KeHE® has many amazing employees, and one that we would like to highlight in particular is Kris Kuper, Senior Warehouse Manager of Continuous Improvement in Portland, Oregon. He has been with KeHE for 21 years and has experienced lots of changes within the company throughout that time.

Learn more about Kris’ story below!

Q: What brought you to KeHE? How long have you been with the company?

A: I started in the Clackamas, OR warehouse in June of 2002, about 21 years ago. At the time, I had a friend who was working as a receiver who had been with Ray’s Food Service/Tree of Life for a number of years, and they encouraged me to apply after an unexpected exit from my previous job. Rick Vincent was the one who hired, trained and mentored me. He demonstrated how important every job is and really focused on how impactful my work was to the next person in the chain.

Q: Tell us a little about your role at KeHE and how it’s changed over the years.

A: I started as a selector, working in several departments, and I learned most of the processes in the warehouse. Shortly after I was hired, the Clackamas building migrated to NTS. I learned a lot about NTS, and was part of a “go live” project, being on the front line. After three years, I transitioned to purchasing and was able to put a lot of my operations experience to use, working closely with suppliers, transportation, and ops.

With the support of my wife and kids, we moved to Romeoville in 2010. I jumped at the opportunity to work closely with IT and Supply Chain, improving our purchasing systems and processes. I moved back home to Oregon in 2019 in my current role of Continuous Improvement manager and Inbound manager.

Q: How has KeHE fostered your growth within the company?

A: I would be remiss not to mention that any success I’ve achieved would not have been possible without the support of my wife, Amanda, who kept me grounded and focused. She tolerated the light from the computer on many nights and me falling asleep during several movies.

Many times, my supervisor(s) have trusted me to take on something new when I had little or no experience and could have just as easily looked elsewhere. I have been lucky to work with some of the best and smartest people I’ve ever met. People that care about our collective success as much as or more than their own.

Having open and honest dialogue about what we can do better for the sake of our customers and our employee owners makes us different. KeHE has an entrepreneurial spirit and allows leaders and teams to explore ideas and innovation. Not every project has been a wild success, but my leaders have stuck with me and allowed me the opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve my skill sets.  

Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your tenure with KeHE?

A: Natural and Specialty becoming a staple in grocery stores. 20 years ago, Target and Walmart largely didn’t carry items we sold, and Safeway used to sell toys.

The second biggest change is the technology. When I started, the buyers would print a list of all their items and write on paper what needed to be replenished or purchased for upcoming promos. Then, they would fax the purchase order to the supplier. Promos were generally requested by a phone call or an email from a sales rep or an account manager. Blackberrys were the only way to get email on your phone, and only Sales had laptops.

Q: During your time with KeHE, what milestones are you most proud to have been a part of?

A: I’m proud to have been part of the Tree of Life and KeHE merger, later adding Nature’s Best and Monterrey. I’m also proud of bringing the Nature’s Best DCs onto NTS and JDA, as well as learning just how much freight Flower Mound could hold until they were overflowing and unable to receive. We put the lessons we learned to good use when migrating to the Chino building.

I’m also proud of being a member of the Portland team that brought home the Distribution Excellence award for FY22 & FY23.

Q: What has been your favorite memory during your time at KeHE?

A: Some of my favorite memories include being present when Rick Vincent worked his last day before retiring, migrating our sales history and forecasts to JDA Demand, and working with IT and the core members of the Supply Chain team, essentially sequestered in a conference room away from the main office. There were long days, many pizzas delivered, and we had setbacks and obstacles, but in the end we had something we could all be proud of.

Q: What legacy do you hope to leave behind with KeHE?

A: I want to be remembered as somebody who has high integrity and is willing to get my hands dirty; someone with a positive outlook who is always looking for humor in difficult times.

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