Lisa Mernin is COO of ADS, Inc. , a supplier of military and tactical equipment.
Responsibilities: Oversee the operations of two warehouses, planning department, and external store.
expertise: Procurement Manager Production Planning and Warehouse Manager, with ADS; Positions in engineering, production scheduling, planning and materials management with Stewart Sandwiches, ITW Southland; Johnson Controls and MG MiniGears.
education: BA in Mathematics, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
My years with a Tier 1 auto supplier taught me that you can’t shut down car production lines or cost tens of thousands of dollars. You find a way to get the parts they need, when they need to go. You do not give up.
This lesson stayed with me. ADS offers over 1 million SKUs and has thousands of suppliers. The majority of our orders are shipped directly from our suppliers to our customers.
Finding strength with partners
My biggest concern is not knowing what we don’t know. Therefore, we will partner with a freight forwarder or third-party logistics provider (3PL) who has experience in the type of product or country we ship to and can help us overcome obstacles.
I am not looking for the cheapest partners; I am looking for the best value. Customer service is a big priority. Some potential partners talk about their competition, not themselves. You should be able to stand up to your own merits. We often want to see what a company could do differently.
During the pandemic, we won a contract to distribute 120 million gloves to four FEMA destinations that were exporting merchandise for California wildfires and other events. The company we dealt with in Australia shipped the products to Long Beach by ocean. Then we coordinated with the freight forwarder to take them to a warehouse in Southern California.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have experienced congestion, but the coordination provided by the freight forwarder between the ports, warehouse and FEMA sites has been phenomenal. They shipped nearly 2,500 panels of gloves to four different destinations over several months. Only three pallets were shipped wrongly. They have proven themselves.
It is also important that we constantly communicated with our partners and asked them, “What do you need from us?”
My career has been a winding road. After I got my bachelor’s degree in mathematics, I interviewed for a job in industrial engineering. I didn’t know what that was, so I looked for him, interviewed him, and then got the job.
After that in several positions, I worked for an automobile supplier and moved into production scheduling and materials management. I was expediting shipments across the country.
Then the ADS arrived. We are trying to automate and simplify processes. We worked with 3PL to develop the supplier portal. Suppliers can, for example, upload shipping information, which we pass on to our customers. We also use bots to quickly process invoices.
Our focus is to accurately tell the customer when the package has been shipped. Although we like to provide estimates for delivery dates as well, they are not always appropriate for everything we sell.
We don’t say no. We keep pushing because what we do makes sense.
In the early days of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict, a deployed soldier needed a pair of boots. We shipped it that day to Los Angeles International Airport, but the airline mistakenly sent it to San Francisco. Our forwarder learned that the soldier was flying through San Francisco and called his office in San Francisco. They took the shoes, stood at the airport and a card with the soldier’s name written on it, and then gave him his shoes.
Our goal is to serve those who serve, and we take that very seriously
Lisa Mernin answers the big questions
1. What book has had an impact on you?
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. This book looks at how people are rooted in their beliefs. Grant shows how it is okay to be wrong, and to think outside of what you normally do.
2. If you had one superpower, what would you want?
To see in the future. I don’t care if it’s bad or good, I want to know. Then I can deal with it.
3. If you had a million dollars to start a new business or charitable project, what would you do?
My son has type 1 diabetes, so I’m a staunch advocate of the American Diabetes Association. I was going to find a cure and reduce the outrageous cost of insulin.