For Bridgestone Americas logistics executive Brad Blizzard, Jacksonville provides a key supply chain cog supporting business goals that keep the world’s largest tire and rubber company on the road to success.
Blizzard, who holds dual titles of Bridgestone Americas Inc.’s executive director of logistics and president of Bridgestone Americas Fleet Operations LLC, sees both the Port of Jacksonville and the 1 million-square-foot Bridgestone distribution center opened in 2008 in the Northeast Florida city’s Cecil Commerce Center as facilitators of supply chain efficiencies critical to collaboratively and responsively serving customers.
In a wide-ranging interview from his office at Bridgestone Americas’ headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, Blizzard, now in his fourth decade in the business of supply chain and logistics, shares with AJOT readers his views on meeting challenges in a socially responsible manner, bringing on the next generation of supply chain professionals and, not that he ever tires of his work, unwinding in his garden.
How have the roles of the Port of Jacksonville and Bridgestone’s Jacksonville distribution center grown over the past decade since your Cecil Commerce Center facility’s opening?
Bridgestone has a longstanding history in Jacksonville and is invested in the continued success of our teammates and the local community.
The Port of Jacksonville has played an important role in our growth by enabling Bridgestone to increase our unit volume significantly over the last decade. This is a major contributor to the overall expansion of our business as well as the changes to our distribution network strategy.
To that end, the Jacksonville distribution center has also experienced double-digit growth over the past several years. Both the Port of Jacksonville and the [Jacksonville] Port Authority have played key roles in supporting the growth of our business and teammates in Florida.
What challenges are being faced today in terms of trucking and other aspects of logistics, and how is your company addressing them?
The commercial tire market remains very competitive in North America as the economy has grown and the demand for shipped goods has increased.
As has been well-documented and discussed, the chronic driver shortage and recent legislation – including the electronic logging [ELD] mandate for heavy duty trucks – has led to heightened attention to cost and efficient service across all industries.
Bridgestone Americas has addressed these issues in several ways.
One way is by investing in new technology and designing business practices to enable more effective collaboration across functions and with customers.
Another means is via transparent communication with carriers regarding future shipping volumes to help them build their networks around Bridgestone shipping lanes and help foster more effective relationships.
Thirdly, we engage in ongoing collaboration with Bridgestone business leaders to evaluate – and positively impact – processes and decisions across functions that might result in inefficiencies for our supply chain.
As your background prior to joining Bridgestone in May 2015 includes 8 1/2 years with Colgate-Palmolive Co., preceded by five years with Coca-Cola Enterprises and, before that, 12 years with the Quaker Oats Co. (now a PepsiCo subsidiary), can you describe how keys to efficient logistics apply whether what being shipped is tires or toothpaste, soda pop or oatmeal?
Efficiency is the name of the game in logistics management. During my time with these global companies, one theme remains true: It’s critical for the logistics organization to understand – and link – to overall business strategies and goals.
By understanding Bridgestone business strategies, our supply chain and logistics team is better equipped to develop processes and capabilities to impact and achieve business goals. At the same time, we strive to be as efficient as possible so that we can help fund necessary investments for our company.
It is also critical for logistics organizations to be obsessive about reducing waste. Our logistics organization at Bridgestone publishes a waste management report each month that tracks how successful we are at reducing our environmental footprint, while also serving to educate other functions about their impact in reducing or creating waste. As a company, Bridgestone is committed to working toward a sustainable society as a part of our global corporate social responsibility effort, Our Way to Serve. Our local efforts in Jacksonville are just one of the many ways Bridgestone is working to help ensure a healthy environment for current and future generations.
Which do you prefer to drink: Coke or Pepsi?
Having worked for both Coke and Pepsi-brand companies, I can say that I honestly enjoy both products very much.
What is the importance of a collaborative team effort in controlling logistics costs while meeting customer demands?
The Bridgestone mission – Serving Society with Superior Quality – drives the company’s commitment to understanding the needs of our customers and delivering the best products and services to meet future and emerging mobility needs.
We understand the importance of having the right products, at the right place, at the right time, and are constantly evolving with the market to deliver for our customers when they need it most.
To evolve, Bridgestone has invested in integrated business planning processes that allow us to better understand customer and market demands and link those to our supply and distribution network. This investment has allowed us to be more responsive in the market to better serve our consumers.
Additionally, communication, planning and transparency with our carriers have improved as our supply planning and manufacturing teams are becoming more integrated with the logistics team. This makes sourcing, cost and capacity decisions much more effective. We also have key performance indicators [KPIs] in place to make sure Bridgestone and our carriers live up to their respective commitments to each other, especially related to capacity and costs.
As you are involved with several industry organizations, can you please explain why you are so engaged, including what is being done to bring on the next generation of logistics leaders?
As with any industry, business strategies are rapidly changing and create opportunities to improve operations and become more efficient.
Bridgestone is invested in teammates’ personal growth and education, and membership within industry organizations is encouraged. These organizations provide teammates with opportunities to engage with and learn from some of the best supply and logistics professionals in the world.
I am personally engaged in several industry organizations to stay abreast of industry best practices, better understand relevant trends and apply these learnings to the logistics strategy at Bridgestone to help us continue to improve our operations.
To identify and bring in new talent, Bridgestone is active on several university campuses, working closely with their supply chain programs to identify individuals who strive to lead. Many individuals have built a career at Bridgestone because of the company’s commitment to recognizing performance, promoting growth and working together to elevate what it means to work at and be Bridgestone.
To that end, Bridgestone started its first supply chain internship program last year in Nashville to invest in and develop talent.
OK, Mr. Blizzard, has anyone ever asked if you specialize in snow tires or have ever worked for Dairy Queen?
While my name is uncannily similar, I cannot take credit for developing our flagship Bridgestone Blizzak tire line. I also cannot take any credit for Dairy Queen products but do enjoy the pecan chocolate caramel Blizzard.
Is it correct that you have quite a green thumb? And what other nonwork interests do you enjoy?
Yes, it is true that I have a green thumb. I enjoy gardening and landscaping as my opportunity to unplug and connect with the environment.
Recently, my wife and I became empty nesters, and we’re spending a lot of our time exploring the exciting city of Nashville.