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A-List Insights: Nick Najjar (Part 5)

Welcome to A-List Insights!

A-List Insights is an interview series where we talk with industry thought leaders and experts about different topics surrounding logistics and supply chain – gathering their insights and experience firsthand.

Thought Leader: Nick Najjar

Part 5 of 6

In this segment of our Insight Series we feature Nick Najjar, Director of Distribution Planning at Land O’ Lakes, Inc. Nick has been a supply chain professional with the company since 2010, holding several positions across the logistics organization on the network design and analytics, transportation, and warehousing teams. Prior to his current role, Nick led transportation operations and procurement for all three Land O’ Lakes’ business units, and was responsible for enhancing the customer experience and championing innovation and visibility initiatives in the transportation space and last mile logistics.

Nick has been a speaker at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Conference, and has been interviewed and featured across several industry publications including Logistics Management, The Global Cold Chain Alliance’s Cold Facts, and Freightwaves.

Before joining Land O’ Lakes, Nick served 5 years as a US Army officer, completing combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This is the fourth of a six part series interview with Nick. To provide context to the current climate, the entire interview was conducted in early May 2020, in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Look here to find Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

Part 5: Coronavirus and the Supply Chain

Now let’s talk about our current reality with coronavirus. Obviously you’re in food and beverage, so as you mentioned earlier, organizations like yours take a larger hit than others. So how has coronavirus impacted your supply chain?

It’s impacted it across all our business units and I think the biggest impact has been the puts and takes in our demand, so there’s been massive shift in our demand assumptions compared to what they were 2 months ago, 3 months ago.

In Dairy Foods, we have a retail portfolio, we have a food service portfolio, we have an ingredients portfolio…as you can imagine, retail is way, way up; food service almost vanished for a period of time…so there are these massive swings we’ve had to react to — both ramping up and ramping down supply.

Then you pair that with some of the physical network constraints you’re up against because you don’t build your food chain distribution infrastructure to have excess, so as we’re ramping up things and ramping down things, and if the net is positive, we’re having to figure out where do we move it through our distribution chain and how do we ultimately get it to our retail customers.

Very, very similar in the other two businesses. I’ve been closest to our agricultural business for the last couple months and it really does boil down to what is the impact going to be to the grower. The impact to commodity prices will impact what farmers put in the ground, which then has the impact to what products we need to stock to support a corn acre versus a soybean acre versus a diversified crop acre, and working through all that complexity to make sure we’re right in tandem with when we’re entering the season has been a whirlwind to say the least…to make sure we’re responding to what the grower will ultimately need.

And there’s been a number of levers we pulled collectively to try to get out in front of the disruption to get as much product that growers will need for the season as far downstream as quickly as possible.

So if we had disruption in our network due to COVID-19 or a supplier has a facility impacted, we did some push activity earlier in the year than we would normally expect the demand to fall — basically to get out in front of potential disruption in our distribution network or our suppliers’.

There’s been a similar phenomenon on the grocery retail side with consumers flocking to retail stores depleting shelves, reorder, and now the run rate is higher than it has been traditionally, so it really does boil down to how has it impacted demand in those two business units.

In our Purina business, the commodity inputs are impacted, and then there’s just over the last few weeks some second- and third-order effects that you wouldn’t have anticipated coming into it.

If you think about pet food we manufacture, and other things that have meat byproduct in them…and you’re reading a lot of the same news stories I am about what’s going on in the meat packing industry…some of that byproduct is what is used for inputs. In that circumstance, it’s in the supply inputs which I’m largely not personally involved in day to day.

It really goes back to how do our sourcing and commodity teams react and find adequate supply to make sure we can manufacture to the increased demand.

Look for the final Part 6 of our “A-List Insights” Series interview with Nick Najjar where we discuss the supply chain post-coronavirus.

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