Day 2 of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) EDGE 2020 conference opened with a one-on-one talk with Target executive Arthur Valdez, Jr., covering the retailer’s transformation from a brick-and-mortar company with an e-commerce side business into a fully integrated omnichannel business leader. 

CSCMP President and CEO Rick Blasgen interviewed Valdez about Target’s efforts to transform local stores into fulfillment hubs designed to serve customers no matter how they want to purchase from Target, as well as the corporation’s focus on authenticity, engagement, and problem-solving, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. The wide-ranging interview also touched on Valdez’ background as the son of Mexican-American and Cuban parents and the first in his family to attend college, and how that experience continues to shape the way he approaches his work at Target and beyond. Valdez said he and his wife sponsor a scholarship for minority students at his alma mater, Colorado State University, and he described diversity and inclusion as one of his passions.

“My Hispanic Latinx roots are very important to me,” Valdez told Blasgen, emphasizing the value of inclusion programs within Target and in the broader business community. “Helping mentor others around [those issues] is important [as well].”

The half hour interview tied those themes to broader issues of supply chain transformation, transition, the “guest experience,” and the opportunities available to supply chain professionals as a result of a newfound focus on and appreciation of the discipline.

Valdez said Target team members have worked hard to transform the company and to keep it running successfully during the pandemic. He praised both the company’s in-person and remote team members and cited Target’s focus on authenticity and engagement as guiding principles during the shift. He said Target transformed from a traditional to a fully integrated  omnichannel retail format by focusing on four key areas: 

  • Inventory management—effectively, figuring out how to manage with one inventory for multiple buying experiences.

  • Transportation—particularly, focusing on the speed of its logistics operations.

  • Automation and robotics.

  • And operational excellence.

 

He also talked about the need to focus on employee health and well-being during the pandemic, likening the experience to managing people during the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. Staying in contact with team members and making sure they “were okay” was job one, he explained. He also cited three lessons he learned during 9/11 that serve as guiding principles for managing supply chains now: 

  • Control the situation, don’t let the situation control you.

  • Go as far upstream as you can to manage the business, looking for signals that may create supply chain problems.

  • Don’t relax your standards; he cautioned that supply chain operations must execute to the same or higher standards during times of crisis to keep things running smoothly.

Those issues tie directly to Target’s focus on the “guest experience.” Valdez put it this way: “We work from the guest backwards,” again emphasizing the retailer’s shift to using stores as a hub for the local experience, where customers can shop in person, via curbside pickup, or home delivery.

The interview ended with a nod toward the growing importance of the supply chain profession and a look at the opportunities ahead for industry professionals. The pandemic is shining a light on the vital role logistics and the supply chain play in daily life, Valdez said, and he predicted a greater need for supply chain skills at the highest corporate levels going forward.

“Many more CEOs will come from supply chain [and] logistics backgrounds,” he said, adding that professionals from across the discipline will “continue to rise to the top.”



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