Jose Flores: Zooming Right Along

On April 24, 2008, Jose Flores broke a record. That day marked his 45th year at Yamaha Corporation, and with that milestone he became the Japanese company’s longest-serving U.S. employee.

Since Flores joined Yamaha in 1963, much of his work has had a strong logistics component. Currently, he’s administration manager in Yamaha Motor Corp. USA’s logistics division. But he has worn many hats, working in areas that have included sales, service, warranty, and import/export.

“Wherever there’s a problem, that’s where they put me,” he says.

Flores joined Yamaha as a 19-year-old, freshly arrived from Nicaragua to study business administration. He learned about the job through his sister, who had joined the company in the late 1950s.

In those days, the Los Angeles-based U.S. operation included Yamaha’s musical instruments division as well as the motor sports business. Only nine people worked at the site.

“Everybody, including me, was doing everything,” Flores recalls. “That included shipping, receiving, and handling orders. I used to be in charge of inbound shipments for the motorcycles and instruments.”

Later, Flores took charge of moving motorcycles, snowmobiles, and other products to dealer shows and advertising photo shoots. The deadline pressure was intense.

“It’s expensive to have a production company waiting around for product to arrive,” he says. “If your shipments don’t arrive on schedule, you pay for their waiting time.”

The pressure grew especially severe when Flores had to move seven truckloads of watercraft safely from El Paso, Texas, to a dealer meeting in the Mexican resort town of Huatulco. The challenge wasn’t simply getting the goods there on time; it was getting them there at all. The route was considered a magnet for thieves.

“Thieves were known to kill drivers and steal their trucks,” Flores says.

To protect drivers and their loads, Flores added security escorts to the convoy and had them regularly check in by phone. “Thanks to that system, we didn’t lose any products,” he says.

Theft is also a concern in Flores’ current job, which focuses largely on handling claims for damaged or missing shipments. Trucks carrying Yamaha products disappear about six times a year. Ocean containers may go astray as well, due to theft in the ports or storms at sea.

Flores and his team work with police and the carriers’ insurance companies to try to recoup their losses. They also make sure dealers get quick replacements for lost or damaged products.

“We don’t tell our dealers to wait until we solve the problem,” Flores says. “We immediately call our sales department and replace the units the same day to help dealers keep their customer commitments.”

Flores and his team also are responsible for inserting U.S.-made parts into shipping crates with motorcycles from Japan before they’re sent to dealers, and for transporting certain products to dealer auctions.

“After 45 years with Yamaha, I have assumed many responsibilities,” Flores says. “And I enjoy every challenge.”

The Big Questions

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

I go boating, fishing, and bicycle riding. I spend a lot of time with my wife, children, and granddaughters.

Ideal dinner companion?

Abraham Lincoln.

What’s in your briefcase?

My laptop and documents such as technical bulletins, insurance claims, and status reports.

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

Business motto?

It’s up to you to make the future.

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