Jennifer Burkhardt: What’s Brewing?

Jennifer Burkhardt: What’s Brewing?<br />

NAME: Jennifer Burkhardt

TITLE: Transportation manager, specialty coffee business unit

COMPANY: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, since 2008

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Network manager, strategic accounts manager, Schneider National; traffic coordinator, Seal Graphics Technologies; transportation analyst, Eagle Global Logistics; transportation manager, account manager, Central Refrigerated Service; transportation manager, corporate, Pacific Cycle.

EDUCATION: BS, public administration, Upper Iowa University; certificate, transportation planning, pricing and costing, University of Wisconsin – Madison; MBA candidate, Marlboro College.


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR) ranked second on Fortune’s 2010 list of the 100 Fastest-Growing Companies. When a business grows that fast, its logistics organization finds itself continually racing to redesign facilities and networks to meet demand.

“We constantly have to reallocate space,” says Jennifer Burkhardt, transportation manager for GMCR’s specialty coffee business unit.

The specialty coffee business unit produces and sells coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and other beverages, including brands such as Green Mountain, Tully’s Coffee, and Timothy’s World Coffee. It sells through both business-to-business and business-to-consumer channels. It also supplies coffee to GMCR’s Keurig business unit, whose popular brewing systems and K-cups are driving much of the company’s growth.

As transportation manager, Burkhardt takes charge of all movements into and out of GMCR’s manufacturing and distribution sites in Vermont, Tennessee, Washington, California, and Canada. “I’m responsible for establishing rates and guaranteeing capacity,” she says.

Her staff also handles claims, freight payments, and freight auditing, and helps the customer service department with delivery-related concerns.

Burkhardt brings a broad perspective to her job, having worked for two trucking companies and a third-party logistics firm, as well as several shippers. Her background is beneficial in efforts such as carrier negotiations.

“I understand what drives a carrier’s profitability, how asset-intensive and expensive the business is, and how those factors and shipper behavior influence price,” she says. When carriers add fuel surcharges or detention charges, some shippers scratch their heads, but “I don’t have to ask those questions,” she says.

Burkhardt and her staff also work on strategic logistics issues. “We analyze and decide on new site locations, and facility size and function,” she says.

She might also get involved in site startups, as she did when GMCR acquired Seattle-based Tully’s Coffee in 2009. In addition to shifting from one facility to another, the project involved absorbing former Tully’s employees into the GMCR organization. Challenges included moving those employees to GMCR’s enterprise resource planning system, teaching them new processes, and creating a temporary “mini supply chain” to keep the beans roasting and the finished coffee rolling along to customers throughout the transition.

One key to the project’s success was remembering that there’s no such thing as too much communication. “Don’t assume that anyone knows anything,” Burkhardt says. “Put it out there.”

Another important lesson she has learned in her career is that it’s crucial to think of work in terms of systems, understanding that a single decision may set off a chain reaction of results.

“Often, people do things within silos and only consider the impacts within that silo,” she says. “You need to take a broader view and see how those micro decisions affect the greater universe of possibilities.”


The Big Questions

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

I go biking, hiking, and camping. I also read a lot.

What’s in your backpack?

My laptop and four books. And I live and die by a five-subject notebook.

Technology you couldn’t do your job without?

Social networking. I tweet, I just started a blog, I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I use RSS feeds. I rely on those tools to keep in touch with peers, form new relationships, and keep track of world events that might impact suppliers.

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