Executive Spotlight: Lucelena Angarita


Executive Spotlight: Lucelena Angarita, Director, Supply Chain Traceability, Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC) for Subway, Rachel Manthei, 2nd year MBA Student, TCU Neeley School of Business, conducted the interview on September 6, 2018.

Rachel Manthei: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and the roles you had prior to your current role?

Lucelena Angarita: Out of college I was an Industrial Engineering major and I got an internship at Florida Power & Light (FPL) – today owned by Next Era Energy – the world's largest operator of wind and solar projects. I started working there with a team of electrical engineers and was there for six years. During this time I got into IT by mistake. As I started looking at this internal application that we were building to capture data about the processes that we had at the plant - repairing transformers and electrical equipment – I got into barcodes and all this technology and kind of liked it. I understood that when you have the right process in place, technology can help. That was why I decided to keep moving forward with technology and IT. From here I took two years off when I had my first son, and then went into the IT department for Burger King, where I worked for three years.  I worked in the Internet and Collaboration Team as a Sr Business Analyst. I talked to different business functions at BKC and gathered requirements for their application and communication needs. I was able to recommend the best solutions based on what they were looking for.  Here I understood how important it was to communicate in a language that everyone understood. After Burger King I took two years off to stay with my second baby, a girl this time. Then I came to IPC, where I have been for the last 6.5 years. I am in the quality department, but still leading a very “IT driven” initiative. It puts technology to the right place when the process can support it.

RM: Wow, that’s an interesting journey you’ve had. When you started out in industrial engineering and thought about what you wanted to go into, where did you think you would end up?

LA: Well it’s funny, because industrial engineers have a broad spectrum of opportunities. We can go anywhere to improve a process. The reason I went to FPL was because they had these internship opportunities, and so I started there early on as an intern in college, working full-time and being a full-time student. After being an intern for a couple of years, once I graduated, they hired me in an engineering position. What I envisioned doing was pretty much going anywhere where I could improve processes and help people. I even interviewed for the CIA. I didn’t have a clear industry I wanted to go into, I just wanted to be somewhere where I could 1) grow, 2) improve stuff, 3) help people; those were the things I wanted to do.

RM: Can you describe for me the relationship between Independent Purchasing Cooperative and Subway?

LA: We handle the Supply Chain for Subway. Subway is 100% franchisee owned. IPC is owned by the Subway Franchisees. Our mission is to make Subway Franchisees more profitable and competitive every day. We handle purchasing, distribution, logistics, supply and demand planning and execution, and much more. We work hand in hand with Subway, the brand owner, supporting them in every way we can to ensure the best quality products are served at our restaurants all the time.

RM: As Director of Supply Chain Traceability at IPC, what are your primary responsibilities and/or what initiatives do you oversee?

LA: Rick Buttner, our Director of Quality & Supply Chain Risk, brought me to IPC as the GS1 Project Manager, which involved implementation of GS1 standards across the Subway system. Six years ago, when I started, I had no idea what that meant. My main responsibility was to communicate what the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative was, the vision for the standards, and how to get full supply chain transparency using the standards. After proving how valuable data quality was, finding $1.3M in cost avoidance by having the right data, leadership approved a team dedicated to data quality and traceability implementation, which led to my current role. As Supply Chain Traceability Director, I oversee GS1 standards implementation including product data quality & monitoring, traceability using GS1-128 barcodes.  I also help coordinate incident management with the Subway Food Safety Team and IPC when there is a need for a recall or withdrawal.

RM: Are there new technologies that you have brought into the food traceability space?

LA: The good thing is, we haven’t had to reinvent the wheel for anything. We joined GS1 US, got on workgroups (calls) with people that are having similar challenges, and defined the key foundational elements to share information and make sure we all speak the same language. While there are technology tools that can help – for example, data synchronization and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) allow data to be sent back and fourth between business partners – the main thing that we focus on is getting everybody to speak one language. We want to use the technology to work toward this end goal that we have as an industry, getting more efficient, eliminating waste, and getting to full supply chain traceability.

RM: When I think of traceability, I think of how quickly you can get back to the source of where it came from. Are you putting together all the links to make sure you can trace back faster?

LA: Definitely our end-goal is to find every impacted product case by lot/batch number immediately. We have 30,000 restaurants in North America, and we need to know which specific lots were sent to which specific restaurants. Today, depending on if the distributors are scanning when they deliver the cases, we are able to determine where a specific lot was delivered to. For example, we had a situation last year where we had 5,700 restaurants serviced by a DC (Distribution Center) that could have received an impacted product.  We had to go to every single restaurant to see if they had the product and retrieve it. From those restaurants, only 980 actually had the impacted product. That means we went to 4720 restaurants that we didn’t need to disrupt, that could potentially have discarded good product.  If you look at it from an economic standpoint, it cost half a million dollars as opposed to approximately $80,000 if we would’ve known where the product was by lot-  just in product retrieval services. But then, when you think about increased customer safety and brand protection, how do you even put a dollar sign on that? This is what we want to do with full supply chain traceability. This is our future. We want to find every single lot for every single restaurant immediately, within seconds.

RM: You mentioned distributor scanning being a challenge for traceability. Would you say that is the primary challenge for supply chain traceability, or are there other key challenges?

LA: For us the main current challenge is distributor scanning, but for other operators it could be barcode readability issues or lack of good data, which we already went through when we started in 2014. Right now we are in a very good spot with GS1 standards – everyone speaking the same language, sharing information in a standard way.  Barcode readability has improved significantly over the last couple of years. Our challenge is that distributors have to change their internal systems and operations to make sure they are scanning the manufacturer’s barcode and being they can still talk to their internal legacy systems. In the past, they used their own pick labels to scan when they deliver products, so internal systems and processes have to change for distributors making it a very complex project.

RM: If you were to imagine the future of food traceability for Subway, what would it look like? What technologies would be used? What would the consumer-facing side look like? Who would have access to what information?

LA: That’s a great question, because one thing that we are trying to establish is full supply chain transparency. We have a technology partner, FoodLogiQ, where all the data is being compiled into a central repository, a cloud-based system. Suppliers send information as they have shipments going from their plants to the distribution centers or redistributors, then the DCs send information as they scan and deliver each case to the restaurants. FoodLogiQ aggregates all this information so everybody can have access to it. Similar to a google search, you can see where each case of food has been from the manufacturing plant to DC to restaurant. Even better, if we have a situation where 4-5 people get sick from different restaurants, we could potentially do a traceback from that system to see what products by lot they received in common, all the way to where the product originates. We can pinpoint what was in common to all the restaurants, see who else received the product, and do the trace forward to see everyone else who received this lot and could be impacted to respond proactively.

RM: For those seeking careers within this industry, what would you recommend as the top 3 skills to develop?

LA: Communication skills. One of the biggest gaps in every industry is the way people communicate. It is essential to be able to identify what your audience needs, relay what’s in it for them, and then, present that critical information to them in a way that they see the benefit. This is the biggest skill that anyone can have. Because, if you’re an expert in something, you tend to ramble on and on, and then you find out they are not even interested. Keep it short and to the point is the key.

RM: How would you develop that skill? What do you do personally?

LA: I have benefited a lot from taking communication classes with Ben Decker.  Our IPC Communications Team Director, Bob Hopkins has coached me a lot as well (he does that with everyone here).  Also Rick Buttner, my boss, has made it a goal to get me to talk less-haha! Reading up on how to state your point of view in a clear and short way is key, because people typically don’t have a lot of time to talk to you. The other thing is understanding people’s personalities. Understanding if they are an extrovert or an introvert and what makes them “tick” will help you adapt to their personality and get their attention. I do webinars all the time for our suppliers and distributors, but then you have to take the time to talk to people one-on-one to really understand them. Also, don’t be afraid of conflict. Be brave and speak your mind. You can’t avoid conflict to solve issues, because conflict creates change, and change creates improvement.

RM: Those are very helpful and actionable things.

LA: Now, that’s communication, but you also need analytical problem-solving skills. Many people approach a problem and typically try to find a solution immediately. In order to fix the root cause of a problem, you must look at data first. You have to decide what data you need to collect, measure it, analyze it, and then the solution pops up at you! This is the Six Sigma approach, and it’s the best approach for solving any problem.  Dr. Jack Cook from Certified Success has taught us well! It’s not something people do intuitively, and you must have skills for it. It’s hard to create a business case or show ROI without having these skills. The final thing is knowing how to build trust. I was talking with a coworker this morning, and she was talking about how trust can speed things up tremendously in a team. If you are on a team with someone and you trust them, you don’t rethink things, reinterpret thing, or make things more complex. If you can build the trust, then you take a lot of the challenges and barriers away.

RM: I think that’s a really interesting one, because while I’ve seen it on lists of skills to have, I’ve never heard it as a skill to develop. But when you get down to it, everybody is a person, and everything relies on a relationship.

LA: Yes, definitely. Those would be my top three.

RM: Alright, well thank you so much for giving me your time today and sharing about your role at IPC/Subway.