People to Watch 2019: Matt Johnson

Company: Duracell

Title: North America Supply Chain Planning Manager

Age: 35

Education: The George Washington University (bachelor’s, finance and international business)

Matt Johnson has always been a numbers guy. He went to high school at the American School of Paris because his dad was an executive at Carrefour at the time, but he came back to the U.S. for college and earned a degree in finance and international business. “My lifelong interest in numbers ties in well with general business understanding, being able to understand a P&L and the benefit of an initiative in terms of its ROI,” he says, “all the good things that come with a financial background. There’s something about having a passion with understanding and using numbers to make a case or a point.”

Johnson started his career in demand planning at Sears Holdings, then took a role in merchandising and buying to understand another side of the business. “That was a little bit more of the art side of the business versus the science side,” he says. Next came work in inventory before he took on two positions in strategy and operations, which is where he says he gained a deeper understanding of how the retailer could improve its working capital position while improving the final mile of delivery to its customers.

“I was getting a much more end-customer focus to what I was doing, which then led me to a broader strategy position.” In his last year at Sears, he had the opportunity to develop a strategic initiative for all home appliances, which tied into great opportunities to meet with senior leadership and present on new initiatives, whether how to leverage targeted interactions with customers, new store openings or other changes.

As the North America supply chain planning manager for Duracell, Johnson’s responsibilities include all central planning for North America. “Our central demand planning team works closely with commercial teams on their SKU sales forecast,” he says. “We teach and train the demand planners on how to develop solid forecasts to help justify them.” From there, the team develops production forecasts and works both internally and with third-party packaging providers to deliver the product on time to meet customer needs while balancing its working capital position.

Johnson’s father, Bruce, has served as a mentor in life and work. Dad taught him to always strive to progress, to never compromise his beliefs or morals in a decision and to understand that nothing would be handed to him throughout his career. Jackson Jones, who brought Johnson to Duracell without a direct CPG background, has also been influential on Johnson’s career. “I quickly gained the understanding of Duracell and the CPG background,” he says. “Without him, I really wouldn’t be where I am today.” Under his direction, Johnson put together a team that now serves as the company’s planning organization.

“I have a team of 15, so we’ve increased our ability to leverage analytics and our overall ability and scope to meet our commercial teams’ needs,” he says. “It’s the development of that team that I’m most proud of in terms of recent wins at Duracell.”

That team was instrumental in the release of Optimum, the company’s largest innovation in decades, he says, offering AA and AAA alkaline batteries with better performance and longer life.

From where he sits, Johnson says one of his team’s biggest challenges is the never-ending balance of protecting customer service and managing the inventory position and working capital. “There’s always that pressure,” he says. “It’s important to manage inventory closely because that helps bring to light different supply chain inefficiencies that, if you are able to solve, will make you stronger in the long run – not only from improved working capital but also in different ways to ensure you’re servicing the customer in the correct way,” he says, adding that speed to market – or to the end consumer – is another.

“We have to balance the financial implications along with the need to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive landscape,” he notes.