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Co-op student creates clever sales tool for national bakery

06/19/17 - BOSTON, MA. - Patrick Robinson, DMSB'18, poses for a portrait at Northeastern University on June 19, 2017. Robinson recently completed a co-op at Bimbo Bakeries in Chicago, and specifically did great work around building new strategies and processes for helping the company save money and be more efficient in its bread delivering and stocking processes. Bimbo Bakeries has many brands under such as Thomas, Sara Lee, Arnolds, Entenmmann's, and Bobali. Photo Illustration by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

While on co-op, Northeastern business student Patrick Robinson developed a clever sales tool for his employer—a large national bakery—that the company informally named after him and then shared in markets nationwide in order to recapture millions of dollars in potential lost sales.

It’s called “The Patrick Process.”

Between January and May, Robinson worked as a sales co-op for Bimbo Bakeries USA, which counts Thomas, Arnold, Sara Lee, and Entenmann’s among its many highly recognizable brands. Robinson worked in Chicago and focused on the company’s Midwest region. He led a rigorous analysis of high-volume stores the company serves in the region, through which he identified bread items that had a high probability for running out of stock—particularly on the weekends when sales are highest.

Robinson, DMSB’19, said it’s professionally and personally rewarding to see his work have such a profound impact. “It was awesome,” he said. “I remember I got back home after work one night and got a call from my boss saying he was in Houston and the company was sharing and implementing ‘The Patrick Process’ there.”

Not only did Robinson lead a team that combed through volumes of sales data—he also visited hundreds of stores to observe delivery and stocking processes and accompanied route sales professionals and independent business partners on their early-morning bread delivery runs to better understand their workflow. From this work, he developed the tool—a “sales opportunity report”—and implemented its use by training sales leaders on how to use it. This report allows sales associates and independent business partners to identify stores where out-of-stock issues might arise and take action through a combination of adjusting bread orders and addressing the quality of delivering and stocking services at the stores.

Robinson’s supervisor, Bob McNamara, the company’s senior director of sales for the Midwest business unit, hailed his work and called the tool “absolutely tremendous.” He credited Robinson for his learning agility and for his personal growth in business maturity throughout the co-op.

“It’s been very well received,” McNamara said of the tool. “He simplified it to be easy to use for our front line sales leaders. He got people to buy in. It’s a tremendous achievement for a young man at 21 years old.”

The type of real-world experience Robinson acquired on this co-op was something he envisioned after his first campus visit as a high school student, during which he witnessed upperclassmen discussing their experiences working and studying in places such as Sweden and Africa. That global experience resonated with him as well; he was born in Miami but has also lived in Singapore, Germany, Spain, and Mexico.

“When I visited Northeastern, I noticed that the seniors who were hosting the tours were acting like adults,” Robinson said. “While describing their experiences here, they sounded like they went through school, got experience they needed, and were ready for the real world. I felt like Northeastern would provide the opportunity, the experience, and the tools necessary to be truly ready for the real world.”

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