"One on One: An Interview with Judith Hollis" By Michael Fredette, Summer 2001, Vol. 37, No. 3, p. 2
Journal of Supply Chain Management Copyright © August 2001, by the Institute for Supply Management, Inc.
Interview by Michael Fredette, writer for Purchasing Today®
Judith Hollis is vice president of supply chain management for Wendy’s International, Inc. Ms. Hollis joined Wendy’s in 1999 after serving nine years in the Tricon restaurant system as a vice president in various supply chain areas. She spent the early part of her career in technology with IBM in engineering, sales, and marketing roles. Her professional and community involvement includes membership in NAPM, CAPS Research, and Women’s Foodservice Forum, as well as serving on the board of directors of Columbus Chapter American Heart Association and Columbus Jazz Orchestra. She also serves on the board of advisors for Mindflow Technology, Inc. and on the industry advisory board for Instill Corporation.
The Journal of Supply Chain Management:
What is your background and how did you get into purchasing?
Judith Hollis: My background is in math and technology. Out of college I joined IBM, and I spent 10 years at IBM in engineering, sales, and marketing jobs. I worked as vice president of marketing for a software company for several years, and then just 10 years ago I moved into a position in supply chain management. I saw supply chain management as an area that was evolving, having more and more impor-tance to business, and being heavily influenced by technology. So, I felt that my background would be a good fit for the emerging supply chain manage-ment field, and it was an area that held a lot of interest for me.
The Journal: To whom do you report and what is the role of purchasing at the strategic level?
Hollis: I report to the executive vice president of research and development, quality assurance, and supply chain management, and she reports directly to our chairman and chief executive officer. Supply chain management is definitely involved at the strategic level. We are very tied to the company’s long-range strategies. Wendy’s is in the process of developing a new strategic plan, and there are 10 areas of initiative that are part of that strategic plan. Becoming best in class in supply chain man-agement is one of those initiatives.
The Journal: What are the challenges that your organization faces and are any unique to your industry?
Hollis: One of the challenges that is probably unique to the food service industry is that the industry is not as highly automated as many other industries in America. It is lagging in technology. Thus, as we begin to implement our e-commerce strategy or we try to automate our supply chain, there are challenges to us based on the state of the industry.
The Journal: How is purchasing helping to resolve Wendy’s challenges?
Hollis: We view cost reduction as an important part of our job. We focus on continual improvement projects with all of our suppliers to take cost out of our supply chain. We also view our job as developing supplier partnerships that are going to assist Wendy’s with maintaining our competitive advantage. We look for new product innovations, speed to market, and to companies that are involved in technological innovation in quality, food safety, and preparation efficiency. So, it’s not just cost; additionally the other things will give us a competitive advantage.
The Journal: Is purchasing at Wendy’s highly decentralized? If Wendy’s is not highly decentral-ized, what changes/opportunities has the change created for you?
Hollis: Wendy’s is centralized in the purchasing of all direct materials — food, packaging, and sup-plies for our restaurants. We have developed a cen-tralized system that supports the entire Wendy’s system, both corporate and franchisee restaurants on a global basis. Since the direct materials are, by far, our most significant spend, we have focused on building best-in-class processes and systems in those areas. Indirect materials now offer us another oppor-tunity for cost control and savings as we focus on them.
The Journal: What is the vision for purchasing at Wendy’s? If purchasing is considered strategic at Wendy’s, how did this develop?
Hollis: Supply chain management is considered a strategic area at Wendy’s. About four years ago, Wendy’s began the transition of changing the para-digm of purchasing and distribution, a tactical orga-nization, to supply chain management with a very strategic role within our organization. The organiza-tion began to focus on evolving supply chain man-agement to a core competency. In a broader sense, the education and awareness of all senior manage-ment about the potential benefits of this new view of supply chain management has been the driver for its evolution to an area of strategic importance. Our executive vice president and our former and current CEOs really recognized that supply chain management is an area that can make a significant difference for Wendy’s with the margin pressures that all chain restaurants are facing.
The Journal: What have been your successes and what areas are your challenges?
Hollis: We have been able to assist Wendy’s in reducing and maintaining cost over the past few years — which has been beneficial to the business. We’ve developed some supplier partnerships that have been beneficial to Wendy’s in direct product areas. We have made some very good progress in e-commerce in an industry that is pretty far behind and we are pleased with that. We have a staff that is growing and learning, and is enabling us to become the supply chain management organization we envision.
The Journal: What don’t you know that pur-chasing/ supply chain management research could help you with?
Hollis: As we implement our e-commerce strategies, we are doing research on the priority of implemen-tation to achieve the most benefit, most quickly for all parties in the supply chain. As we work with our suppliers and our distributors, we are trying to under-stand not only where the benefits are going to accrue for us but also where they’ll accrue throughout the supply chain. This will allow us to implement in the priority that gives the most benefit to everyone the soonest.
The Journal: What is the future of purchasing at Wendy’s and what will your role be?
Hollis: We are continuing to evolve, and contin-uing to change. Wendy’s is a very exciting place to be right now, and I think our role will become more and more strategic as we go forward.
The Journal: Are you finding it a challenge to find and hire qualified people?
Hollis: It’s always a challenge to find good people. We have been very lucky. The young people we’ve hired out of college have excellent supply chain backgrounds. We are finding that more and more universities are developing excellent supply chain skills in their undergraduate, and especially in their MBA, programs. Because Wendy’s has a reputation as a very quality place to work, we’ve been very lucky in attracting people.