December 2018 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Regenerating Logistics

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Supply Chain

Denise Kopko is vice president of operations-commercial, supply chain and logistics, with Veolia North America, an environmental services company that designs and provides water, waste, and energy management solutions for commercial, municipal, and industrial customers.

Responsibilities: Profit and loss, commercial, supply chain, logistics, and the customer service within Veolia's regeneration services business.

Experience: Global marketing intelligence leader, global demand manager, North American business; marketing manager and numerous business, supply chain and logistics positions within Chemours and DuPont.

Education: Penn State University, B.S., Logistics 1989; Drexel University, M.B.A., 1995.


I came to Veolia in January 2017, about 25 days before our service level agreement with Chemours was set to expire. Veolia had purchased the Regeneration Service Business from Chemours in July 2016.

My job, along with many others, was to ensure a seamless transition from Chemours to Veolia. Within my first week, we recognized we were significantly behind in transitioning our systems and logistics agreements. Through my team's hard work, we were able to stand up Regeneration Services on its own SAP system and transition all the support functions on time.

Veolia's regeneration services make for a logistics-intensive business. We have more than 1,000 rail cars in our fleet, operate several barges, and handle 21,000-plus bulk truck shipments each year.

One current focus is on driver availability. We're working to cut wait time at our plants and our customers' facilities by pre-loading trailers so drivers can come in, check their paperwork, and go. This can save 45 minutes to one hour.

We've also worked closely with customers to ensure that when our drivers arrive, they don't sit in line for hours. When we find those situations, we meet with the customer and figure out what to do. We're not always successful, but we've made significant improvements.

We're committed to zero incidents. When one does happen, we do a root-cause investigation to figure out how to prevent future incidents. At one site, we changed out a long-standing carrier because it couldn't attract the drivers we needed to service customers reliably.

I started at Penn State as a marketing major because that's what girls did in 1985. Then I took Introduction to Business Logistics 101 with Dr. John Coyle and thought, "Wow. This is really interesting." I called home and told my parents I was going to change my major to business logistics. My dad said, "What the heck is business logistics?"

So, I graduated with a degree in logistics and supply chain before it was a popular major. It was the best decision I have ever made. I've had some great jobs and incredible opportunities.

In 1991, I was the logistics manager for a product we had sold to a customer in Uzbekistan. We had to figure out how to get the product from the United States to Uzbekistan. It's a landlocked country, which meant going through Russia. At the time, it was illegal to ship this product through Russia to Uzbekistan.

My boss and I went to Russia to get special permits. He was the leader, but I knew the details. So as a young female, I had to convince the Russian Ministry, mostly older gentlemen, that we could do this safely and reliably and without any environmental incidents. We succeeded.

In 2011, my husband passed away after a long battle with cancer. I have three children and needed to step back and travel less. I went into some marketing roles, but when I joined Veolia in 2017, it felt like coming home.

Veolia is a great company and I have an excellent team and co-workers. No matter what we're faced with, we pull together and accomplish whatever task we set out to do. Every day I get out of bed and can't wait to get to work.n

The Big Questions

What supply chain-disrupting technology would you speed development of?

Becoming completely digital and visible from customer order to delivery, so the whole supply chain happens seamlessly.

Words to live by?

My husband's illness changed my perspective: "Don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff." Also "Live each day to the fullest. Today is not a dress rehearsal."

You're throwing the perfect dinner party. Who do you invite?

My grandmother, my dad, and my husband, who all have passed away. They were extremely important people who have had a profound effect on my life and my success. I would give anything to have one more dinner with them.






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