Andrea Greco: Greco’s Game

The biggest logistics challenge I have right now is being able to go fishing on the weekends and still spend time with my kids,” laughs Andrea Greco, vice president, supply chain for Fila USA. Shuttling between a job near Baltimore and a young family in New York demands careful organization. So does coordinating the supply chain for the U.S. arm of the Italian athletic footwear and apparel firm.

Greco is the single point of contact for information on the flow of Fila’s products from suppliers, mainly in the Far East, through customs clearance, transportation, and the distribution center in Brandon Woods, Md. He’s also the logistics liaison to the customer service and sales departments.

“Even though the departments are specialized, somebody needs to have an overall view, to be able to plan the work loads, the customer ship dates, personnel in the warehouse, and deal with any supply chain breakdowns or crises,” he says.

Greco gained much of his expertise as a consultant with Ernst & Young’s supply chain practice, first in Italy and later in New York. One client in Italy was a startup in the newly privatized telecommunications market. Greco helped the firm plan how to manage spare parts, some of which were worth tens of thousands of dollars. At those prices, the client clearly wanted to limit inventory in its “quick response” distribution centers. But when a customer reported an equipment failure anywhere in the country, a technician had to complete the repair within four hours.

Because the startup didn’t yet have many installations, Greco had to forecast how many customers it would acquire, where their installations would be, and how often different parts might break down. Following intense analysis, “we came back with a network design that would allow the company to service the installations it was putting in,” he says.

Though Greco’s thoughts these days tend more toward running shoes than routers, timing is still a big concern. Shoes and garments take a long time to design, manufacture, and ship from overseas, but customers want them within a precise delivery window. Because fashions change quickly, “the shelf life of a pair of shoes is very short,” he observes.

Meeting retailers’ distribution demands is complicated by the fact that some overseas suppliers are better equipped than others to report order status. “Some of them are able to provide the data you need electronically, in a timely manner. Some of them are still manual and very labor intensive,” Greco says.

To improve the situation, he is evaluating web-based systems that provide real-time tracking along with the ability to plan six or seven months ahead.

Besides juggling his passions for work, family, and fishing, Greco faced a special challenge this year—one deeply connected to Fila’s corporate culture. He needed to perform his job after rising at 3 a.m. to watch live broadcasts of the World Cup competition from Japan and Korea.

“I’m going to spend a lot of sleeping hours not sleeping,” Greco promised last May, as he counted down the hours until the first match. “If you’re a soccer fan, that’s what you do for your team.”

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

I am rereading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I almost forgot what an impact it had on the way I look at life. It’s a very inspiring book.

What’s in your briefcase right now?

Calculator. Frequent flier and hotel cards. Some pain killers for when it gets too stressful. A few important papers that I need to have even when I’m at home. But I try to keep fairly paperless. Most of what I need is in my laptop.

Advice for people starting in logistics?

Always keep an open and curious mind. Stay aware that everything you do in logistics—no matter how apparently small—is important to your company’s success.