News

June 25, 2009

The Candy Man Can

Tony Fernandez ’81 oversees supply chain involving nearly 100 countries at world’s largest confectioner

Despite bearing no resemblance to a fuzzy bunny, Tony Fernandez ’81 is the one responsible for ensuring that cream-filled, chocolate eggs show up in Easter baskets worldwide. As chief supply chain officer of Cadbury plc, he oversees 20,000 people in nearly 100 countries who bring fresh ingredients into and distribute tasty treats out of the many plants that comprise the world’s largest confectioner.

“Every minute of every day, chocolate is purchased by someone somewhere,” Fernandez notes.

Getting that candy into the hands of consumers is a logistical ballet, choreographing such components as the lifestyle needs of cocoa farmers in Ghana, the ever-changing costs of oil and transportation, and Cadbury’s industry-leading Fair Trade and sustainability initiatives.

“Supply chain is everything from purchasing materials and manufacturing to quality control and distribution, with the end being a consumer purchase,” he says.

The countless variables and nonstop efficiency tweaks that comprise supply chain management keep Fernandez hopping not only in job duties, but also between his Parsippany, N.J., and London, U.K., offices. Yet what would stress most people only energizes him.

“Every day is different, which is what I love about the job,” he says. “The day starts with a conference call about a new plant in Poland, and ends with a call to Japan about a new product.”

Travel is one of the joys of working for a global company that requires meeting the people who actually work the supply chain. It also taxes one’s cultural sensitivities, such as joining “local leaders for dining experiences where you’re not sure what you’re eating.” Needless to say, Cadbury will not be adding the ant eggs and chocolate-covered grasshoppers Fernandez sampled in Mexico to its product lineup.

“Luckily, I have a strong stomach,” he says with a laugh.

Fernandez also has the strong sense of efficiency that he gained while at P&G, The Canaan Group, and PepsiCo before coming to Cadbury. And the chemical engineering graduate credits Lafayette’s blend of liberal arts and engineering with instilling the skills he still uses today.

“I learned to work in a technical environment and also how to motivate people and work effectively in teams from my courses in psychology and sociology,” he says. Serving as a resident adviser also helped him understand how to factor in the human element when pursuing the most efficient way to work.

Fernandez gained in another important way while at Lafayette: He met wife Susan DePhillips ’83. They have three daughters who call dad “The Candy Man,” a title he eats up.

“It’s great to work for a company where you mention the name to someone and a smile comes with it.”

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