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Planes, Trains ... Robots and Drones? Meet the Man Who's Taking Johnson & Johnson's Supply Chain Into the Future
Planes, Trains ... Robots and Drones? Meet the Man Who's Taking Johnson & Johnson's Supply Chain Into the Future
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In honor of Customer Service Week, we're profiling Michael Strong—a man who's driving behind-the-scenes innovation to improve how the company delivers products to people around the world.

or someone who’s fascinated with science and technology, Michael Strong Michael Strong,Worldwide Director of Engineering and Packaging for Global Distribution Operations, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain, Worldwide Director of Engineering and Packaging for Global Distribution Operations, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain, has the perfect job. For one thing, he gets to work with a giant green robot affectionately known as "The Hulk" that's tasked with lifting heavy boxes of contact lenses to help spare its human co-workers from straining their muscles.

In fact, Strong doesn’t just work with The Hulk—he actually helped design it.

It's just one of several cutting-edge technologies that Strong—who oversees order fulfillment across Johnson & Johnson’s consumer, pharmaceutical and medical devices businesses—has pioneered and implemented on the factory floor to help get much-needed supplies to customers in the most efficient way possible.

We caught up with the Jacksonville, Florida-based Strong to find out more about his work and how technologies like augmented reality and drones are being used to help reshape the company's buzzing supply chain.

It’s my responsibility to ...

My team has accountability for more than 300 distribution and order-fulfillment centers across the world—and for every company across the Johnson & Johnson family of companies. We spend a lot of time making sure all operations are running well, and that we don’t encounter safety, quality or shipping issues.

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An employee uses an augmented reality headset in a company warehouse

We also spend time thinking about what we need to do to be ready in the future. How can we work faster, and be more customized? How can we model the best traits of companies like Amazon or Alibaba? For the consumer, for example, that means doing a lot of work on e-commerce and bringing new, really forward-thinking technology to order fulfillment. We’re really investing in how to over-deliver on customer expectations—even as those expectations evolve.

We do this by ...

One thing we’re exploring leveraging is autonomous vehicle technology—think self-driving cars—to help workers put consumer products on fork trucks. We’re planning to pilot the program in the U.S., with the hope of having it up and running later this year.

We’re also using augmented reality—where a device layers information on top of a real-world image—to help employees quickly locate a product on a warehouse shelf. At our DePuy Synthes facility in Warsaw, Indiana, the technology is helping us pick our orthopedic products at a 20% faster rate.

In the future, we’ll need to be able to deliver products not just to a nearby store, but directly to where the customer wants it—even if that means the trunk of their car or a hotel room where they're staying overnight. And we're planning for that now.

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I’m most proud of …

The Hulk! We created it in 2017 as a “collaborative robot” that works hand in hand with humans—it’s designed to do the heavy lifting, while humans do the thinking.

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"The Hulk" collaborative robot

It’s the first-ever collaborative robot that helps reduce ergonomic risk, which means no one will get hurt lifting things. The operators nicknamed it The Hulk because it’s big and green.

Right now, we just have one at the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care distribution center in Jacksonville, Florida—but the operators love it, so we’re looking at how else we can use these robots to work with our associates and make their jobs easier and safer.

I love my job because …

I’ve always had an interest in science and technology. In 1992, I started working with technology as an engineer at Johnson & Johnson, before moving to Customer and Logistics Services five years ago. I also spent part of my career at Vision Care Research & Development, where they taught us to think about what we can do to provide for customers in the years to come, which comes in handy.

In the future, we’ll need to be able to deliver products not just to a nearby store, but directly to where the customer wants it—even if that means the trunk of their car or a hotel room where they're staying overnight. And we're planning for that now.

I’m most excited about ...

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A drone helps with inventory

We’re working with drones inside our distribution centers to help with our inventory counting process. Today we have a technician physically go through every section of the warehouse and count, but in the future, we will have that person fly a drone through the area instead, using a vision system to accomplish the same task and deliver the information back to the technician.

We’re also looking at drones to help support our global health partners. In some areas of Africa, for example, they don’t have a huge infrastructure for planes, so drones could potentially help deliver lifesaving products directly to the people who need them the most.

Read more about the products that Johnson & Johnson makes to help people live healthier lives.


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