Wayne Paul: Sticking to the Basics

Wayne Paul caught the logistics bug as a college student working in the receiving department at Sears. And much of what he knows about managing a demand chain he learned from his first post-college employer, Roadway Express.

Paul joined the less-than-truckload carrier after earning his B.S. in Transportation from the University of Alabama in 1980. The lessons he absorbed there still guide him in his present role as executive director of logistics for 7-Eleven Inc.

“Roadway taught me all about managing the basics of the business,” Paul says. “Focus on the basics” remains his motto today. In logistics, he explains, “we have a lot of fancy terms, and we created a lot of fancy systems, but it is still trying to get the right product to the right place at the right time at the right price.”

Paul began his career with traditional trucking firms and spent many years with 3PLs before moving to the corporate side of the logistics fence. His most recent position at a 3PL was senior vice president of J.B. Hunt Dedicated Contract Services. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and served as vice president and general manager for the Chicago operation of online grocer Webvan Group.

“I got a PhD in retail in that job,” he says. That hands-on education set the stage for his appointment at 7-Eleven in 2001.

At the Dallas-based convenience chain, Paul’s group is responsible for maintaining the flow of products to 5,800 stores in North America. The company’s fresh food operation, which 7-Eleven will roll out to 88 percent of its North American stores by year’s end, poses the biggest challenge. Relying on a network of proprietary commissaries and bakeries, it fills individual stores’ orders for fresh sandwiches, bakery goods, and dairy products by 5 a.m., 365 days a year. These products move through 23 “combined distribution centers” (CDCs), managed by seven 3PLs. Late delivery is not an option.

Although managing this operation is the trickiest part of his job, Paul says it’s also the most satisfying. “To be able to walk in each morning and know we were at all our stores, 99.9 percent on time, we didn’t miss a delivery, and our fill rate was 99 percent—that’s what makes this job fun.”

One of Paul’s current projects at 7-Eleven is to develop uniform work standards for the CDCs—understanding the time and resources needed to handle varying volumes and mixes of product. Conditions vary with the location and service provider, but 80 percent of the work is the same everywhere. “I want to be able to reflect that in the way we manage our partners,” he says.

While he taps a broad array of supply chain technologies through 7-Eleven’s 3PLs, Paul’s first stop on the web each morning is a devotional site. “I focus on the basics in my personal and spiritual life just as I focus on the basics at work,” he explains. “You’ve got to have a balanced world.”