Functioning flawlessly

Most people probably don't think much about the supply-chain process when they purchase a cup of coffee or a bar of soap. But one kink in the system can drastically alter the quality of the product and do irreparable damage to a brand. Shoddy service or quality can cause a loyal user of a product to go elsewhere.

Stephen Lovejoy, a 1988 alumnus of industrial technology, wholeheartedly embraces the challenge of a global supply chain. He is senior vice president for global planning and international supply chain for Starbucks Coffee Co. The company has stores in 53 countries outside of the United States, and Lovejoy is responsible for all supply-chain activities for them.

"Some activities we do the same way around the world, but some are different," he says. "It is my responsibility to ensure that all products, from the beverages to the furniture to the planning, sourcing and delivering of products to our stores, are done with the highest levels of service and quality at the lowest possible cost.  Our baristas need to have everything necessary to allow them to delight the customer. "

Lovejoy, who is based in Seattle, spends a good portion of his time traveling to stores, regional offices, distribution centers and suppliers abroad. "It's an exciting challenge to experience different countries, different cultures and different languages," he says. "They receive their products in various ways, whether it's by rail, air or boat."

Lovejoy enjoys traveling internationally to different countries and speaks Spanish, but he's not required to be proficient in the native language of every country he visits. Most of the business contacts either speak English or work through an interpreter.

Lovejoy explains the importance of the supply chain in a simple way. "It takes the supply chain to turn what could be a good idea into a reality," he says. "Supply chains bring ideas to life and get a product to the consumer."

Since graduating from the College of Technology, Lovejoy has kept busy with a variety of supply-chain-related positions. He spent his first 10 years out of college at the Clorox Co., where he held a variety of positions in plant manufacturing, product management and commercialization. He was the project leader responsible for launching a variety of commercial products and eventually became a vice president, leading the company's efforts in the international supply chain. He also led the global supply chain for Method Products Inc.

Through his positions at Clorox, Method and Starbucks, this Goshen, Ind., native has done business in 31 countries. He credits his College of Technology education with giving him a firm foundation in supply-chain operations. "My Purdue education provided me with both the engineering theory and the practical experience I needed," he says.

When possible, Lovejoy enjoys traveling back to campus to recruit Purdue students for positions at Starbucks.