January 2014 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Sean Vasquez: Heard It Through the Grapevine

Tags: Education & Careers, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Transportation Management

Sean Vasquez

Sean Vasquez is EDI and transportation manager at Sun-Maid Growers of California in Kingsburg, Calif. He has worked for the company since 2010, and held his current position since 2013.

Responsibilities: Managing all electronic data interchange (EDI) functions; working with the IT department and trading partners to resolve EDI issues; managing transportation policies, rates, and analysis for 17 warehouses in the United States and Canada.

Experience: Warehouse lead, accounts payable, help desk supervisor, programmer/EDI administrator, Oberto Sausage Company; manager, EDI and e-commerce, Sun-Maid Growers of California.

Education: BS, business administration, City University of Seattle, 2006.


Before I came to Sun-Maid, I worked for 20 years at Oberto Sausage in Kent, Wash. I started in the warehouse, but ended up in information technology (IT) and electronic data interchange (EDI).

I didn't study IT in college. I was able to move into that field because the IT manager liked my interpersonal skills. My position at Oberto involved collaborating with people and defusing tense situations. I learned the technical side, including programming, mostly on the job. I also took classes, read books, and learned from my boss.

At Sun-Maid, my first responsibility was managing the EDI environment and relationships with our 150 trading partners, including customers, banks, brokers, third-party warehouses, and carriers. One of my functions is to resolve EDI issues, such as a warehouse sending a customer an advance ship notice with incorrect data. If we don't quickly address those issues, customers might impose fines or deductions.

In 2013, I also started managing transportation from our 17 forward warehouses to our customers. The third-party logistics providers that run those warehouses often use their own fleets to move product to our customers.

Sometimes, however, we determine that a different carrier can offer a better rate on a particular lane. We might renegotiate certain freight rates, depending on how much volume we're able to shift to a particular carrier, or other carriers might offer a deal.

Sun-Maid is a co-op owned by raisin growers. We receive raisins from our members, along with other varieties of fruit we buy from non-member suppliers. We package the product and ship it via intermodal or truckload to third-party distribution centers located across North America.

One new project Sun-Maid is working on involves implementing a radio frequency system in our Kingsburg, Calif., facility. As part of that project, I'm helping to redesign case labels, and changing our lot coding format. We've streamlined much of the information on the label, and added a two-dimensional bar code embedded with the item number and lot code.

Switching from manual data entry to scanning will boost the efficiency of many warehouse functions. I also will coordinate the lot code changes with our forward warehouses, to ensure those changes are implemented correctly in their systems.

I love being able to directly affect the company's bottom line. As one example, we recently reduced shipping costs for one of our regional warehouses by 25 percent by switching to a new West Coast carrier.

While we're always looking to reduce costs, we never want to use a low-cost carrier that provides inferior service. Our top priority is servicing our customers according to our own high standards. But if we can save money at the same time, that's icing on the cake.

The Big Questions

If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

It's the same thing I'd tell my son today: start college right after high school. Working full time while going to school is difficult. It took me 15 years to earn my degree.

What's the strangest situation a job has ever thrown your way?

When I was help desk supervisor at my previous company, one of our sales representatives set her purse down in a bathroom sink that she didn't realize had an automatic faucet. Her smartphone got soaked. She asked if we could retrieve her contacts, even though the device wouldn't turn on. I said, "There's your answer."

With whom would you like to change places for a day, and why?

Nobody. I would miss my wife and kids too much.

What's on your bucket list?

Visiting every major league baseball stadium. I've been to about one-third of them already. I also want to skydive.