Solving Problems, Improving Processes

Solving Problems, Improving Processes

Amy Augustine is senior director of network supply chain with UScellular, the fourth-largest U.S. full-service wireless carrier.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Leading the supply chain that supports building and maintaining UScellular’s wireless network. This includes strategic sourcing; planning and forecasting materials; and overseeing six warehouses, among other responsibilities.

EXPERIENCE: Director, network supply chain and indirect procurement; director, business strategy; senior manager, reverse logistics; manager, reverse logistics; manager, supply chain effectiveness; senior business analyst; all with UScellular. Managing consultant, Revere Group; senior consultant, BearingPoint Consulting; systems engineer, Intergraph.

EDUCATION: Loyola University, Chicago, MBA, Operations Management and International Business; Miami University, BS, Applied Science, Engineering Management.

When I earned my undergraduate degree in engineering management I knew that I didn’t want to work in the automotive industry, even though many of my classmates did. Instead, I went to work drawing production lines. I traveled to many manufacturing plants and caught the travel bug.

My next job was a consulting role with KPMG. Even though I didn’t check all the boxes on the job description, I interviewed for the job and landed it.

Women tend to not apply for jobs unless we check every box. Don’t sell yourself short! If you are interested in a role and don’t check all the boxes, you still need to apply and network to get that interview.

At KPMG, I spent about four and a half years implementing SAP for the U.S. Army and creating new business processes for the Army’s supply chain. That’s how I got into the supply chain field. I love being able to solve problems and figure out how to improve processes.

At UScellular, one of my biggest successes was making reverse logistics a profit center, while making sure no products ended up in landfills.

My team and I knew phones and accessories would come back in different conditions—from items that are new in the box to a drone that’s in 500 pieces. We needed to figure out what path each product would take.

A first step was a cosmetic inspection of returned products. That alone yielded $1 million in savings, providing a return on investment in six months. Over time, we became smarter regarding what was coming back and through what channel to push each product.

We weren’t equipped to be resellers, so we partnered with vendors in revenue-sharing arrangements. We learned what each was good at, and how to move products through them.

While the reverse logistics function and product mix has changed over the years, the focus on making sure nothing ends up in landfills continues.

For the past 18 months, my team has been working on an organizational transformation. Before I took this role, UScellular didn’t have logistics, inventory, or forecasting and planning teams for Network Supply Chain. This has been a unique opportunity to build out the teams and supply chain processes to support the network.

It has been a journey for the people on my team and those we serve in network engineering. One big move was right-sizing our warehouse footprint. We had 12 about one year ago, and today we have six. It’s more efficient and saves us about $1 million annually in storage fees.

Our next big project is addressing ‘milk run deliveries’ from our warehouses to our cell sites. These deliveries consume a lot of gas and aren’t good for the environment. To change this, we’re shifting to full truckload deliveries of equipment to cell sites that are near each other, versus doing individual deliveries.

Being open and honest in communication helps bring everyone along. I’m open to knowing that we’ll make mistakes, but we will learn and get better.

Supply chain is about processes and identifying ways to mitigate the risks you encounter. I love being able to use my strategic thinking and problem-solving skills to drive transformation across a supply chain.

Amy Augustine Answers the Big Questions

1. Do you have any heroes?

My father is one of my heroes. I learned leadership skills from the way he led and interacted with others. I also admire Mother Teresa, as someone who gave her life for others and did good in the world.

2. Do you possess any hidden talents?

I know many Kung Fu moves.

3. If you could witness one event what would it be?

I would like to have witnessed the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence. I have a copy of it hanging in my home office. It is still relevant today.

4. What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Take more risks, especially early in your career.