April 2015 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Judi Griffin: Sinks Her Teeth Into Her Work

Tags: Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Distribution, Supply Chain Management, Health Care Logistics, Specialized Logistics, Logistics

Judi Griffin is director of logistics at Burkhart Dental, a supplier of equipment, technology, and consumables used by dental practices. She has worked for Burkhart Dental since 2009, and has held her current position at the Tacoma, Wash., firm since 2013.

Responsibilities: Distribution centers, purchasing and customer service teams, hand piece repair center, and inbound and outbound freight costs.

Experience: Distribution manager, Milgard; operations manager, Cardinal Health; realtor, Gateway GMAC Real Estate; customer service manager, Burkhart Dental.

Education: B.A., business administration, 2001; MBA, University of Washington, Tacoma, 2009.


Before I started college, I worked in operations management at a moving company. After I finished my bachelor's degree, I did an internship at an investment firm. My concentration at school was in finance, and I thought I wanted to work in that field. But once the internship started, I realized how much I missed operations. I returned to that work when I took a job as distribution manager at Milgard, a window manufacturer.

At Burkhart Dental, I'm responsible for our three distribution centers (DCs), in Lakewood, Wash., Reno, Nev., and Irving, Texas. I also manage the purchasing team, customer service team, and a repair shop. In addition, I manage inbound and outbound freight costs.

Burkhart sells its products through account managers. They make weekly or biweekly visits to dentists to find out what the practices need, answer questions about equipment, and provide advice. The account managers use their laptops to place orders, right in the dental offices. Most of our shipments go directly to the dentists via small parcel carrier. We also ship equipment and parts to our repair technicians, who work at our branch locations.

We store about 17,000 stockkeeping units (SKUs) in our DCs, but we actually have a catalog of more than 100,000 SKUs. Deciding which products to keep in stock, and in which DCs, is tricky. Our goal is to same-day ship any order received before 4 p.m. Our fill rate is 99 percent.

Until recently, Burkhart served customers west of the Mississippi. But now we're expanding to all 50 states. I'm sure we'll open a fourth DC to accommodate that growth, but it will take some time to reach enough critical mass for that investment to make sense. In the meantime, we fill orders for the eastern United States from our Irving DC.

That operation moved from its old location to a bigger facility three years ago, while I was customer service manager. It was a huge project. We had to shut down the old DC and pull out all 17,000 items. A company came in to disassemble our materials handling carousels, then put them back together in the new building. Then we had to refill those carousels.

While the facility was down, the orders we would have filled from Irving came from the other two DCs, moving by second-day air. That was expensive. So we wanted to have as little downtime as possible.

We ended up with just five days of downtime. Everything went smoothly. The team in Irving worked long and hard to support the effort, and the company that moved the carousels did a fantastic job.

I can't overemphasize the importance of advance planning. One of the beauties of this effort was that I had someone else available to do most of my regular work, so I could focus on the special project for about five weeks before the move.

Now we're planning for a new project: Implementing a warehouse management system in the fourth quarter of 2015. Right now, that means doing a lot of drawing on the whiteboard to map out our processes. I don't want to reautomate the way we do things today. This is an opportunity to streamline further, and gain new efficiencies. It's quite an undertaking.

The Big Questions

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Go to college directly after high school, major in industrial engineering, and finish the degree without taking a break.

If you had one extra hour of free time every day, how would you spend it?

Indoors, I love reading; it's how I de-stress. Outdoors, I'd spend that hour on any kind of water-related activity.

Is there an organization you'd like to give a shout-out to?

Goodwill Industries. Our local chapter has a program to help people gain job skills, and one of the options is logistics training. We have hired some of their graduates, and they've been terrific.

What's the most unusual thing on your desk?

A genie lamp, like Aladdin's. I have an odd collection of them.