"One on One: An Interview with Jose Mejia" By Julie S. Roberts, Spring 2002, Vol. 38, No. 2, p. 2
Journal of Supply Chain Management Copyright © May 2002, by the Institute for Supply Management, Inc.
Julie S. Roberts
Interview by Julie S. Roberts, editor of Inside Supply Management®
Jose A. Mejia is president, Supply Chain Networks for Lucent Technologies. Since joining Lucent in 1999, he has led the imple-mentation of a supply chain vision and strategy that covers the end-to-end provisioning of Lucent solutions to its global customer base. Effective January 2001, Mr. Mejia became responsible for integrating the supply chain and manufacturing operations into a complete and efficient Supply Chain Networks group. In his current role, Mr. Mejia is responsible for the executive management and oversight of sup-plier and supply chain engineering and man-agement, product engineering, test and component engineering, procurement, manu-facturing, logistics, and distribution for Lucent, as well as for the company’s outsourcing and contract manufacturing efforts. Prior to joining Lucent, Mr. Mejia worked for Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, and Ford Motor Company.
The Journal of Supply Chain Management: What is your background, and how did you get into supply management?
Jose Mejia: I have a degree in industrial and opera-tions engineering from the University of Michigan. I also have worked at IBM, where I held different jobs in industrial engineering, project management, and inventory management — which is the first time that I got involved with supply. It’s hard not to be involved with supply management because no matter what you’re doing, you’re a part of bringing a product or solution to the market for the customer. While at the Research Triangle Park, I earned my MBA at Duke University specializing in finance and operations research. I later left IBM to go to Ford Motor Company. After doing many dif-ferent jobs at Ford, I was selected to become one of the key leaders of a large reengineering project called Ford 2000. From Ford, I moved to a company in California called Bay Networks. Nortel Networks bought the company, and I became the vice presi-dent of external manufacturing strategy for Nortel. One year later, I was recruited to work for Lucent.
The Journal: What challenges is your organiza-tion facing? Are any unique to your industry?
Mejia: Our major challenges are associated with the marketplace. I don’t think that’s unique to the telecommunications industry, but our industry may be facing it more than most. The marketplace, par-ticularly in our industry, is changing dramatically. With this change is the requirement to sense and respond. Supply managers must sense how and where the market is improving and respond accordingly. The areas with little improvement must be managed carefully. There are always other chal-lenges such as implementing the organization’s vision, getting the right talent, and ensuring that we’re working on the right problems, but the biggest challenge is really adjusting to the marketplace.
The Journal: How is supply management helping to resolve these challenges?
Mejia: In about nine months, the supply chain organization contributed to a 60 percent reduction in Lucent’s inventory. We achieved this because we got better at managing our inventory and matching it to the demand. We better understood where inven-tory was and once we knew what we had, we figured out how to use it better. Another example is cash flow. In one year, Lucent has improved its cash flow by 95 percent. Supply Chain Networks was a huge participant in identifying where the cash was being spent, how it was being spent, and figuring out how to connect those expenditures to achieve more leverage to reduce costs and provide visibility in how departments are spending money. We are working better with our customers and have better financial data.
The Journal: What is your vision for supply man-agement at Lucent?
Mejia: A supply chain organization can be compared to the human body’s vital statistics (the heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, etc.). Just as a doctor monitors these vital functions to gauge the health of the human body, the supply chain organization should monitor the health of the company. The supply chain organization must sense what’s happening around it and then continually respond by structuring the supply chain to achieve success. The supply chain organization needs to be influen-tial in identifying problems and improving them. This is difficult and different from the role that most supply chain organizations are playing today. It requires intense teamwork with the various busi-ness segments, with the sales organization, with mar-keting, and with support from the CEO and board leadership of the company. It also requires the right talent. And to me, the right talent is centered in the people who think two or three steps ahead of where you are now. They are very good at devising a strategy with an action plan in place if something goes wrong.
The Journal: What have been supply management’s biggest successes at Lucent?
Mejia: We’ve changed everything about the way Lucent works. We’ve changed logistics, transporta-tion, manufacturing, contract negotiations, and the organization. And not just in one location of Lucent — we’ve done this everywhere. We’ve orga-nized the supply chain organization to include product engineers so that we can influence the designs and involve the right partnering suppliers from the beginning.
The Journal: What are you doing in the area of e-commerce or e-procurement?
Mejia: Our Web-based procurement system has resulted in more than $2 million in annual savings. Every purchase order is handled and approved online. Every contract is created and approved online. We even have a system where I can tell you by purchase order number where a product is, and using my Palm Pilot, I can have messages sent to me detailing where the product is and when it will arrive. However, there are areas where I would like to improve more. For instance, I would like to improve in terms of the entire connection especially with the aspects associated with the customer. Overall, though, we are pretty automated right now.
The Journal: What do you see in the future for supply management at Lucent or for the function in general?
Mejia: In general terms, I believe that our profes-sion needs to take advantage of the marketplace the way it is today realizing that we are a very essential part of business success. We need to transform the leverage and influence we have to the point that we’re perceived as more than functional leaders. To be considered a key player or leader in the organiza-tion’s drive to success, we need to take advantage of the opportunities before us. I think the best players in this area are those that are able to get the current leadership of companies to think of them and their organizations as the place where the next CEOs are going to come from. We have a tremendous oppor-tunity to really reshape who we are. The CEO looks to the supply chain organization because we are critical to the business, and the economy is such that most companies are currently looking to supply chain organizations to make improvements and to help the company turn around and succeed.