported for a summer job at ConAgra Foods in Newport, Tenn. The plant was adding a new ketchup production line and needed some reorganization.

"The plant engineer called me into his office, threw a blueprint on the table, and said, 'Design our warehouse,'" Meadows says. So he designed it.

Meadows, a logistics and transportation major, then went on to redesign several more warehouse spaces to optimize product storage and movement. "That became my niche," he says.

Today, though, Meadows finds his niche not in ketchup, but in the delicate world of spinal surgery. Meadows is vice president of operations at Golden Rule Medical, a leading distributor for Zimmer Spine. Zimmer manufactures implants that bring relief to patients with spinal problems. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Golden Rule sells its products in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Working closely with Golden Rule's sales representatives, Meadows manages the company's inventory, forecasts demand, and makes sure that surgeons have the implants they need for every surgery.

That's a much different challenge than handling condiments, or even nuclear weapons components, as Meadows did while working for BWXT at the U.S. Department of Energy's Y-12 facility. "When you deal with a person's well-being, there's zero room for error," he says.

To make sure surgeons have the materials they need, Golden Rule consigns inventory to hospitals, and some sales reps hold inventory as well. Meadows manages the consignment agreements.

He also tracks current usage and historical trends to anticipate future needs.

For example, demand usually spikes toward the end of the year, as patients rush to schedule surgeries before their new insurance deductibles kick in.

To keep up with customers' near-term requirements, Meadows works closely with sales reps. "I receive surgery schedules from them weekly," he says. "Whenever new cases are added, they immediately send me the information so I can plan for future surgeries."

The more accurately Meadows anticipates demand, the less likely he'll be called upon late at night to jump in his car and drive for hours to hand-deliver a crucial implant for an unexpected surgery. But he has made those trips before, and he'll make them again, he says.

Meadows takes his company's name, and the philosophy behind it, to heart. "If I were lying on the operating table, I would hope somebody would put forth the extra effort to make sure things are right," he says.

With such a critical product, it's tempting to keep a lot of buffer stock. But while he's responsible to surgeons and patients, like any supply chain manager, Meadows also is responsible to corporate management.

"They watch our inventory turns and see what's moving and what's not," he says. "If inventory turns start slacking, then people knock on my door, and send e-mails asking, 'What's going on?'"

Apparently, those knocks on the door come rarely. Meadows, who has twice been awarded the title of "Operations Manager of the Year" from Zimmer Spine, says he has reduced inventory costs at Golden Rule by $4.3 million.

Balancing business interests and human imperatives makes for a tricky juggling act, Meadows concedes. "It's not like moving widgets. These implants affect somebody's parent or child. I always keep that in mind."

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

I love to spend time with my family. My wife and I are proud parents of nine-month-old twins, a boy and a girl, so we've got our hands full. I try to play golf when I have the chance. I'm intrigued by real estate investment, and I own investment property.

Ideal dinner companion?

It's a toss-up between Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Tiger Woods.

What's in your briefcase?

My laptop, a notebook, and a new bar- code manual that I developed to help streamline our auditing processes.

Business motto?

There's zero room for error, and my responsibility is to make it happen.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

Either Tiger Woods' caddy or Peyton Manning's backup.

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