Don't Say No and Never Give Up
Lisa Mernin is director of operations with ADS, Inc., a military equipment and tactical gear supplier.
Responsibilities: Oversee the operations of two warehouses, the planning department, and an outside 3PL.
Experience: Director of purchasing; production planning and warehouse manager, both with ADS; positions in engineering, production scheduling, and planning and materials management with Stewart Sandwiches, ITW Southland; Johnson Controls, and MG MiniGears.
Education: B.S., Mathematics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
My years with a Tier 1 automotive supplier taught me you can't shut down auto production lines or it costs tens of thousands of dollars. You find a way to get parts where they need to go, when they need to go. You never give up.
That lesson has remained with me. ADS offers more than 1 million stockkeeping units (SKUs) and has thousands of suppliers. The majority of our orders are drop-shipped directly from our suppliers to our customers.
Finding Power with Partners
My biggest concern is not knowing what we don't know. So, we'll partner with a freight forwarder or third-party logistics (3PL) provider that has experience in the type of product or the country we're shipping to and can help us work through obstacles.
I don't look for the cheapest partners; I look for the best value. Customer service is a huge priority. Some potential partners talk about their competition rather than themselves. You should be able to stand on your own merits. We often want to see what a company can do differently.
During the pandemic, we won a contract to distribute 120 million gloves to four FEMA destinations that were issuing goods for the wildfires in California and other events. The company we dealt with in Australia shipped the products to Long Beach by ocean. Then we coordinated with a freight forwarder to move them to a warehouse in Southern California.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were jammed, but the coordination the freight forwarder provided between the ports, the warehouse, and the FEMA locations was phenomenal. They shipped almost 2,500 pallets of gloves to four different destinations over several months. Only three pallets were mis-shipped. They proved themselves.
Also key was that we continually reached out to our partners and asked, 'What do you need from us?'
My career has been a winding road. After earning a B.S. in math, I interviewed for a job in industrial engineering. I didn't know what that was, so I looked it up, interviewed, and then got the job.
Several positions later, I worked for an automotive supplier and shifted into production scheduling and materials management. I was expediting shipments all over the country.
Then ADS reached out. We're trying to automate and streamline processes. We worked with a 3PL to develop a supplier portal. Suppliers can, for instance, upload shipment information, which we pass on to our customers. We're also using robotics to process invoices quickly.
Our focus is on accurately telling a customer when a package is going to ship. While we'd love to give delivery date estimates as well, it's not always a fit for everything we sell.
We don't say no. We keep pushing because what we do is meaningful.
In the early days of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict, a deploying soldier needed a pair of boots. We shipped them that day to Los Angeles International Airport, but the airline mistakenly sent them to San Francisco. Our freight forwarder learned the soldier was flying through San Francisco and called his San Francisco office. They got the boots and stood at the airport with a card with the soldier's name on it, and then gave him his boots.
Our purpose is serving those who serve, and we take that to heart.n
Lisa Mernin Answers the Big Questions
1. What book has had an impact on you?
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant. This book looks at how people get ingrained in their beliefs. Grant shows how it's okay to be wrong, and to think outside of whatever you normally do.
2. If you could have one superpower, what would you like?
To see into the future. I don't care if it's bad or good, I want to know. Then I can deal with it.
3. If you had $1 million to start a new business or philanthropic venture, what would you do?
My son is a Type 1 diabetic, so I'm a big advocate of the American Diabetes Association. I'd work on finding a cure and bringing down the outrageous cost of insulin.