Mike Swartz spent nearly a decade at Amazon teaching and instituting processes to help its warehouses operate more efficiently. Now he’s facing the challenge of doing the same for a new kind of retail operation that doesn’t have any warehouses of its own.
Swartz recently joined Instacart, the $2 billion grocery delivery startup, as its first senior vice president of operations. He’ll report to CEO Apoorva Mehta and oversee the network of contractors and employees who do the personal shopping in partner grocery stores and deliver orders to customer doors. The startup’s customer service team will also fall under his purview.
"I have a ton of experience working inside large fulfillment centers," Swartz said, "but when you think about the challenge of Instacart, you have this distributed network of people — it’s like an external warehouse or fulfillment operation."
"The people that work in the field are the face of Instacart," he added. "There’s a lot to be done to make sure every person in the field feels connected to the company and its values."
Swartz was at Amazon from 1998, just a year after it went public, until 2007. More recently, he has consulted with startups including Warby Parker and Indian e-commerce darling Flipkart.
Instacart customers order groceries through Instacart’s app or website from a selection of partnering grocers, including Whole Foods, which plans to invest in the startup, as well as Costco and some local grocers in its 18 U.S. markets. Instacart has embedded workers in some of these stores to pick and pack orders to be picked up and delivered by another worker. Orders are delivered in as little as an hour.
"When you think about changing traffic patterns, product availability, the weather, customer preferences, you realize how complex the demand modeling can be," Swartz said. "The model gives you the first piece of the equation and then you have to execute with the model."
That’s now his job.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.