We are so proud of our very own Dan Waters for earning a spot on Food Logistics Magazine’s Rock Stars of the Supply Chain list. Today, we’re sitting down with Dan to talk about this momentous achievement.
Q: Rockstar of the Supply Chain is a pretty impressive title! What do you think earned you the recognition from Food Logistics Magazine?
A: I began my career with 17 years in operations and IT for food manufacturers and distributors, holding roles like VP of Operations, IT leadership and General Manager at three different food companies.
My unique blend of experience and depth of expertise in both IT and Operations in the food industry gives me an informed and empathetic perspective. When I’m talking to food companies looking to overcome supply chain challenges, I’m able to serve as the bridge between IT and Operations because I’ve walked in their shoes. I’ve been in the game long enough to know the holes people get stuck in, and I can help IT and operations find common ground and see things from the other’s perspective.
Q: What challenges are facing our customers and their supply chains in the year ahead?
A: The biggest challenge facing food logistics companies is getting on board with the advance of new technology. If your technology is old school, you are not going to be able to adapt. With the dramatic changes and new demands we’ve seen on food distribution and grocery, you have to put reliable and flexible solutions and processes in place that meet your needs today and enable you to shift as your needs evolve.
Q: What are you doing to help Made4net customers overcome those challenges?
A: I’ve worked with many Made4net food customers including Sprouts, Sadaf Foods, and Uber Grocery, helping them streamline their operations and processes and add technology, like warehouse management software, and automation to meet dramatic shifts in demand for food delivery.
The warehouse is a great place to make dramatic gains for food companies. Flexible IT solutions enable them to meet that fine balance between volume, speed, and service levels. When big volumes hit with the pandemic and channels of distribution changed dramatically, companies who had configurable tools in their supply chain systems were able to adapt more easily.
Q: What’s one thing you’ve done in the past year to help shape the global cold food supply chain?
A: I’ve helped support our customers through changing food distribution models. For example, everybody used to go to the supermarket to buy groceries. Now, they’re buying on an app and want them delivered. It was tough for a lot of the industry to adapt. Many grocers stumbled. There were issues in the stores with traffic and inventory as both consumers and “web order pickers” were in the stores at the same time, and as the same aisles and inventory were used to support in-person and online shoppers.
Many food companies are considering dark stores, micro-fulfillment centers, smaller order profiles, and operational technology (robotics, conveyor, ASRS) so they don’t have to scale volume and employees equally. Doing this the old school way meant adding people and space, it meant adding payroll, but that’s not the case today. Companies have to do more with fewer bodies and I’ve been able to help food distributors and grocers move their products through all these different distribution models.
Q: How are you helping companies better align with their supply chain strategies?
A: I’m part of the 20/20 club. 20 years in operational management and 20 years in IT. My depth of food industry experience means I’ve ‘walked the walk’ of the Ops and IT people and can help them get to the heart of challenges and provide solutions that will help today and into the future.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part of the job is interacting with customers, especially the initial discussions where I can help give clarity to companies looking to solve operational problems with technology. I like getting into the ring with them, visiting their operations, and digging deep to help understand the challenges and find a way out of the weeds.
Q: Describe yourself in three sentences.
A: I truly understand the challenges cold food companies face because I did their job for 20 years.
I bring a unique blend of food Operations and IT experience – something that is generally quite siloed at companies – and that helps bridge the communication gap.
I always try to be a “glass is half full” kind of guy – I strive to bring a positive attitude to the table right along with my knowledge and distribution expertise.