Reader Profile | Jeff Larson: A Gem of a Job
Jeff Larson is director of distribution engineering analysis at Tiffany & Co. in Parsippany, N.J. He joined Tiffany in 2001 and has held his current position since 2009.
Responsibilities: Process improvement, distribution strategy, user testing and integration for the warehouse management system, and some procurement activities.
Experience: Process engineer, manager – engineering analysis, Tiffany & Co.
Education: BS, industrial and systems engineering, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., 2001; executive masters in international logistics and supply chain strategy (EMIL-SCS), Georgia Institute of Technology, 2015.
I didn’t realize it at first, but logistics has always been part of who I am, going back to my summer work as a landscaper. I was good at finding the quickest way to travel between lawns, and it was rewarding to know I could get in a couple more lawns than planned. When I started learning about industrial engineering in college, I realized that’s just the way my brain works: I’m wired to enjoy logistics and process improvement.
I started my career with Tiffany as an intern and have never looked back. I’ve stayed because I continue to feel challenged and engaged.
In my first job with Tiffany, I provided support for our new distribution center (DC) in Whippany, N.J. I was responsible for forecasting, equipment selection, layout design, work design, and ergonomics.
When you think about Tiffany’s fine jewelry and other high-end products, you might expect our operations to differ significantly from a typical DC. Certainly we place a greater emphasis on security, quality, and sustainability. We have export compliance requirements for some of our retail markets. We offer custom services for our direct-to-consumer channel. And before we ship a blue Tiffany box, we apply a hand-tied bow. Yet, at the core, we still receive product, put it away, pick, pack, and ship it, just as you would in any other facility.
Over the years, I’ve been exposed to many divisions of the company, including international operations, manufacturing, merchandising, and retail. Tiffany operates a sophisticated, vertically integrated supply chain. However, as of late, we generate the majority of our revenue from markets outside the United States. It now makes sense to think about evolving our distribution strategy to better support international growth. I’m charged with creating a roadmap for that strategy, and identifying the implications and benefits to our supply chain and company at large.
That’s why I recently earned an executive masters in international logistics and supply chain strategy from Georgia Institute of Technology. The program gave me a chance to visit logistics operations all over the world, and observe their management styles, workforce challenges, and infrastructure issues.
I currently function as an internal consultant for Tiffany. My home is within distribution, but I often work with other parts of the company. I’m kind of a Swiss Army knife.
The opportunity to partner with Tiffany’s international locations and help improve their operations over the years has been exciting. It makes me proud when the local management team embraces the changes we’ve implemented and sustains the benefits. That’s what happened in 2007, for example, when I worked with our direct-to-consumer fulfillment operation in the United Kingdom. We executed changes that improved fulfillment rates and turn times, bringing the success level up to about 98 percent. The operation has maintained that performance, and made further improvements. Being part of that transformation was very rewarding.
The Big Questions
What’s the best work-related advice you ever received?
Never email someone when you can make a phone call; never call someone when you can have an in-person conversation.
What have you read lately that you recommend?
I have a toddler and a newborn, so I would recommend Good-Night, Owl!
It works like a charm: it puts my toddler right to sleep.
If you could go back to school for fun or personal enrichment, what would you study?
How to pilot a helicopter.
What’s the most unusual thing on your desk?
A 10-inch-wide rubber band ball that I found during an assessment at one of our operations. It reaffirms the extent people will go to when they have idle hands, and reminds me there are always opportunities for improvement.