January 2009 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Jennifer Hughey: Cleaning Up

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Jennifer Hughey wasn't looking for a career in logistics. But somehow, it sucked her in.

In 2003, Hughey was senior finance manager at Whirlpool Corp. when her former boss, Dan Clifford, recruited her to join him at The Eureka Company. Clifford, president of Eureka, now called Electrolux Home Care Products North America, wanted Hughey to develop a strategy to boost the firm's bottom line.

First as a consultant, then as an executive, Hughey concentrated on aftermarket sales and consumer services. Next, Clifford asked her to take on logistics as well. Hughey didn't have a supply chain and logistics background, but she had just earned an MBA, and Clifford felt she possessed the right skills. Nine months later, the company named her vice president, supply chain. In this role, she oversees demand and supply planning, manages inbound transportation, runs the distribution center (DC), and supervises product flow to retail chains.

A unit of Sweden's AB Electrolux, Electrolux Home Care Products North America, based in Peoria, Ill., sells floor cleaners under the names Eureka, Electrolux, Sanitaire, and Beam. Hughey arrived at the company just in time to take part in a major transformation. As the vacuum cleaner industry saw consumer pricing drop, Electrolux cut back its North American production and started sourcing most of its products from Asia.

"We transitioned quickly, without investing in the right systems," Hughey recalls.

A solid supply chain partnership helped solve the problem. DHL handled freight forwarding for inbound shipments, and Electrolux used the forwarder's Log-Net system to track goods in transit.

"When you increase the volume of containers shipped from 1,000 to 5,000, you appreciate that visibility," says Hughey.

Other improvements included creating a foreign trade zone (FTZ) at Electrolux's DC in El Paso, Texas. Finished goods and components that the company imports to the facility don't have to clear customs until Electrolux ships products into U.S. commerce, which saves on duties and fees. Electrolux also doesn't have to pay duties on components it imports to El Paso, then ships to its plant in Juarez, Mexico.

Recently, Electrolux started using Logility's Voyager solution to help forecast customer demand, a function the company had been handling mainly with Excel spreadsheets.

"The starting point of any great supply chain is the forecast," Hughey says. "If the forecast isn't accurate, then the wrong products will be on the ocean and in the DC."

Voyager's supply planning and inventory management features will also help Electrolux. Eventually, the company will add a warehouse management system.

Hughey and her team can now give consumers a steady supply of high-quality vacuums, thanks to a clean sweep of the Electrolux supply chain.

The Big Questions

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

I spend time with family and friends. I love to go out to dinner, snowboard, golf, and visit my home in the mountains. I also volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and sit on the board of its Illinois chapter.

Ideal dinner companion?

I would love to have dinner with Barack Obama. I'd ask him how he plans to handle the tough challenges he faces.

What's in your briefcase?

My laptop, to-do list, a calendar, colored pens, a Vanity Fair magazine, a self-help book, and some work documents.

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

I'd love to work in the fashion industry.

Business motto?

Our company has adopted the motto Focus, Accountability, Teamwork (FAT). It sums up how we operate as a company, and how I operate as an individual.

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