Supply Chain Now
Episode 652

Episode Summary

“Our vision is, let’s go unleash ingenuity by giving people the oxygen to go just have that human touch. And let us do the minutiae of linear algebra in the cloud, because the data’s there.”

-Alex Ramirez, Co-Founder & CEO, CognitOps

Join founder, supply chain technologist, and championship little league coach Alex Ramirez as he shares his thoughts on the importance of grit, the evolution of warehouse management systems – and what it takes to be a successful tech founder (hint: empathy for customers is involved). We also pinpoint the leading trends in distribution and fulfillment and get Alex’s thoughts on how supply chain leaders can build true resiliency moving forward.

In this episode, Alex discusses the following with Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton:

· His thoughts on the importance of grit

· The evolution of warehouse management systems

· What it takes to be a successful tech founder (hint: empathy for customers is involved)

· The leading trends in distribution and fulfillment and how supply chain leaders can build true resiliency moving forward

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to supply chain. Now the voice of global supply chain supply chain now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues. The challenges and opportunities stay tuned to hear from those making global business happen right here on supply chain now,

Scott Luton (00:32):

Hey, good morning, Scott Luton and Greg White with you here on supply chain. Now, welcome to today’s show Greg. We’ve got a special show here today. You ready to go?

Greg White (00:40):

This is an exciting topic, first of all, and it’s a long time coming. This sort of change in this industry. So I’m not going to give away too much because I don’t know what the rest of the script reads Scott so

Scott Luton (00:54):

Well, today’s show we’re speaking with a founder and supply chain technology entrepreneur. That’s on the move, right? Doing big things, especially in the warehousing distribution and fulfillment space. So stay tuned for what should be a great conversation, tackling some really important things I’d say here in the e-commerce age. So looking forward to that, Greg, so with no further ado, you already heard from him, at least a word or two, should we introduce our guests, Greg? Now let’s do it. The timing is so critical,

Greg White (01:24):

Critical, and you know, we’re very precise. We are very

Alex Ramirez (01:27):

Precise and impeccable. Okay.

Scott Luton (01:29):

So let’s welcome in today’s guest today’s guest cut his teeth on learning the foundations of systems and operations at Accenture, where he was also introduced to warehousing technology. From there via a cold stint, Minnesota, we may hear about, he found his way to Austin, Texas, with ReadWorks, uh, what some call the driver behind the modern Ws software platform. Our guests led that company through growth, acquisition and successful onboarding by dramatic, and then gained inspiration to start a whole new company, which, uh, has really been taken off here in recent months. We’re gonna learn a lot more about that. So let’s bring in Alex, Ramirez co-founder and CEO with cognitive ops, Alex. Good morning. How are you doing?

Alex Ramirez (02:09):

Good morning, Scott and Greg it’s uh, it’s great to be with you.

Greg White (02:12):

It is indeed morning where you are,

Alex Ramirez (02:14):

Right? Yes, it is out here in the west coast. Yeah. I love that time zones work. So luckily I’m an early riser gentlemen, so raring to go.

Scott Luton (02:21):

Well, we’ve really enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed the pre-show conversation. We kind of tackle the gamut from Disney to sports, to some of the boots you wear and the treatment. I really enjoyed it, but Greg, let’s start with just getting to know Alex A. Little better. So Alex, for starters, where’d you grow up and give us some anecdote spectrum upbringing.

Alex Ramirez (02:41):

Yeah, so I grew up in Miami, Florida, the three oh five, pretty much born and raised. My, my parents are immigrants from Nicaragua. They came to the states in the late seventies during the kind of communist takeover in the Contra war. I’ve got stories for days around my family being involved in the contract part of the war assassination attempts for presidents, meeting all the north HW meetings in the white house. Crazy, crazy stories about my family being involved in, in revolution. And so I feel a little bit like a revolutionary in this space. Hopefully not as violent, of course. Uh, and so Miami has never, no,

Greg White (03:19):

It was hard though, Alex.

Alex Ramirez (03:22):

Yeah. The DC’s are kind of, you know, rugged, rigid environments and may take a wrecking ball to change them. Uh, and so I, I grew up, went to an all boys, private Jesuit school who’s I think most famous alum is Fidel Castro. So again, this kind of revolutionary type, uh, type theme, and one of my favorite stories to tell that Kent will give you a sense of who I am as a, as, as a CEO and leader is all throughout college. I coached little league baseball and I would grab the bad, bad news bears. I was a pretty good athlete. I was on travel teams and, uh, but I, I always loved my right fielders. There were the best players, the best attitudes, you know? No premadonnas. So when I started to coach and just grabbed a whole bunch of right fielders, and I’m like, I’m going to repurpose you and I’m going to coach you up.

Alex Ramirez (04:08):

And for four years we won the, uh, the championship. Uh, in fact, in one of those years, I won a radio contest for $10,000. And what did I do? I bought, you know, the team uniforms and myself, a gateway computer. Remember those like Cal box gateway computers blast from the past. So the two things I wanted to be a nerd and a wonder and be a coach. And so I just loved coaching all the way back when, uh, when I was in college. So yeah, son of immigrants went to the U was a math major. Wasn’t a very good one. And hopefully, you know, made it, made a good choice here going into a Accenture and we’ll see where this vector takes me in.

Scott Luton (04:48):

All right. So there’s, there’s so much, you’ve seared that hours upon hours of podcasts and ramp let’s go back. So your parents, immigrants from Nicaragua did, they was entrepreneurial-ism uh, was that, um, when they heard, that’s kind of what you want to do, how did they respond? They get that and, and really get behind it.

Alex Ramirez (05:07):

They loved it. So, um, from one side of my family, we’ve got entrepreneurs and there’s a business in Naples, Florida, a nursery plant nursery. That’s very successful. On the other side, it’s been more of an inspiration to actually start CogAT ops from the experience my dad has, who’s my superhero, you know, middle-class providing for his family coming from a poor background and he had so many ideas, fantastic ideas, but never really launched them because he didn’t want to really threaten this middle-class livelihood that he was providing for, for all of us. And so I think back to that, you know, everyday of, of him coming with ideas are a little frustrated that he wasn’t taking that leap. And that was the main driver for me to take the leap and be so terrified about putting it all on black, but certainly yes, entrepreneurship is in the DNA, but so is fear of not doing things. And so those two conflicting forces I had to reconcile when, when I started the business.

Scott Luton (06:04):

All right. So one more question. And I’m a past Baton to Greg, we’re going to talk about your professional journey. So being a devout addict to coaching, right. Uh, I love that give back, right. There’s so many kids that benefit from, from going through, uh, baseball leagues and whatnot. Are you also from a business standpoint, are you a big believer in coaching people up as well as, is there a lot of, you see a lot of parallels there?

Alex Ramirez (06:27):

Oh, absolutely. So we’ve got, uh, one-on-ones with all of our leadership teams, uh, and leaders to talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, you know, I suffer from the imposter syndrome. And so I’d have that empathy of a lot of the pains that I have. I know other leaders are having as well. And so breaking that ice to say, gosh, when someone asks you, how can I help? It’s often hard to say, well, these are the things I need help on. Instead I kind of broach it with, I suffer these things, right. I’ve had moments of, of, you know, being at the trough of despair or feeling like an imposter or not feeling adequate at a certain job. Tell me about an experience where you’ve felt that. And so that kind of opens people up to being coached because if you just, you know, get right out of them and say, Hey, I’m going to coach you kind of tough, right? They’re not, they’re not going to be willing, you know, co parties in the, uh, in the coaching Greg man, that

Greg White (07:20):

That is some seriously deep thinking about leadership. I mean, I guess, I guess we should expect that Scott. I mean, when you think about being on both sides of, of leadership and turmoil and having seen your parents, especially having seen dictatorship, having gone to school with, or where a dictator went to school, and yet you you’ve turned out to be kind of a giving an open leader, it sounds like to me, I mean, to be that open, to share your, you know, to share your concerns of yourself with other leaders has gotta be really, really comfortable comforting for your team. So,

Alex Ramirez (07:57):

Yeah, I hope so. That’s powerful

Greg White (07:59):

Stuff. It’s funny. It’s funny how many people there are people think of Cuba as, as a lot of residents having a lot of residents in Miami, but the family that owns Watsco, which is a big, um, a big air heating and air conditioning distributor in the Grove there in the Grove, they’re Nicaraguan immigrants as well. So originally, originally from Syria had to leave Syria because of religion went to Nicaragua and then immigrated to the states. So it, a lot of those stories and I can really empathize with families coming from Latin America to the states. So that’s very useful,

Alex Ramirez (08:39):

Sorry. I wanted to interject something quickly. Like what? So one of our core values is, is grit. And it was one that I voted for. And I think it’s something that immigrants, especially those that come from, you know, war torn countries like Cuba and Nicaragua, like that was, I was destined to be grit. And for me that’s code word for just being stubborn guys like that, I’m just really stubborn, you know, like failure is not an option, uh, type, uh, type sediment. And so I see those types of stories and it’s inspiring to, to understand, like if you’ve got a tight grip, you can do a lot of really magical things. Well, you’re

Greg White (09:16):

In the right part of the country for grinding it out with grit. Nothing, nothing is appreciated more in Texas than true grit. Right. So, um, I was born in the Midwest too, and I, I, I really get that. I mean, people are used to just kind of grinding it out. So it’s a really interesting culture and it fits really well, I think, with where you’ve come from. It does. So you actually had jobs before cognit ops, right? Accenture, and more, so tell us a little bit about what you took from those roles, any kind of professional learnings from your roles or any Eureka moments in your business maturation or anything

Alex Ramirez (09:58):

Like that? Yeah. I want to go back to Scott’s opening around the frigid time in Minneapolis. So another just round of stories, maybe over a beer or five is my, my time in Minneapolis and my first walk in January outside of the Skyway, I look outside the hotel and it’s a beautiful day. And of course I’m an endurance operator and kid that has never seen snow before. And, you know, I used my signing bonus to Andersen. Now Accenture on a leather jacket from Wilson’s leather. I’m thinking, you know, I’m great. I’m the bees and easier that’s enough. So I come out of the Hilton, they turned right on Nicollet mall to walk down to my building. And I, I feel a pain like I have never felt before in my life. And so of course, you know, my not smart person decides to start running makes it worse.

Alex Ramirez (10:49):

And so I shoot it to the U S yeah. Windshield. So I shoot into the USB bank building and there’s the thermometer that says 20 below. And I’m like, I was a math major, not a chemistry major. Is that physically impossible? Like, can that happen? So anyway, so one of the earliest lessons I’ve, I’ve ever learned in my career that I have certainly adopted because I lived in Minneapolis for a good seven years is work coat and be prepared. Don’t be an idiot. So anyway, that was the first one. I think the, uh, you know, that is the be prepared

Greg White (11:19):

Thing is it’s so appropriate and you learn it in the hardest way in Minneapolis. Yes. One of my first gigs I’ll keep this short, but one of my first gigs was when I first got into technology was my assignment was to go to the IBM center, one of the IBM centers in, in Minneapolis, and do some training on the technology that we were working on my feet. I just wore regular shoes, dress shoes. My feet got so cold walking into the building that my shoes almost fell off because my feet contracted it was that cold. And I mean, I, I’m not in shoes. Yeah. It’s not, it was not as foreign to me. Is it even was to you, but boy, did I learn from that? And we’ll teach you preparation like nothing.

Alex Ramirez (12:02):

Yes, yes. Yeah. My experience at, at, at Accenture, you know, beyond the frigidness, uh, was I think a blessing for me because it, it also taught me the power of impact in an organization. This is the year 2000. And you know, the economy is crashing e-commerce, you know, is, is crashing. And here I am building a warehouse management system for, they’re Carrollton, Georgia facility off a platform called [inaudible]. And it was their office in Minneapolis. And it was all Oracle forms and little bit of Java and Unix shell script. A and I, I couldn’t spell job if he gave me every letter, but the a and yet there I am billing at 180 an hour expected to deliver all these mods and specifications. And so, and so the, the, like getting to learn something quickly and being afraid that there is somebody behind you that if you don’t take right that opportunity to deliver impact, guess what, you know, you’re expendable.

Alex Ramirez (13:04):

And I saw so many of my colleagues and teammates being walked out in there in our kind of pod that it instilled a healthy sense of fear and that professional fear of, you know, what, there’s always somebody willing to work harder than you. So work hard started at Accenture and, and I thank them for it. It was a terrifying moment in my career, you know, a 21 year old in the cold learning, something that, you know, he’s never learned before trying to deliver, you know, features to this monolith of a business with pressure, talk about a culture and write and write a passage I’ve

Greg White (13:40):

Heard. I mean, I’ve never, I’ve never had the guts, frankly, to do the consulting thing and you have to be a pretty, pretty special talent. I didn’t go to the right school and I didn’t get good enough grades at the wrong

Alex Ramirez (13:49):

School. So I,

Greg White (13:52):

I, I had zero chance of ever being an, an Accenture consultant, but I’ve met them before. And they are, you know, they are a special breed. A lot of those of you who have been able to be consultants to work at that level are really special talents. It’s amazing to hear that story of those people, because, you know, you sort of think of them as the cream of the crop. I mean, especially in those days, they certainly were. So it’s a brutal environment. So from Accenture, tell, tell us where you went from on that point.

Alex Ramirez (14:25):

Yeah. So from Accenture, I went to HighJump software, which is now part of Kerber supply chain at the time smaller company hadn’t been acquired by 3m and then divested by 3m yet pretty doing some interesting things. One of my first projects was to help build a warehouse management system for circuit city, a blast from that past. Uh, and so, yeah, I’ve got, you know, I’ve got the Midas touch. So we, you know, we built a hot jump

Greg White (14:51):

Wasn’t high jump where they based in, in Minneapolis, they were based

Alex Ramirez (14:55):

In Minneapolis. So I, I decided we’re best us. Yes. But you got the circuit city, you know, you, you, you, you deal with the cards you’re dealt, you know? So, um, and so I, uh, I actually, so I was traveling at Accenture from Miami to Minneapolis. There were days where I would go from 30 below to a hundred degrees in Miami and so crazy, crazy commutes there, but went over to, to HighJump and loved the team there. Chris Haim was the CEO and, uh, an inspirational leader. And we were just doing some really, really good warehouse management systems for, you know, strong brands, some survived, some didn’t of course, but at the, at that time, you know, two years into building WMS, is it just made sense to me. I, when, when I was in college, I wanted to be an actuary. I was never smart enough. I went to the Harvard of coral Gables. Great. I don’t know if that, you know, you know, that’s what they call her city of Miami. Right. So, uh,

Scott Luton (15:53):

I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone that had the dream of becoming an actuary going to college. That’s how I love highfalutin stuff.

Alex Ramirez (16:03):

Yeah, no, I, uh, I loved math and my backup plan Scott to come out of college in the event that, you know, I was, I was a complete loser and couldn’t find anything was to be a math teacher. I saw so many, uh, people hate math growing up because of bad teachers that I’m like, I’ve got to fix that. Like, you know, just math is awesome and I can, I can teach it same way I could coach literally. But of course, capitalism struck and you know, here I am. And so at high jumped, just building warehouse management systems, it made sense, you know, stuff comes into the warehouse, something happens to it out, it goes. And so that, that just kind of set me on, on my career, right. Two years in working at HighJump for a good seven years in a multitude of different roles, another kind of experience that I’ve had that allows me to go back to the cattle, that leadership coaching is faking it till you make it, you know, it’s arguable, whether it’s a good philosophy, a bad philosophy, you should be prepared. I think there’s much to be said about those individuals that are willing to raise their hand and say, I know I’m ill prepared, but there’s no one else volunteering for this really tough job and it’s got to get done. Right. And, and that’s been that, that was high jump for me, right. Signing up for projects or doing things that I wasn’t prepared to do, but gosh, darn it. I was going to be gritty enough to figure it out. Right. Um, and so I love that about my experience at hydro.

Greg White (17:26):

Sometimes being a leader is just being willing to step up and lead. Yes, that’s right. Yes. It’s just being willing. Right. Uh, so that, I mean, I think that’s a powerful lesson for people is if you wait until you’re ready to lead, it’s going to be too late. You may never be ready. You’ve got to try, you’ve got to just do it. You

Alex Ramirez (17:48):

Know, you know

Greg White (17:50):

That, what is it? It’s the Peter principle, right. You’re elevated to, you’re elevated to your level of incompetence. And that’s how you gain competence is you have to, as I’ve said, often, baby birds don’t lie because they grow wings. They fly because mom pushes them out of the nest and ascending to leadership or any additional level of knowledge is almost exactly like that. You’ve just got to go for it. And sometimes you win and sometimes you fall to the ground and a nice guy comes out and puts you back. That’s right. Uh, hopefully that’s

Alex Ramirez (18:23):

Right. That’s right. So yeah.

Greg White (18:25):

Tell us a little bit about, uh, so you, I didn’t realize you had been in WMS kind of your whole career. So things one, tell us how, how you got from the U into WMS. I mean, obviously was it just coincidence at Accenture that you wound up on a WMS?

Alex Ramirez (18:43):

Yeah. Absolute coincidence, divine Providence. Uh, the, the partner in the Miami office volunteered me to go do this project in Minneapolis. And retack at the time was more of a point of sale and merchandising system. And they had this off shoot product for warehouse management that Walmart just had to buy and they needed an additional engineer. And there I was, I, you know, I’m just kind of standing in line and they’re like, you you’re going to go, you know, code this thing. And I’m like, okay, let’s do it. Right. Uh, so, so yeah, just pure, pure divine prom. Wow.

Greg White (19:19):

That’s incredible. And so I have to ask you this, sorry, this is a little bit off track, but I have to ask you this. So many people say to be successful, you have to do what you love or love what you do. I sense that because you were sort of thrust into WMS, you didn’t select it because you loved it. Did you learn to love it?

Alex Ramirez (19:39):

Um, yes. Yeah. It’s um, I love that discussion, right? Of do what you love versus, you know, love what you do. I’m more of the latter in that I know I’ve grown into my skin. I still am growing into my skin as a CEO and as a, as a leader, right. Our, our, I think our jobs number one are always to learn and mature to be better. But what I found in Accenture was the ability to work around really smart people, right? At high jump, I found again, another opportunity to work with really smart people. That’s what I think I’ve been able to, to really love is whatever it is that I do. If I’m working with people that will inspire me, I will grow to love whatever I’m being inspired about. And so Accenture with warehouse management, HighJump with warehouse management, ReadWorks warehouse execution.

Alex Ramirez (20:33):

I’ve been fortunate to work with exceptional people that, you know, could I have been in advertising and gone to fancy headquarters versus, you know, Realto, California, where there’s a warehouse sure. Would have loved it, probably if I would have been around those really brilliant people. And so I think that there’s, there’s kind of a Venn diagram of those two arguments where, you know, if you find someone that inspires you, then take the inspiration, right? You, you will. It’s a reason why you’re there, there is a reason why you’re being inspired. So go explore it. Right. And for me, it’s just pure luck. Right? And then being around really smart people have led me to love this, uh, this industry learn

Greg White (21:16):

To love what you do. There is a lot of power in that. I mean, you don’t have to, you don’t have to do what you love by the way. It can be a little bit dangerous to do what you love. I have a friend who was a professional golfer, uh, teaching pro and yes, the lesson he taught me was never make your vacation, your vocation because whenever

Alex Ramirez (21:36):

Yes, that’s right. The weather

Greg White (21:39):

Was beautiful out. As he used to say, I’m quoting him here when the weather was beautiful out, you guys are out playing golf. I’m teaching fat, bald guys how to hit a golf ball,

Alex Ramirez (21:49):

Right? Yeah, yeah, no, right on, I think like a good example is I love I’m a watch nerd. And so I will spend whatever time I have, you know, looking at dinky and other websites on watches and researching him, I would be a bad horology I love looking at them, but I don’t have the patience to understand all the movements and every, but I love the science and the engineering behind it. Right. I would be, I would be bankrupt if I tried to go sell watches or, you know, be a watch retailer. Right. And so I think, um, learn to love what you do because you surround yourself with brilliant people, I think has been, has been luckily my approach. And it’s worked because I would be miserable at, you know, doing what you love because I love watches and I’m bad at them.

Greg White (22:40):

Well, also, also it takes the fun out of something that is somewhat of an escape from the day to day as well. So. Yep. All right. So let’s take the leap, obviously. Maybe we should call it jump. Let’s take the jump. Let’s, let’s talk about cognitive ops because I think you’re, you work sort of, as you said, define intervention, you were sort of externally presented with this opportunity. I think you’ve turned it into something that is changing the way that warehouse management works. So tell us a little bit about cognitive ops and what you do. Tell us a little bit how that’s that is evolving or, or innovating or disrupting sure. Uh, warehouse management.

Alex Ramirez (23:21):

Yeah. So the, the origin of cognitive ops dates back to when, when I was introduced to ReadWorks back in 2009 warehouse execution a software company at the time, it didn’t really know what, what it was. It was more picked, polite than warehouse execution, but the company evolved. And as Scott mentioned, was CEO, we successfully exited the business to dramatic and then started to incorporate the business into dramatic. So I’ve seen warehouse management, I’ve seen warehouse execution, I’ve seen automation implemented some really fancy systems. Um, and that all of that experience led to the origin of cognitive ops. So the beginning of 2018, after two years of being a dramatic and wonderful company, that was doing great things with, with at works, you know, I’m not a big company guy. And so it was, it was time for me to, to go a good leader knows when he starts to smell like mission.

Alex Ramirez (24:18):

I started smell a little bit. And so, uh, so I left and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was gonna, you know, contemplate the navel and take a sabbatical. And it was about a Saturday and Sunday before I, I started getting real bored with myself. And there was a, an accelerator here in Austin, Texas that was having a pitch competition. I just wanted to sit in and see what pitches looked like in the, in the VC space. And Greg you’d appreciate this. I mean, these founders were flailing. It was pretty sad. And, you know, investors were just being just mean and brutal to these poor kids in a Silicon valley, you know, nerds that wanted to come in and disrupt some space. Right. And didn’t really have the, the calluses on their hands and the Nash teeth to really empathize with the space that they’re trying to disrupt and fortuitously.

Alex Ramirez (25:10):

Uh, my co-founder Reese makin was at the same event and we kind of like look across the room and we’re like, why don’t we try this? Like our parents tell us we’re really smart, right? Th the warehouse still has so much blue ocean right. To conquer. Let’s go, let’s go explore this thing. And so that’s what we did. I think that was on a Friday or the following Monday, I buy a whiteboard from office Depot, plop it up against a wall and my kids playroom. And we start just playing a real fancy game of Pictionary, or like, why do warehouses stink? You know? And so it’s like taking a first principle approach to trying to try to distill down the answer and what, what it, what it led to was a pain that we felt often in our QPRs and post peak assessments with our customers, which was great. You gave me an awesome tool street. I’m still experiencing the same eggs. Why is that? And so that, that kind of led to this conversation of cognitive offs. That’s fantastic.

Greg White (26:09):

That’s a great story. And a common one, by the way, for these pitch competitions there, it seems to me that they go one of two directions. They are nothing but affirmations and pats on the head with no result. Yes, they are. They are a brutal deconstruction of your entire personhood,

Alex Ramirez (26:27):

Right. Leaving you a liquid mess on the floor. Oh, indeed. Indeed. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve never seen more sweat from a non gym environment than, than that. Then that pitch competition is, is pretty, uh, pretty awkward. So, but I think the, you know, coming from that, we, because we experienced firsthand this pain, I often introduce myself as an arsonist putting out my own fire. Right. There’s all the WMS. Definitely appreciate that. Yeah. And so like, I know what this feels like I’ve been in warehouses, I’m actually here in California, visiting clients, right. Helping them use the product to drive resiliency and, and just better operations. And being in the front lines with these leaders, struggling to use their modern tools that I trust we’ll get into, you know, you get to, you get to really empathize with the pain. And, and we, we talk about empathy a lot in CogAT ops because we never want to be, there can never be daylight between what we build, what we dream of and in customer value. Right. And it’s hard to not, you know, to do that. If you don’t really like love the pain that the customer is feeling and experience it yourself. Right. And so I’m always, I always admire those founders. I can go into a space, not knowing a darn thing about it, create a new product and go create a new market. I’m not that type of entrepreneur. Right. I, I know this pain, so let me go solve it.

Greg White (28:04):

What is the biggest pain that you guys are solving right now? I’m curious, because there are so many pains in a warehouse and distribution, or an e-commerce, particularly with e-commerce taking the four, there are a lot of pains and warehouses these days. So what is it that you guys are doing that, you know, that answers the question that you were talking about, okay, you gave us this great system. We still have all these pains. What do you, what can you do for it? So,

Alex Ramirez (28:31):

Yeah. So yeah, so there there’s multitude of, of pain points that warehouses suffered. It’s Y you know, there’s a multi-billion dollar markets across robots, software, et cetera. But the easiest one to really understand is if you look at, you know, pick any fortune 500 company, go to their career site, look up in, you know, some derivative form of operations management, or warehouse management or warehouse manager, you’re going to find the most incongruent requirements back to back. Right. One’s going to say something like, you know, quantitative and qualitative assessment of real-time performance of the warehouse and you’re reading. And you’re like, that sounds like linear algebra. Uh, and then right after that, it’s going to say proficiency with Microsoft Excel. And so no, one’s really understood that those two are literally impossible to, to perform at the same time. They’re, they’re not even parallel universes. Right.

Alex Ramirez (29:23):

And so yet the group think in operating a warehouse across industries, vertical markets, planets, um, has been w I need a human being to perform this impossible mission to create balance and flow. And so that kind of the, the, the proxy where recent, I said, I think we have something here. If we can automate a lot of those kinds of decisions that these leaders make. And an easy one to understand is if I have many systems in my warehouse, or even one, we’ve got clients that only have one WMS, where do I position my people, not labor management, labor management is important. It’s a scoreboard, you understand rates and kind of like, Hey, somebody is working at 80% great. But if it’s the Tuesday after the Atlanta Falcons win the super bowl, whatever that happens. Right. And everybody’s 77, 20, 77. Yeah. Yeah. It’s still, you know, if it’s the Tuesday after the super bowl and everybody in the Atlanta warehouse is coming in, because they drank a little bit too much Budweiser, and they’re at 80% efficiency, great labor management systems going to tell you that trade 80%, what do you do? Right. And so that question of, with the people I have and the performance that they’re actually executing, how do I best position my people across all the areas to be as successful as possible? That’s the easiest pain point that cognitive app solves. And the biggest challenge that a lot of these operators have when they try to use Excel to perform that linear algebra, right.

Greg White (30:57):

Or vision or visibility. Right. I think what you’re, what you’re speaking to is how often visibility, how often analytics reporting, whatever it is, how often it just presents the data and then leaves the human to their own devices. When the data exists and logic can be, or knowledge can be applied to actually give them the answer, or at least a range of recommendations. And I think that’s the critical gap, right? And it absolutely should have been done, you know, decades ago, frankly,

Alex Ramirez (31:31):

Decades ago, decades ago now. Oh,

Greg White (31:34):

Absolutely. Demanded by people coming into the workplace. These days, technology should do technology things. If the data exists to solve the problem, solve the problem. And if it doesn’t, then you allow people whose gift is to take insufficient data in a rapid environment and make a sound decision. Then you present it to them that

Alex Ramirez (32:00):

Way, right? Yes. Yes. The, the vision that we have. So our vision statement is to unleash ingenuity, to give rise to resilient businesses. And that unleashing ingenuity is something that these operators just don’t have in the warehouse. Right. So if we believe in AI for, for good and the, the operations manager, like there was a survey, I think by Gallup a couple of years ago, or maybe last year that said only 22% of warehouse employees are, are feeling engaged. And so a simple life hack that we’re giving to these leaders is by allowing us to make those recommendations, do those, it frees up the Headspace, the oxygen in the room and their time to go do what coaches should be doing. Right. Going back to my story about little league. Like, I, I think I was a good coach because I engage one-on-one with every single one of my players. And when you can’t do that as a leader, because you’re too busy, fighting fires, playing the whack-a-mole game, running pivot tables and Excel, guess what your team members aren’t engaged. Right. And so that’s, our vision is let’s go unleash ingenuity by giving people the oxygen to go, just have that human touch. Right. And let us do the minutiae of linear algebra in the cloud, because the data’s there to your point. Yeah.

Scott Luton (33:20):

All right. Yeah. So we have foreshadowed a variety of trends, right? That’s the backdrop for what’s given rise to cognitive ops. And so I want to recap these three things, and let’s whichever one that maybe the two of y’all even would want to kind of elaborate more on, let let’s do that. Let’s do it that way. So what’s interesting if y’all think back, we’re all children of the eighties, right. We all can remember those blue commercials where one of the last phrases that was uttered in these infomercials was allow six to eight weeks for delivery. Right? Holy

Greg White (33:56):

Mackerel, that seems like a hundred years. It does. So there

Scott Luton (34:00):

Is, there is naturally enormous pressure, own distribution centers, fulfillment houses, you name it. Right. So there’s three things that in our pre-show conversation, we kind of talked about the new, and Greg just kind of touched on one, of course, the landscape around distribution centers and the pressure there, right? Fulfillment, you name it, warehousing, micro warehousing, so many different fun things to talk about. Number two, you both mentioned resilience, resiliency, but as we all know, it can’t be just part of your talking points. We’ve got to have global supply chain has to have real resiliency, right? Where all the curve balls, and then third that y’all both spoke about is these tools that organizations and let’s face it practitioners and certain leaders are clinging to right. Clinging into like, uh, there’s that scene in, in, um, what’s the second star wars movie, the empire strikes

Alex Ramirez (34:51):

Back and Walter is

Scott Luton (34:54):

Clinging to that thing before he drops down into, from sky city. Right. That is a perfect illustration of how organizations are clinging to what worked really well, say 20, even 25, 30 years ago. And they’re still making that work somehow now at the cost of op truly optimizing the operations. So those are three different things that, that you and Greg were just speaking to. What else deserves a deeper dive out of those?

Alex Ramirez (35:21):

Yeah. So I think the three are a good summary. There’s one though that I think we have seen that Greg alluded to, which is visibility right now, there is you see a growth of visibility tools. Um, you know, there’s project 44 and forkites, and many others that are providing really awesome functionality, uh, across the supply chain. It’s hard often to have people understand the value of visibility, right? And these businesses are growing because people are starved for it. But I think oftentimes I go into opportunities, Scott, and we talk about just raw visibility into the warehouse and people will say, well, I have analytics, I have charts. And I have graphs. And, you know, I have Tableau and power BI and a whole bunch of industrial engineers. And so one of the challenges that we face in the, in the industry is having people understand the power of visibility, especially in the kind of microcosmic representation of the supply chain known as the warehouse.

Alex Ramirez (36:25):

Right. And so that’s something that w we see a growing trend, or it’s starting to erode this kind of stubbornness behind accepting the value of visibility in the warehouse. And what would love, you know, Greg, your thoughts on, you know, how visibility as just kind of a construct has evolved in supply chain for people to just say, look, I need it. I don’t need to justify it through the same lens of eighties, nineties, 2000 purchases, which is how many people are you going to reduce? Well, that’s a broken model, right? Like there is a value in visibility. And so we’re starting to see some acceleration in just people understanding that through visibility comes comprehension and through comprehension comes resiliency.

Greg White (37:09):

Yeah. I think, and I love Alex’s style. Scott, you give them three choices and like me, he picks a four. Right? So, uh, I think we’re, I think we’re, uh, we were separated at birth. Um, but, uh, I think all of this goes to those points that you made that micro fulfillment and e-commerce fulfillment. The transition in the distribution center is so critical. And I think analytics is, I can say it cause I don’t, I can take a neutral position. I think analytics is the new age BI or the, uh, or, sorry, sorry. Visibility is the new age analytics, which was the new age BI, which was the new age reporting. I think that the gap that, that continues to leave in terms of helping people make the decision, not just presenting them with the facts, but helping them utilize those facts and make that decision. I think that bridge is critical because the transition in distribution, the transition in e-commerce fulfillment that transition in micro fulfillment and the multiple ways you can fulfill goods is so disruptive at the same time that it’s advancing the industry. And it’s disrupting the status quo so dramatically that you have to have some assistance in moving forward in making those decisions. And I will continue to go back to this. If the technology can at least recommend what the decision ought to be based on what it knows it

Alex Ramirez (38:38):

Ought to, they go every single time. And so I didn’t want to sandbag you a little bit there, Scott, but it’s segwaying back to your three points. I think with visibility is kind of like this blanket over those three, those three vectors. Now, if I have, if I’m a supply chain leader and I have something that’s giving me visibility recommendations, now I can make confident decisions to say, if I do micro fulfillment, I’m going to anchor some steel to the ground, right? Or I’m going to have autonomous mobile robots. I’m going to have something that’s capital intensive. I’m going to put my hand on the wall. And I’m making this decision, knowing that it’s predicated on assumptions with sensitivity, the market is changing so fast, but I have to make a decision. And so when you do, when you create a box, but all of a sudden your customers are requiring a triangle, you’re not going to blow the building up.

Alex Ramirez (39:29):

Right. And so that, that going back to that wrecking ball analogy early about, you know, my, my life as an immigrant in revolutionary, the wrecking ball, isn’t the destroy, the warehouse. It’s just change how you use it. And if you’ve got equipment and you’re lacking labor and you need speed, well, then you need a brain that can take all this data to say, this is the best way to morph. Right. You’re building according to the changing the changing market, but it starts with, I have a problem because I can see it. And I have recommendations because I chose the right partner through, you know, the, uh, these types of systems. Right. Love

Scott Luton (40:06):

It. All right. So, so much there so much goodness already, but Greg, we’re going to kind of shift gears a minute and talk about some really good news. Right. And it kind of, kind of up your alley, right. You’re the, uh, you’re the, um, what should I say, the fundraising Maven, uh, you know, you’ve done a lot of that in your, eh, just, just coin that nickname. He’s got a lot of that in your, in your, in your journey. So some of Alex and the team’s recent experiences are gonna are right up your alley, right? Yeah. So

Alex Ramirez (40:37):

You just raised, I’m looking right here. I mean, just, just in the last couple of weeks, you, you raised $11 million in your, a round, right.

Greg White (40:45):

Your first sort of venture round of, of investment. So, uh, tell us a little bit, a bit about that. How I’d love it, if you could relay just real briefly how that changes your life, you know, and how that changes your, your

Alex Ramirez (40:59):

Work. Sure, sure. Well, it just amplifies the level of terror that I feel every day, Greg and not blowing it. Right. So th that’s all that’s yeah. That’s the only thing that changed for me. I’m still a poor founder. And so, yes. So we just raised first mark capital led the round, uh, Betfair era, uh, is a general partner. That’s going to be sitting on our board and former And I think she’s going to bring just a tremendous amount of perspective to the board that, that we need. And then Peter Chrisman from Chicago ventures is going to be the, uh, the other board member. And Peter has been just so creative and, uh, in great to, uh, to the board. What, what, what led us to the, the series a is, is really kind of a tailwind of the pandemic. And I hate to say that because, you know, it’s been disastrous for families and for first responders and just the economy in general, but it’s shown that supply chains are important, right?

Alex Ramirez (42:02):

Everybody wants your toilet paper and you don’t want people fighting in the aisles for paper towel. And so the, the word resiliency, all of a sudden has, has popped up and people are like, gosh, how do I adapt my building to whatever the new normal is? And God forbid another blip right? In the, uh, in the universe with, uh, another pandemic. And so I think a solution like ours, where we can come in and in a very low drag, lightweight implementation can start to provide that is starting to get steam. And supply chain is hot. We all know that right. Supply chain tech and investment is hot. So that, so I wish I can tell you, it was all my, you know, my charm, my wit, and my personality that got us the $11 million. No, there are a lot of market forces. Gotcha.

Scott Luton (42:47):

At least two, right. Alex, I got you at least

Alex Ramirez (42:50):

Two, two, $2 to have it zero, $0. Yes, absolutely. Scott I’ll take it. That’s gas money back in college days, that’ll get me to the burger king. And so the, the, all those macros aside, um, I think what, what got us to this point is being staunch in gritty and our vision of creating a, uh, a brain for the warehouse, having doubts many doubts in, you know, suffering through troughs of despair as an entrepreneur, when you start it and you struggled to gain a little bit of steam, you’ve only got one customer, the product doesn’t work sometimes, you know, there’s just so many moments of angst. Um, and I wish I can tell you that I lost my hair because of cognitive OBS, but that happened a long time ago, but I lost more of it because of it. Um, and so,

Greg White (43:37):

Right thing, by the way, you look very cool with the shape. Thank you. Thank you. Go that direction. That’s why we’re talking fashion here. That’s Greg white. I

Alex Ramirez (43:45):

Know you’ve got that luscious. Yeah. Yeah. You’ve got that luscious head of hair,

Scott Luton (43:49):

Greg that’s if you’re called cool by Greg white, that’s like getting a championship belt and

Alex Ramirez (43:56):

Rallies touched by Elvis, for sure. So we, you know, so I, we, we, we surrounded ourselves with, um, leaders and technologists that are better than us, better humans, better professionals, better technologists. And we got out of their way to allow them to go execute on the vision of the business. And, um, thankfully we’ve been able to just go in the past eight months, gosh, go from literally one client, one warehouse to, you know, 10 clients and many more warehouses. And so we’re, we’re starting to get to that magical kind of inflection point, Greg, where now what I’m concerned about is the turbulence in the business managing growth versus starving to death, right. I think we’ve crossed that chasm. Uh, and certainly how the $11 million is changing. That is we just got to grow faster. We got to build more on this fantastic data set we’re creating and create more value for, for our customers, for our team members and certainly for our shareholders. And so it just means you got to go bigger. You got to go faster, but you have to operate prudently right. Capital efficiently, and make sure that you don’t end up as another tombstone because somebody decided to do something stupid. Right?

Greg White (45:12):

I don’t know you that well, Alex, but I know enough to know. That seems unlikely. I mean,

Alex Ramirez (45:17):

From your lips to God’s ears, barring,

Greg White (45:20):

I mean, barring ex you know, extreme market forces, which could always happen, right? That’s always a risk in any business. I think what you’re doing bridges, a significant gap in the marketplace, and clearly your investors are highly sophisticated. And I think it’s important for people to understand this money. Doesn’t just fall out of the sky. There is a ton of it out there, but it is a rigorous rigorous process. And to make your investment, to make the investment in cognitive, these investors listen to 100 pitches and picked yours. So there is, there is, um, a very, uh, strong and real sense of affirmation that that founders should feel when they get this level of investment, because you’ve established a business model. You’ve established your go to market strategy. You have a philosophy you are selling. And what you’re struggling now to do I presume is, is to deliver effectively.

Greg White (46:16):

That’s really what you need the money for. That’s when you get funding is when you have established yourself and you need, you need to ramp up rapidly to be able to deliver in the marketplace. So kudos to you. First of all, thank you for getting here from there. Yes. And I think that, I mean, I think there’s a lesson for anyone who’s a founder and this and that is investors invest in milestones. They don’t invest in runway, right? That’s right. $11 million will get us to the next, you know, it’ll get us the next 18 months. I w I’m sure that the discussion is more $11 million gets us to this point of being able to fulfill demand to this point of being able to create more demand to this point of being able to expand the product and the team to improve both our technology and our ability to execute. So that’s really what people invest in. I can see why they invested in you. So, um, yeah. Congratulations and great lesson for our,

Alex Ramirez (47:16):

For our community. Yeah. I love it. Appreciate it. Love that

Scott Luton (47:20):

Greg log this stuff there, then you’ve got your both, y’all have your finger on the pulse. And I love learning from these conversations just like this here. So an ounce are a bunch of hiring. I picked y’all’s website earlier. So folks, if, if, if the type of organization, so solving types of problems that, and has the kind of type of culture Alex described here, be sure to check, check them out and maybe land with them and grow with them. So a lot of good stuff. So Alex, on that note, we have really run the gambit here today, and we’re just scraping the tip of the iceberg. You bring a lot of passion and personality to the table on top of your expertise. And that’s what makes really fun conversations here at supply chain now. But how can other folks benefit and sit down and compare notes with you as well? What would you put well to the

Alex Ramirez (48:07):

Website is certainly a good resource and you can contact us through the website. There’s a form there. I think in contact us now, certainly feel free to email me directly, Alex ad CogAT I love to commiserate with ops managers, talk about the pains they feel in their warehouses or with supply chain leaders on, you know, what they’re thinking about for supply chains of the future. And we can play, you know, a wizard of Oz in, in those types of conversations. So you can go or or just visit us on our website, www dot cognit,

Scott Luton (48:41):

Speaking of the wizard of Oz, we’ve got the wizard of Wichita right here on this show. Um, and I’m even wearing my wish talk live today. We’re big, we’re big fans of Wichita here, uh, and a big shout out to AA Mohit, and hopefully he’s listing. Okay. So Alex, it is so neat, you know, w we had, we had the good fortune of having a couple of pre-show conversations with you. What I really find intriguing about conversations like this is you don’t put on any airs. You’re the same, same leader that Greg and I were speaking to kind of casually in our first conversation and then appreciate it. And it spills over right here. You don’t put on any airs. That’s so important when you’re having conversations like this and, and talking about the journey around. So thank you for that. And to have you back, we need to, you know, every, every so often we do Greg, uh, supply chain, nerds, talk sports, and it’s been kind of tough to do one of those fun, casual episodes lately, with everything going on.

Scott Luton (49:39):

However, you’ve got a passion for that, what they bring you on. We’ll talk about, uh, the Marlins and, and hopefully, hopefully them not doing too much harm to the Braves this year. We’ll see the Braves are doing a lot plenty to themselves, but they need no help, but a pleasure to reconnect with you and folks, you can check again, just to make sure y’all heard that URL, cognitive and we’ll make sure we’ll have, uh, Alex’s information in the show notes, Alex, huge. Thanks for joining us today. Spend some time with us, Alex, Ramirez co-founder and CEO with cognitive ops. So Greg, let’s talk about Alex. Like he’s, he’s not still with us. What is this part? Yes. Before we sign off, what is one of your key takeaways from all the good stuff that Alex has shared here today? Cause it’s

Greg White (50:26):

Hard. It’s hard to pick one, but the term grit comes immediately to mind. Um, you know, when you’re, when you’re founding a company, when you’re growing a company, when you, even, when you get to that certain stage, you have all of the things that Alex has talked about. Imposter syndrome, that constant daily feeling, fear of failure, right? As, um, as a guy that I worked with in a, I would argue not a startup already, a $20 million technology company. When I joined them, he said, I’m afraid of losing my job every day. That’s what motivates me. And, and grit is a lot of, as we talked about, it’s just figuring out how to get things done. Whether you feel like you’re competent, you deserve to, you are the right person to or not. You just step up and you do it. And um, I got to tell you that is a spirit that we can use worldwide, but certainly in the states that it’s okay to try, it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to feel inadequate, but still do something right. And I think that is, that’s so critical and clearly misplaced feeling of inadequacy, but not uncommon. This whole imposter syndrome is actually scientific. It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect. People who are eminently competent often feel much, much less competent than they are. And people who are utterly incompetent, feel like everything is simple and they know everything they go to DC. Is that what you’re saying, Greg?

Greg White (51:54):

So, so I mean, I think that, I think that you’ve, you feel like you don’t know at all is a good signal that you are, uh, you have and are gaining competence because that feeling of not knowing at all that feeling of that fear of failure, that grit, that drive drives you to continue to be better, to continue to learn and to continue to raise your level of performance. That’s absolutely critical. So

Scott Luton (52:19):

Well said, and you know, be a revolutionary. I love that theme. That was part of this conversation here today. We’d love to, I bet you’ve got plenty of stories of your parents coming here and immigrating from Nicaragua. What that’s part of the American, the American story right for is parents come here and then he found, you know, has the journey he described here and, and it’s creating so many opportunity for other companies and other people. I mean, I love that. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. So, but we’re going to call it a show here at this point. Big, thanks again, out to Ramirez with con ops big. Thanks for joining me here today. Excellent conversation, Alex. Hey folks, hopefully you enjoy this conversation as much as I have, uh, hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are across the globe on behalf of our entire team, or it’s a supply chain now, Scotland and signing off for just for now. But Greg will be back tomorrow. Hey, most importantly, do good. Give forward, be the change that’s needed and all that. And it was the next time right here at supply chain now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (53:19):

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The Top 4 Trends in Distribution and Fulfillment with CognitOps Co-Founder and CEO Alex Ramirez

Featured Guests

Alex Ramirez cut his teeth learning the foundations of systems and business consulting at Accenture, where he was first exposed to warehouse systems. After Accenture, Alex moved to Minnesota, and joined HighJump Software as a product consultant. Looking for warmer pastures, Alex joined an emerging software company in Austin, Reddworks – the driver behind the modern WES software platform. After leading the company through its acquisition by Dematic, Alex supported the integration and trained the Dematic team on modern software sales. Alex left Dematic in February 2018, and through 2018, met and worked with his cofounder, Reas Macken, to develop the concept and team behind CognitOps. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.


Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

Greg White

Principal & Host

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Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.

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Host, Supply Chain Now

The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.

He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.

A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www., which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).

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Adrian Purtill

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.

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Kevin Brown

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics.  He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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Donna Krache

Director of Communications and Executive Producer

Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys.  She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.

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Nick Roemer

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.

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Allison Giddens


Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.

She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.

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Billy Taylor


Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.

An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.

A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.

A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning.  He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.

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Tandreia Bellamy


Tandreia Bellamy retired as the Vice President of Industrial Engineering for UPS Supply Chain Solutions which included the Global Logistics, Global Freight Forwarding and UPS Freight business units. She was responsible for operations strategy and planning, asset management, forecasting, and technology tool development to optimize sustainable efficiency while driving world class service.

Tandreia held similar positions at the business unit level for Global Logistics and Global Freight forwarding. As the leader of the Global Logistics engineering function, she directed all industrial engineering activies related to distribution, service parts logistics (post-sales support), and mail innovations (low cost, light weight shipping partnership with the USPS). Between these roles Tandreia helped to establish the Advanced Technology Group which was formed to research and develop cutting edge solutions focused on reducing reliance on manual labor.

Tandreia began her career in 1986 as a part-time hourly manual package handling employee. She spent the great majority of her career in the small package business unit which is responsible for the pick-up, sort, transport and delivery of packages domestically. She held various positions in Industrial Engineering, Marketing, Inside and On-road operations in Central Florida before transferring to Atlanta for a position in Corporate Product Development and Corporate Industrial Engineering. Tandreia later held IE leadership roles in Nebraska, Minnesota and Chicago. In her final role in small package she was an IE VP responsible for all aspects of IE, technology support and quality for the 25 states on the western half of the country.
Tandreia is currently a Director for the University of Central Florida (UCF) Foundation Board and also serves on their Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Previously Tandreia served on the Executive Advisory Board for Virginia Tech’s IE Department and the Association for Supply Chain Management. She served on the Board of Trustees for ChildServ (a Chicago child and family services non-profit) and also served on the Texas A&M and Tuskegee Engineering Advisory Boards. In 2006 she was named Business Advisor of the Year by INROADS, in 2009 she was recognized as a Technology All-Star at the Women of Color in STEM conference and in 2019 she honored as a UCF Distinguished Aluma by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems.

Tandreia holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Systems from UCF. Her greatest accomplishment, however, is being the proud mother of two college students, Ruby (24) and Anthony (22).

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Marty Parker


Marty Parker serves as both the CEO & Founder of Adæpt Advising and an award-winning Senior Lecturer (Teaching Professor) in Supply Chain and Operations Management at the University of Georgia. He has 30 years of experience as a COO, CMO, CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), VP of Operations, VP of Marketing and Process Engineer. He founded and leads UGA’s Supply Chain Advisory Board, serves as the Academic Director of UGA’s Leaders Academy, and serves on multiple company advisory boards including the Trucking Profitability Strategies Conference, Zion Solutions Group and Carlton Creative Company.

Marty enjoys helping people and companies be successful. Through UGA, Marty is passionate about his students, helping them network and find internships and jobs. He does this through several hundred one-on-one zoom meetings each year with his students and former students. Through Adæpt Advising, Marty has organized an excellent team of affiliates that he works with to help companies grow and succeed. He does this by helping c-suite executives improve their skills, develop better leaders, engage their workforce, improve processes, and develop strategic plans with detailed action steps and financial targets. Marty believes that excellence in supply chain management comes from the understanding the intersection of leadership, culture, and technology, working across all parts of the organization to meet customer needs, maximize profit and minimize costs.

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Laura Lopez

Marketing Coordinator

Laura Lopez serves as our Supply Chain Now Marketing Coordinator. She graduated from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente in Mexico with a degree in marketing. Laura loves everything digital because she sees the potential it holds for companies in the marketing industry. Her passion for creativity and thinking outside the box led her to pursue a career in marketing. With experience in fields like accounting, digital marketing, and restaurants, she clearly enjoys taking on challenges. Laura lives the best of both worlds - you'll either catch her hanging out with her friends soaking up the sun in Mexico or flying out to visit her family in California!

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Jake Barr


An acknowledged industry leader, Jake Barr now serves as CEO for BlueWorld Supply Chain Consulting, providing support to a cross section of Fortune 500 companies such as Cargill, Caterpillar, Colgate, Dow/Dupont, Firmenich, 3M, Merck, Bayer/Monsanto, Newell Brands, Kimberly Clark, Nestle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Sanofi, Estee Lauder and Coty among others. He's also devoted time to engagements in public health sector work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At P&G, he managed the breakthrough delivery of an E2E (End to End) Planning Transformation effort, creating control towers which now manage the daily business globally. He is recognized as the architect for P&G’s demand driven supply chain strategy – referenced as a “Consumer Driven Supply Chain” transformation. Jake began his career with P&G in Finance in Risk Analysis and then moved into Operations. He has experience in building supply network capability globally through leadership assignments in Asia, Latin America, North America and the Middle East. He currently serves as a Research Associate for MIT; a member of Supply Chain Industry Advisory Council; Member of Gartner’s Supply Chain Think Tank; Consumer Goods “League of Leaders“; and a recipient of the 2015 - 2021 Supply Chain “Pro’s to Know” Award. He has been recognized as a University of Kentucky Fellow.

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Marcia Williams


Marcia Williams, Managing Partner of USM Supply Chain, has 18 years of experience in Supply Chain, with expertise in optimizing Supply Chain-Finance Planning (S&OP/ IBP) at Large Fast-Growing CPGs for greater profitability and improved cash flows. Marcia has helped mid-sized and large companies including Lindt Chocolates, Hershey, and Coty. She holds an MBA from Michigan State University and a degree in Accounting from Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay (South America). Marcia is also a Forbes Council Contributor based out of New York, and author of the book series Supply Chains with Maria in storytelling style. A recent speaker’s engagement is Marcia TEDx Talk: TEDxMSU - How Supply Chain Impacts You: A Transformational Journey.

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Constantine Limberakis


Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research.Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.

From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.

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Greg White

Principal & Host

When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.

Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.

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Chris Barnes

Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring

Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.

Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.

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Tyler Ward

Director of Sales

Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!

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Kevin L. Jackson

Host of Digital Transformers

Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog.  He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community.  Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include CiscoMicrosoft, Citrix and IBM.  Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane UniversityO’Reilly MediaLinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight.  Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems EngineeringCarrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.

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Enrique Alvarez

Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español

Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.

He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.

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Kelly Barner

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.

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Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.

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Amanda Luton

Vice President, Production

Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.

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Clay Phillips

Business Development Manager

Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.

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Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.

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Chantel King

Social Media Manager

My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.

Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.

Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.

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Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.

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Katherine Hintz

Creative Manager & Executive Producer

Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

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Mary Kate Love

Chief of Staff & Host

Mary Kate Love is currently the VP of marketing at Supply Chain Now focused on brand strategy and audience + revenue growth. Mary Kate’s career is a testament to her versatility and innovative spirit: she has experience in start-ups, venture capital, and building innovation initiatives from the ground up: she previously helped lead the build-out of the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific and before that, MxD (Manufacturing times Digital): the Department of Defense’s digital manufacturing innovation center. Mary Kate has a passion for taking complicated ideas and turning them into reality: she was one of the first team members at MxD and the first team member at the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific.

Mary Kate dedicates her extra time to education and mentorship: she was one of the founding Board Members for Women Influence Chicago and led an initiative for a city-wide job shadow day for young women across Chicago tech companies and was previously on the Board of Directors at St. Laurence High School in Chicago, Young Irish Fellowship Board and the UN Committee for Women. Mary Kate is the founder of National Supply Chain Day and enjoys co-hosting podcasts at Supply Chain Now. Mary Kate is from the south side of Chicago, a mom of two baby boys, and an avid 16-inch softball player. She holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Joshua Miranda

Marketing Specialist

Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more.  In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.