It takes a lot of courage to do battle with industry heavyweights like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor, but Josh Creasman never sidesteps a challenge. After serving as a flight medic in the US Army, Creasman started a career in global supply chain management and logistics at premier brands like Honeywell, American Standard, and Yakima Products. Fifteen years at market-leading companies taught him how to increase efficiencies and improve margins to gain a competitive advantage. Today, he’s helping Mizuno USA take back market share from the “Big Three” in sportswear and sports equipment.
HOW CREASMAN’S MILITARY EXPERIENCE INFLUENCES HIS
How does your military service overlap with business?
I enlisted right out of high school. I learned a lot very quickly about discipline and work ethic, and the difference in leadership and managing people.
What did it teach you about leadership?
The military comprises individuals from just about every walk of life—each comes from a different background. The same is true in business. You have to learn what drives each person and how you can connect and complete the mission. I grew up in a lower middle-class family and quickly developed street smarts. I’m also thankful for my education. That’s what shaped who I am and how I lead—that combination of street smarts, formal education, and military experience.
Did your time in the US Army change how you view business?
It confirmed to me that a good team must know how it fits into the overall strategy and mission. Clearly, people come to work for the compensation, but more importantly is the human nature of everyone to know what they do has some higher purpose and meaning. Being able to apply this principle to business, combined with good planning, good execution, and a data-driven approach, is paramount to executing the kind of change needed to win in today’s business environment.
Mizuno USA focuses on baseball, softball, volleyball, golf, and running. In each of the categories, the company fights against some of the world’s top brands in an intensely competitive industry. How can Mizuno USA win market share from its $25 billion counterparts? By using every possible advantage it has across the entire company—including those Creasman can introduce as vice president of supply chain. “The other guys certainly have the deeper pockets to spend on athletes, professional contracts, and advertising, but it starts with delivering premium-quality products, driving differentiated service models, and being known in the industry as a company easy to do business with,” Creasman says. “We focus on delivering the best premium-tier products, and we get them to stores and to our customers faster and with more accuracy than the competition.”
As omnichannel retailing evolves, Creasman expects companies to rely more on their supply chain and logistics teams. “Companies can no longer afford to think of supply chain as a back room function, when in reality it needs to be a key driver and differentiator,” he explains. Simply put, Creasman and his team help Mizuno USA customers get what they want—how, where, and when they want it. The supply chain team at Mizuno USA is also set up to meet the increasing demands of big-box retailers whose service models continue to evolve and proliferate.
To succeed in this shifting reality, Creasman led the design and implementation of Mizuno USA’s new distribution and manufacturing center, which opened in August 2015. The tech-laden, fully automated facility uses camera-based scanning equipment to sort and track packages, ensuring that each one is fully compliant with retail store requirements. Products travel two miles and go through a high-speed sortation equipped with zone-routing technology. A dedicated “single single” operation was deployed to service the company’s current and future e-commerce business throughout the more than twenty-five zones in the distribution center, reducing congestion and increasing e-commerce throughout. Mizuno USA also invested heavily in a new three-story pick module designed to support high velocity stock keeping units (SKUs) and a two-story pick mezzanine designed for dense storage and highly efficient picking operations.
The new facility also houses its golf club assembly operations, which leads the industry with a two-day custom golf club lead-time operation. Customers can place an order on Tuesday and play around with their new clubs on Saturday. The new facility has also been approved by the US Department of Commerce to operate as a foreign-trade zone.
This development, in combination with Importer Self Assessment (ISA) and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification, enables Mizuno USA to move goods into the United States much more quickly, deferring applicable duties until products are shipped to customers and saving costs on particular import fees. One key word describes the whole facility: flexibility. Mizuno USA designed all aspects of the space, including its size, to support an ever-changing industry.
In 2014, Mizuno USA’s supply chain team took another step designed to outpace its competitors. It deployed a Material Requirements Planning (MRP) and Distribution Requirements Planning (DRP) platform to control all steps in ordering, purchasing, demand, supply, and inventory planning. It replaced an offline and labor-intensive process. The team simultaneously deployed a new order management platform, and these new platforms help Mizuno USA seamlessly connect all data streams from order placement to delivery.
Additionally, Creasman has Mizuno USA set up to compete on service. “We treat services as a product, and we’ve developed an innovation pipeline that truly sets us apart,” Creasman says. “Just as Mizuno is facing competitive pressure, so are our retail partners.” The ability to differentiate from competitors is crucial in the dynamic omnichannel space and a key value driver in Mizuno USA’s selling proposition. The company also offers value-added services such as same-day shipping, gifting, ticketing, labeling custom packing slips, and garments on hangers. It has placed baseball glove steamers in most Dick’s Sporting Goods locations and recently deployed a custom uniform program that leverages speed to market, technology, and turnkey solutions for customers. With a robust supply chain infrastructure in place, Creasman is turning his attention to strategic sourcing and leveraging the infrastructure deployed since joining Mizuno USA.
As disposable income increases and citizens embrace healthier lifestyles, experts forecast continued growth in the sporting-goods industry. A quick look at Mizuno USA’s strategy in golf highlights the company’s success over the last five years. Mizuno USA has leveraged its elite JPX line and introduced it to markets worldwide. The company then continued to focus on a premium product fully supported by invitationals, professional ambassadors, and campaigns designed to get the top-end product into the hands of as many golfers as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Nike signed its fourth contract with Tiger Woods—a deal worth an estimated $20 million per year. Mizuno USA hasn’t seen its market share drop by even one point