Hoomans of Itch: Shaun Brown, Supply Chain Operations Manager
“The future of Itch is going to be a global one…”
Meet Shaun Brown, the man leading Itch’s water-tight operations and logistics set-up from our warehouse in Leeds.
Read more to discover how Shaun and his team are working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to ensure our customers (and their pets) receive their personalised protection packs on time, every month.
Plus, learn more about Itch’s ambitions for 2021: our commitment to becoming more eco-friendly, and our plans to scale into a best-in-class, global operation for Itch pets around the world.
Tell me a little about your career to date…how did you get into your current line of work?
About 10 years ago, I was studying for my law degree (which I actually do have) and I was thinking about going into law.
I had no office experience, so at the time I applied for a Customer Co-Ordinator role working within a stock management team of planners; working with them and the production team to organise the logistics, goods receiving and confirming production lead times etc.
I had a really great stock manager, Paul, and it was just a job that was really interesting. There were always a lot of moving parts, and you had to think tactically about it. And that was it really, that was the ‘bug’.
That was probably my first kind of exposure to not only an ‘office’ job, but also what we know as ‘Supply Chain.’
After a year or so, I started working for an online retail business in a similar capacity. It was a role that I grew into and began expanding and leading the team, building the complex supply chain structure necessary for a global brand.
How did you then come to join Itch?
I joined Itch in January 2020.
At the time, I was a Regional Supply Chain Manager for a group within the optician industry, with sites in the UK and in Europe. I was cross-managing across all those teams, but I was looking for the next big challenge. Itch struck a chord – it was another opportunity to build something from scratch.
Tell me a little bit about what your day-to-day role looks like at Itch
I have two roles at Itch. The first, principle role is as the Supply Chain Manager, which is buying the right product from the right supplier at the right price; getting it in the right place so we can get it sent out to customers.
My second role is as the Operations Manager. I am responsible for the site as a whole, all the health and safety, staff resources, training and the packing / dispatch of the customers’ orders.
Do you have a team that you manage?
I do, I have quite a large team. It is currently 22 heads and we’re looking to recruit further.
In our team we have a Supply Chain Assistant, and her responsibilities are to make sure that Purchase Orders are raised correctly, following finance procedures before we send them over to suppliers; also to make sure that we get confirmations, delivery details to the suppliers.
We also have a Supply Chain Development Manager. His role is to deliver on our wild and crazy ideas. So if we need something new, or we have a better way of doing something, his role is to co-ordinate that with the Finance teams, Marketing teams and IT Development teams or with suppliers and providers so we can implement those changes.
What about the warehouse team, can you tell me a little bit about them?
In the warehouse team we have our packers, who do an exceptional job.
They are led by a team of supervisors and team leaders who are responsible for making sure that the inventory is correct, stock replenishments are complete and we have the right level of resource to manage the forecasted customer orders.
When you think of your role, what three words would you use to describe it?
Effective, efficient, and accurate.
What makes Itch stand-out in terms of our operational set-up?
Well, quite easily we are best in class!
What are some things that other companies could learn from us?
Be bold, be innovative! We’ve worked hard to apply new ways of managing and processing orders outside of the ‘pick by item’ method. We have more capacity to handle a higher volume of new orders or more complex items without delaying service to our customers.
I think what a lot of companies get wrong, to begin with, is to over-complicate things. Some things just need a simple solution.
We have gained a lot of benefit from past experiences; we have been able to break down complex scenarios into simple solutions. It means that we do not need as large a footprint as some businesses do.
What has been one of your most memorable moments at Itch so far?
It would have to be building and designing our new warehouse, and the infrastructure from the point at which we took it over back in June.
That was a lot of work, from a team who had never done a project like this before, but they did a fantastic job. Especially considering that we had a new team that had also never worked in a warehouse before, to be able to design and build something and then follow it through in such a short period of time…yeah, that was a good moment.
What do you envision for the future, at Itch?
The future for Itch is going to be a global one.
We are working to build a centralised supply chain, and be in a position where we can get product from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world.
But the main, real developments that we are going to explore is around the Itch boxes themselves.
Seeing how we can make them smaller, sleeker, redesigning the profile of them.
If we make the product and packaging that we are using smaller and more eco-friendly, then we can stay where we are for much longer and do not need to look for additional storage solutions for quite some time.
Most businesses that are doing the kind of volumes that we are expecting would be looking at a warehouse, two, three times our current size, but we won’t have any of those concerns.
Across your whole career, what’s your biggest accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
There’s probably two moments really. The first would be building and developing the enterprise resource planning (ERP) piece in a previous role, because it was a fully bespoke structure that took two or three years to build.
The other moment has been here at Itch. Taking a very junior team to the position where we are now shipping out hundreds of thousands of packs per month. You know, going from where we started to where we are now, it’s a completely different operation.
What advice would you have for someone who is thinking of coming to work with us at Itch?
Do it. Depending on what area of the business you want to be in, now is the right time to be joining because now is the time where you can make your own personal stamp on the area that you want to be in.
And that’s not to say that that opportunity will never come round again, but now is the time to come in, make your mark, and then as the business continues to grow you can claim bragging rights and say, you know, ‘that was the piece that I was involved in.’
On a more personal note, do you have any pets?
I do, I have two cats: Sootie and Sebastian. They are both four years old, full of life and constantly causing terror.
If you weren’t at Itch or doing what you do now, what would your dream job be?
My original dream job was to be a lawyer. I managed to accomplish everything I wanted to in that area, I’ve got my law degree. But I’d probably say to more people that they need to consider supply chain as an option. It was never something that was really discussed in school for me, I only kind of found out about it by accident. But I have to say that I probably enjoy my job now more than I ever would have being a lawyer.