Greg Schwartz: Smooth Operator

In the smoothie business, hot weather is a blessing; as temperatures rise, so does demand. But when the sun blazes too long over peach orchards or berry fields, it may ruin the crops. Then, bringing in the fruit needed to whip up a perfect healthy drink becomes a complicated puzzle.

That’s why Greg Schwartz, vice president, supply chain management at Jamba Juice, Emeryville, Calif., clicks the weather report on the Web every morning right after the financial news sites.

Schwartz is responsible for sourcing all food and non-food products for Jamba Juice, and arranging to move these products to the company’s retail outlets.

With 660 stores in 22 states, Jamba is constantly rolling into new locations. Its rapid expansion gives Schwartz and his team plenty of opportunities to fine-tune supply chain operations.

The main challenge is finding the right product and securing the most effective distribution channels for the growing retail network.

“The second critical challenge is dealing with the weather, trying to remain flexible, and having strong contingency plans in place,” Schwartz says.

As the son and grandson of grocers, Schwartz has worked in the food business throughout his life. But his penchant for supply chain management came as a surprise.

“I grew up wanting to work in marketing for a Fortune 500 food company,” he says.

A college internship with Kraft Foods—pulling data to help the sourcing group negotiate contracts and choose suppliers—whet his taste for operations. Although he went on to earn an MBA in marketing, when he entered the workforce, he crossed over to the supply side.

One unusual challenge Schwartz encountered on his career path involved working with Oscar Meyer/Kraft Lunchables, and similar lunch products sold under the Safeway label, which bring together numerous components in a single package.

“Lunchables might require 10 different suppliers shipping their product to one location,” he says. “That location reassembles those components into a final product,” which might include an assortment such as crackers, cheese, turkey, a sauce packet, a drink, and a candy bar packed into a tray covered with film and an exterior carton.

Getting all those products to converge in the right place at just the right time isn’t easy. “Having the appropriate systems, collaboration with partners, timely forecasts, and effective scheduling are key,” Schwartz says.

Schwartz is currently exploring ways to improve Jamba Juice’s processes, and beef up its technology on both the sourcing and the distribution sides.

“I am especially interested in portals that can link the entire supply chain—from the supplier’s supplier’s supplier to the distributors to the stores,” he says.

Besides examining opportunities to make improvements at the back end, Schwartz has taken a close-up look at how Jamba Juice works its magic on the front end.

In August, he spent several days at a Jamba Juice store, starting at 5:30 a.m. He developed and received a product order, and whipped up his share of drinks.

“I did lots of mixing, scooping, and shaking, all the way to providing the finished product to eager consumers,” he says.

The experience gave him several ideas for improving the distribution process.

It also gave him a healthy respect for the experts on the front line who whip up smoothies with impressive speed.

“I had a hard time keeping up with them at first,” he says. “That’s when I found myself washing dishes.”

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