By Kevin Manne
Before a bottle of Coke makes its way to your shopping cart, it begins as a concentrate produced by the Coca-Cola Co. The company sells concentrate to licensed bottlers around the world—independent franchises that produce the finished product found in restaurants, vending machines and on store shelves.
James Cottrell, BS ’90, is supply and demand manager for Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Ga., where he’s responsible for concentrate supply to all of North America.
“I oversee teams who schedule production plants, manage supply at warehouses and ensure the concentrate doesn’t expire, all so the company always has the right amount of product in place to serve its customers,” he says.
Cottrell is currently transitioning to a new role at Coca-Cola—global business continuity planning manager. In this position, it will be his job to ensure the company can continue to supply concentrate if there’s an outage or interruption in any of its plants around the world.
That’s no small task, as more than 1.9 billion Coca-Cola drinks are served up each day.
But Cottrell didn’t start his career with operations and supply chains in mind. He graduated from the School of Management with a concentration in finance and used that foundation in his role at Harrison Radiator Corp. in Lockport, N.Y. He worked in finance there for two years before transitioning into operations, serving as shop floor manager for a year.
After getting his MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he joined PwC as a management consultant and later earned a promotion to principal.
From there, he took a position at the pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific, first serving in an internal consulting role as business improvement manager, then as senior planning manager, before beginning at Coke.
Through it all, Cottrell credits the financial acumen he built in the School of Management for helping him stand out in his career.
“Right now I’m working on an opportunity to bring some production in house, and I’m able to analyze the finances and make a recommendation to our procurement team,” he says. “Learning finance at UB gave me a good foundation, starting at Harrison all those years ago and through every role that I’ve had since. It’s an area of expertise a lot of people in operations just don’t have.”
Cottrell says that while he still loves the Buffalo Bills, he’s adopted the Atlanta Falcons as his football team to root for. He’s a season ticket holder and can be found at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sundays during the NFL season.
“I’m a thousand miles away, but I root for the Bills from afar,” he says.
When he’s not at work or a game, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife, Joyce, and their dog, Chase.