James Bradley: Supply Chain Management is in His DNA

Is there a gene for supply chain management? If so, James Bradley must have it—his father worked in logistics and supply in the Air Force, and Bradley has been focused on the field since college.

If scientists do discover such a gene, chances are they’ll be working with technology from Bradley’s employer, Affymetrix, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer of technologies crucial to genetics research.

As senior director of global order fulfillment, Bradley serves as the customer’s voice in operations.

“I’m responsible for the receiving process, inventory control, warehousing, transportation, and order management worldwide,” he says.

Affymetrix’s flagship product is the GeneChip microarray, an industry-standard tool for analyzing genetic information. Researchers in academia, government, and pharmaceutical companies use the tool, as well as the company’s instruments and reagent chemicals, to identify and measure genetic information.

After completing a network consolidation next year, Affymetrix will operate two manufacturing plants in the United States and one in Singapore, plus regional distribution hubs in both countries and another in the Netherlands.

Shipping temperature-sensitive products among those locations and to customers poses a major challenge. Microarrays can travel at ambient temperatures, but after five days they have to be refrigerated. Reagents travel frozen, wrapped in ice or gel packs, but that packaging is also only good for five days.

In either case, a delay in transportation or customs could endanger the product.

To stave off meltdowns, Bradley anticipates delays and works to avoid them. For example, shipping products from the Netherlands hub to non-members of the European Union requires customs clearance, which doesn’t always run smoothly.

“Some non-European Union countries have customs and tax practices that pose challenges,” Bradley says.

Bradley also works with the sales force to ensure that customers understand their shipping terms. Otherwise, shipments could sit at borders waiting for customers who don’t realize they are responsible for picking them up.

Words From the Wise

If genetic predilection led Bradley to supply chain management, serendipity steered him into the cold chain field.

In 2006, Bradley met Jack Welch, legendary former chairman and CEO of General Electric, after Bradley’s wife won a contest promoting Welch’s book, Winning.

Bradley came to the meeting armed with 25 strategic-level questions. Coming from traditional manufacturing, he wanted to know which up-and-coming industries were likely to keep substantial operations on U.S. soil.

Welch noted that three technologies were coming together to make a significant impact: biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology.

“I thought, ‘That’s a big takeaway. I’ll find out more,'” Bradley says.

One month later, he received job offers from two biotech firms. “The stars aligned,” he says. “And here I am at Affymetrix.”

The Big Questions

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

I’ve done some volunteer work with local Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals roundtables. Family activities are also a priority. My hobbies involve outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, sports, and exercise.

Ideal dinner companion?

I’d love to have another meal and personal session with Jack Welch.

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

Running a successful fishing resort, doing field tests for an outdoor company such as Cabela’s, or traveling around the world.

Your idea of a successful day?

Contributing to a positive customer experience or helping to obtain positive business results for my company. In supply chain management, you’re either the hero or the villain; there’s very little in-between. You’ve got to celebrate the wins when you get them, because it will always be a roller coaster ride.

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