jennifer kobus

A company’s transportation portfolio needs to ensure balance and agility, says Jennifer Kobus, vice president of transportation at Ulta Beauty. Moreover, it needs to deploy the right technology for procurement, metrics and accountability.

Consumers generally only see the customer-facing portion of Ulta Beauty’s 1,300 stores across the country. Of course, none of what they experience would be possible without the transportation team that directs store deliveries, same-day delivery, ship-from-store orders and e-commerce, not to mention freight payment.

A diversified carrier portfolio is critically important, Kobus says. “We ensure that we have carriers that represent multiple modes and multiple carriers in a mode. We focus on diversification of our carriers not only from their mode expertise and capability and geographical coverage, but also whether they are a diverse partner. Are they involved in sustainability? All of those are really important when you are figuring out your portfolio in general.”

Equally important is determining if the carrier portfolio supports the company’s strategic initiative. “We’ve built out a multi-year strategic roadmap not only for transportation but for supply chain,” Kobus says. “It’s really important that when you look at your carrier portfolio that it represents your broader strategy, the enterprise strategy, and where you’re going from that perspective.”

Managing that isn’t easy, she says, especially as you bring on more carriers and greater diversification. “You have to onboard more carriers; you have to have more quarterly business reviews. You need to hold them accountable so that part becomes a task to manage.”

To enable that, one needs to rate the carriers. Ulta has separate tools for truckload, less-than-truckload and parcel. Strong analytics are also required. “You really need to be able to hold that carrier accountable, have those reviews, analyze the data and truly being able to understand it.”