Stacy Eakes: A Seasoned Professional

Stacy Eakes took up rock climbing this year for fun, but she finds that the sport has a lot to teach a logistics professional.

“It’s all about problem solving,” she explains. “You learn to shift your weight and look at things from a new perspective, opening new possibilities.”

Back on the ground, that mix of analysis and creativity is crucial to Eakes as logistics process improvement manager at McCormick and Co. “Problem solving and root cause analysis are two key functions of my job,” she says.

And just as McCormick blends flavors in some of its products, such as barbeque seasoning and garam masala, Eakes blends the perspectives of McCormick’s different logistics organizations to help create a more integrated supply chain.

Eakes reports to the director of logistics for McCormick’s consumer products division, which serves retailers and food service companies. McCormick, however, is striving toward a more collaborative logistics culture. That means Eakes must also work with the industrial division, which supplies ingredients to food manufacturers.

For example, because the consumer and industrial divisions share warehouses in Maryland and California, a plan last year to introduce Nistevo’s web-based logistics system affected both their operations, inbound and outbound. As project manager, Eakes had to sell the implementation to everyone concerned.

“I rely on getting buy-in and support across a matrix, from different divisions, different levels,” Eakes says. “Deciding on the best course of action and the technology to implement, or what the process should be—that’s easy compared with the people aspect of it.”

To get executives, managers, and end users on board, Eakes developed a steering committee of purchasing executives from each organization. She and her colleagues created a “road show” to explain the new system to groups of employees, pointing out the benefits they would gain by swapping manual processes for automated ones. Exercises in change management showed how the initial discomforts of new procedures would give way to more efficient operations.

Eakes herself learned to embrace change early in her career. She started college as an architecture major at Georgia Tech before switching to industrial management at Clemson University. Performing time-and-motion studies in an Alabama yarn mill taught her that “working in a plant is not for me,” she says, but a transportation course captured her fancy. Later, a job doing network optimization and product analysis for CHEP, the pallet and container pooling firm, led her to the aspect of logistics she likes best.

It’s important to understand the entire spectrum of supply chain management, from purchasing to operations to technology implementation, Eakes says. “But for me, the analytical and project management side was the most enjoyable.”

People starting out in logistics should be willing to explore, Eakes advises. “Don’t be afraid to change jobs if the current one isn’t the right environment. Definitely don’t view it as a negative experience, because each job is a building block that adds value as you move on to the next opportunity. There are numerous work environments and areas within the supply chain, so don’t feel constricted if one isn’t right for you.”

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, by Gail Evans. Also, anything by John Irving will be on my night table.

What’s in your briefcase right now?

I’ve got the standard project files and notebooks, laptop connections, the New York Times and Baltimore Sun, the most recent REI catalog, travel brochures, and Shout Wipes.

Advice for people starting in logistics?

1. Have a mentor or sponsor. 2. Don’t limit your opportunities based on geography. 3. Don’t be afraid to change jobs. 4. Stay on top of industry trends and technologies.

Favorite McCormick Seasoning?

Wasabi powder, from the Gourmet Collection