Kevin Miles: Supermarket Superstar

NAME: Kevin Miles

TITLE: Manager, inbound logistics, since 2007


PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Industrial engineer, UPS; senior process engineer, Ahold USA

EDUCATION: University of Connecticut, BS, manufacturing engineering, 2000; University of New Haven, MBA, management technology, 2003; APICS, Certified Supply Chain Professional, 2007

When a water main serving the Boston area burst on Saturday, May 1, 2010, nearly two million people were suddenly living under a “boil water” order. What they didn’t boil, they needed to buy, which led to a run on bottled water.

Enter Kevin Miles, manager of inbound logistics for Ahold USA, which owns the Stop & Shop supermarket chain in New England and the two Giant chains based in Landover, Md., and Carlisle, Pa. The Stop & Shop distribution center in Freetown, Mass., where Miles works, was besieged with frantic calls from retailers scrambling to meet customer demand for bottled water.

“I was on conference calls with carriers, brokers, vendors, and our internal procurement team figuring out how to get water from different ship points into the stores,” Miles says.

It took close collaboration and constant communication to keep store shelves stocked until the boil water order was lifted on Tuesday.

Miles’s job isn’t always that stressful, but he swears by collaboration, even when he’s wrestling with more routine supply chain challenges. Trained as an engineer, Miles got a feel for logistics while fine-tuning pickup and delivery operations for UPS in its hubs, and while implementing driver standards for Ahold’s Giant Landover chain.

That background equipped him to manage the flow of goods into Ahold USA’s three DCs in Freetown, Carlisle, and Jessup, Md., as well as its American Sales Company warehouse in Lancaster, N.Y. The job is a blend of operational and support functions, and a lot of customer and supplier relations, with a little innovation and engineering thrown in.

Miles, who manages more than $100 million in transportation spend, is expanding Ahold’s customer pickup program to gain more control over the movement of goods into the DCs. Using vendors’ transportation allowances to purchase the necessary capacity isn’t easy, and it has gotten harder since the recession forced some trucking companies out of business.

“Finding carriers that are willing to work with us and meet our requirements is a challenge,” Miles says. “Finding rates that work is always tough.” Fluctuations in fuel prices complicate the job.

To get the service Ahold needs, Miles and his team try to make sure that carriers also get what they need. “We look for backhaul opportunities and try to find lanes that work for our carriers, so we reduce empty miles as much as possible,” he says.

Forging strong partnerships with solid, credible companies is key to riding out the ups and downs in the transportation market. Carriers need to know that their customer wants them to succeed, even in tough times.

“If carriers understand that we will be around for the long term, then they know we’ll be there when the economy improves, too,” Miles says.

The Big Questions

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

I play golf and basketball, and I work out. I’m a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and Nexus Alliance, a group that builds civic engagement in the Boston area. We mentor kids in schools, and try to improve the community overall.

Ideal dinner companion?

Barack Obama. I’d love to know how he handles pressure, and how he prioritizes all the tasks that come his way.

What’s in your laptop bag?

A spiral notebook, Zune music player, calculator, manila folders, Southwest Airlines drink coupons, and my laptop.

Business motto?

“Persistence and consistence.” It’s a matter of sticking to your goals and initiatives, then being consistent with who you are and what you believe in.

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

Test-driving cars and writing reviews for Car and Driver or Motor Trend.

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