Jason Shefrin: Asset-Light, By Design

Jason Shefrin: Asset-Light, By Design

Jason Shefrin is executive vice president, global sourcing, at InterDesign Inc., a major designer and producer of housewares and home fashions. He has worked for the Solon, Ohio-based firm since 2011.

Responsibilities: Product development, quality assurance, vendor management, global supply chain operations, logistics and transportation management.

Experience: Senior consultant, Cleveland Consulting Associates (CSC Consulting); founding member, e-Chemicals Inc.; manager of implementation, Aspen Technology; executive director of global sourcing, American Greetings.

Education: BS in economics and finance, and BAS in engineering and computer science, University of Pennsylvania, 1997; MBA, international business and finance, University of Chicago, 2006.

Few of my University of Pennsylvania classmates who were pursuing business careers went into operations. But I joined a boutique consulting company that specialized in supply chain strategy. This was not exactly in sync with my training and education, but I thought it would start me on a rewarding career—and that has proven to be the case.

I’ve been working for years toward establishing the variablized supply chain. In the past, companies wanted to integrate vertically and control all their assets. Today, however, so many entities are independent masters of specific supply chain functions that a company with the right framework and connections can operate globally with few assets of its own.

The future of supply chain management lies with managing global partners to create value for your customers, quickly and efficiently. I started aiming toward that goal when I was consulting, and then at American Greetings. Now that I’m at InterDesign, it has become a reality, and it is incredibly exciting.

As a leader in housewares, InterDesign sells to retailers and distributors, and directly to consumers. We manufacture both in the United States and abroad, with a concentration of manufacturing in China.

I’m looking into possible locations for production outside China, and analyzing which products we should continue to produce in the United States. We’re pursuing this strategy to help manage costs, and to manage risk as the company grows and global trade gets more complex.

Working with a network of partners around the world is challenging. You need contingency plans for anything that might go wrong at any point, anywhere around the world. For example, in China, it’s not unusual for the owners of a family-run supplier to decide they want to retire and just close the business. When that happens, we have to start up in a new factory without missing a shipment.

We’re implementing an integrated supply and demand planning process so we seamlessly share information—such as forecasts by factory, forecasts of containers to be shipped, and logistics contingency plans—with our partners.

One career achievement I’m proud of occurred during the dot-com boom and bust. I was a founding member of e-Chemicals, an e-commerce company focused on supply chain management in the chemical industry. The company was so low on funds at one point that we couldn’t make payroll. Worrying about the future and trying to find a buyer could have distracted us from serving customers and pushing forward with development. But we survived, selling e-Chemicals to Aspen Technology in 2001, and continuing to run it as an entity even after the acquisition.

I learned a lot from that experience, and I’m proud of the scars I earned.

The Big Questions

Outside work, what commitments and activities help define who you are?

I’m on the board of two nonprofits that are very important to me: Fostering Hope (which my wife founded), and Open Doors Academy.

What super power do you wish you had, and what would you do with it?

I’d like the power to see the future. I don’t know everything I’d use it for, but my company’s inventory would never be out of stock on any product.

What do you do to unwind?

I go to the gym. Lately, I’ve enjoyed training for and participating in athletic challenges such as the Cleveland Marathon, the Tough Mudder, and the Cleveland Triathlon.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Navy SEAL.

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