Saara Chung: Dishing Up Souperior Service
Saara Chung, customer logistics manager at Campbell Soup Company, helps customers improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and boost their businesses.
NAME: Saara Chung
TITLE: Customer logistics manager
COMPANY: Campbell Soup Company, Pleasanton, Calif., since 2010
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Senior claims analyst, business analyst, Georgia-Pacific; financial analyst, Digital Generation Systems; senior accounting analyst, Levi Strauss & Co.; business analyst, distribution and supply coordinator, customer logistics manager, Georgia-Pacific
EDUCATION: California State University —Fullerton, BA, finance, 1995; St. Mary’s College of California, MBA, finance, 1999
Several years into a career in finance, Saara Chung realized she preferred preparing for the future to reporting on past financial activity.
Chung missed the kind of work she did at Georgia Pacific, optimizing the flow of products to customers. “I wanted a career where I could make a difference and come up with new and better ways of doing things,” she says. So when she got a chance in 2004 to move back into a supply chain role, she grabbed it. She has worked in logistics ever since.
In August 2010, Chung started a new job as customer logistics manager at Campbell Soup Company in Pleasanton, Calif. Her customers are three supermarket chains— Safety, WinCo Foods and H-E-B— and four wholesalers in California and Utah. Her job is to ensure that Campbell’s products— which include Campbell’s Soup, V8 Juice, and Prego Italian Sauce— move from Campbell’s production plants to those customers’ distribution centers (DCs) as reliably and economically as possible.
Sometimes the job involves logistics execution. For example, when a customer repeatedly submitted orders that would have required Campbell to load trucks beyond their weight limits, Chung worked with the customer’s supply chain manager to analyze the problem.
“I asked the customer for the weights and dimensions of the products it was selling,” she says. She compared that data with Campbell’s own specs and pointed out discrepancies. Then the customer updated its files with accurate information to use when building loads.
Most of the time, Chung focuses on strategy. “My job is to determine how we can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and collaborate with customers to become a strategic innovator in their eyes, and improve their business,” she says.
That could mean helping customers determine exactly how much Swanson broth they need to meet demand that surges at Thanksgiving, then suddenly drops. Sometimes it means getting sales representatives to consider logistics costs when offering customers special services.
Or it could mean finding a better way to serve a customer with a DC in a remote part of Texas. Trucking product to that facility was expensive for Campbell because carriers couldn’t find backhauls. But Campbell has a plant in Paris, Texas, where the customer also has some stores nearby. Chung and the customer decided that when the customer’s own trucks delivered to those stores, they would also pick up product from the Paris plant. Campbell gave the customer an allowance for the service.
“The arrangement helps our customer return its trucks back to the DCs full,” Chung says. “And we save money by having them pick up the product, versus paying a carrier to truck it to their DC.”
One of Chung’s latest projects involves working with a customer to find better ways to manage its supply chain from end to end. “This project entails forecasting for the customer’s promotional events and managing inventories at each of its distribution centers,” she says. “The goal is to improve in-stock positions on the shelf, increase sales, and enhance our strategic partnership.”
For a person who likes data but also likes people, Chung’s job is just about perfect.
“I get to work collaboratively with customers to develop solutions for their issues, and crunch the numbers to see what might work and what might not,” she says. “It’s a good balance between the two.”
The Big Questions
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy spending time with my best friend and partner of 16 years. I like traveling, hiking, golfing, snowboarding, cooking, gardening, sailing, and accomplishing home improvement projects.
Ideal dinner companion?
Cal Ripken Jr., because of his exceptional work ethic, dedication, loyalty, and commitment through his 20-plus years with the Baltimore Orioles organization.
What’s in your briefcase?
Calculator, business cards, wallet, Blackberry, mints, instant coffee, and a recent issue of Fortune.
Look at issues as opportunities and focus on possible solutions instead of obstacles.
If you didn’t work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?
National park forest ranger. I’m passionate about the outdoors, nature, and wildlife. I respect our environment and natural resources and would enjoy sharing them with others.