Joe Bobko: Not Boxed In

Joe Bobko: Not Boxed In

Joe Bobko is vice president of transportation with Boxed Wholesale, an online wholesale shopping club. He has held this position since January 2015.

Responsibilities: All aspects of inbound and outbound transportation.

Experience: Managing director with Bobko Consulting Group; director of e-commerce transportation with Toys "R" Us; executive positions in transportation with AmerisourceBergen, Grainger, FreshDirect, and CD&L; vice president of consulting with Transgistics Consulting Group; and operations, finance and accounting, and systems roles with UPS.

Education: B.S., Accounting, The College of New Jersey, 1982.

Several years ago, I cold-called the CEO of Boxed Wholesale after reading an article about how this startup was going to ship consumer packaged goods over the internet. As somebody who has been in the industry, I understood the challenges of shipping 10 rolls of toilet paper and three gallons of detergent.

Chieh Huang, Boxed’s CEO, made the mistake of answering my call. I started as a consultant for the company and, in 2015, I joined the team. I’ve had the good fortune to watch the company grow from the CEO’s garage to four distribution centers and a corporate office.

We write a new chapter every day. Three years ago, we sat and waited for orders to come in. As the company grew, we created relationships with vendors. It was a challenge to gain name recognition and help vendors understand our model. Two or three years ago, most larger companies weren’t thinking about e-commerce as a channel for consumer packaged goods. That has now changed.

We average about 10 units per order. That’s different than the one or two units per order for most other e-commerce companies. We worked with carriers to help them understand the impact of accessorial charges on our shipments. In addition, solutions such as weekend pickups and processing in certain markets allow us to provide a higher level of service, and help carriers reduce their Monday peak.

Today’s supply chains are complicated and fast moving. Most folks I work with are half my age. Their technology and training far exceed what I was exposed to years ago. I’ve learned from the people around me.

In college, I needed to earn money, so I went to UPS. I started to understand how products move from a manufacturer or supplier to a store, and became hooked on the world of supply chain. It has been a wonderful ride.

Later, I worked for a courier company and was part of a team that rolled 14 privately held companies into one national courier firm. Forming this company required consistent communication and sharing the ‘best of the best’ processes across the organization.

Years later, I was part of a team that rolled out omni-channel fulfillment at Toys "R" Us. We went from zero packages in August to 1 million-plus by December in the store network.

The greatest challenges in establishing a store fulfillment process lie in mindset and execution. Store team members serve both in-store and invisible, or online, customers. They need tools and processes to execute. One key tool was simplifying the packing process. Another was working with the order management software so it could look at customer order date and desired delivery date, and determine which carrier and service should handle the shipment.

Today, we’re creating specialists, but I’m a generalist. The most significant benefit is an ability to see the big picture. I started my career with a Fortune 50 company, held roles in operations, finance, and systems, and have been exposed to all types of customers. I add value by thinking across functional lines and helping develop both young and experienced managers.

The Big Questions

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I enjoy cooking. I’m not great at it because I don’t follow recipes, but I love to experiment.

If you could start a business, what would you start?

A food truck. There’s instant gratification, because people will tell you if they love your food or don’t. I haven’t decided what kind of food, other than something people can eat with one hand, so they can hold a drink in the other.

What would you tell your younger self?

Do more to educate yourself and mentor the people around you. Do more things that impact society.

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