Finding Meaningful Work Through Supply Chain Project Diversity
Updated: Feb 5
“My favorite project so far has been Danner because it reminds me of the smell of the shoes, the leather… that’s familiar.” – Milson Cruz, Production Technician, Supply Chain Solutions
“I don’t remember much of my childhood,” notes Milson. After contracting polio as a child in Honduras, Milson and his brother were transferred to an orphanage. “I grew up in the orphanage and was there for 12 years,” remembers Milson. The international orphanage offered vocational training opportunities as part of the private high school curriculum. “There were a lot of jobs: carpenter, welding, making shoes… For example, in the classes we were making almost 500 shoes for all the kids. They were going to kindergarten through fifth grade. We were doing all the shoes for the whole orphanage. It took us many months to do because we were only four or five people doing the job. At the age of 21, I left the orphanage, so I could start working by myself.”
Milson then started his own leather business. “I was making shoes, belts, gloves… anything with leather. I was repairing a lot of shoes.” Many requests were for mending shoes with holes in the bottom or on the sides. “I tore the shoe apart a little bit to where I can fix it. Make a patch. That was my business. Then I finally decided to come to America for more opportunities.”
Milson immigrated to the United States from Honduras in 2005. After brief stays in Minneapolis and Arizona, Milson landed in the Portland area around 2010. After working various jobs around town, he was referred to Relay in 2014 and started working in the Supply Chain Solutions business unit.
“It’s a little bit different at Relay because where I was working before I was doing one thing. Here, I’m doing several things. I’m sorting hangers, re-boxing and relabeling shoes, packaging henna dyes… One week I’m doing one thing, then another week I’m doing another thing. It feels pretty amazing.” The variety of work means learning a wider range of skills that can be applied to future projects.
Milson’s most recent project for Danner boots brings back memories of his business in Honduras. “My favorite project so far has been Danner because it reminds me of the smell of the shoes, the leather… that’s familiar. For me it’s something I really like doing because I’ve done it before.”
Relay Resources has provided a variety of supply chain solutions for Danner for over 20 years, including die cutting boot insoles, preparing steel toe inserts, assembling shoe shine kits, and packaging shoelaces. Dan Woodward, Supply Chain Solutions Manager at Relay Resources, says Milson’s experience made him the perfect choice to help set up Danner reverse logistics inspections at Relay. “Logistics work focuses on moving goods to their final destination, so reverse logistics is about what happens when you encounter things like returns or recycling of products. It allows a company to recapture value or properly dispose of those materials,” explains Dan. “At Relay, we inspect and clean returned Danner boots to ensure they are in new condition, then re-package them so they are ready to go back into inventory.”
“Relay Resources and Danner have had a long-standing, successful partnership,” notes Dave Sonsteng, Director of Manufacturing at Danner. “This relationship has continued to grow over the years based on their willingness to provide value-added services. We have greatly appreciated the customer service which is coupled with their commitment to quality. As a result, they have become a critical supplier to our continued success.”
Working with Relay has made an impact on Milson, too. “I was the person who didn’t talk a lot,” remember Milson, “but now I realize that I need to communicate more with people. I am a visual guy and see people; how they work, how they are doing, what they are good at in their job or whatever they are doing. When my boss says I can be in charge of this group and see if they are doing ok, it’s like being in a leader role. I can give them more chances to do it their own way until they get it right. I like Relay... I’ve done things I didn’t expect.”
Looking to the future, Milson can see a potential for growth with Relay. His advice to others? No matter what you do, do it well. No matter why you are where you are, you can do something to move ahead. “At Relay, I would like to help people. I can try to help people see what they want, what they need, or what kind of tools they need to improve their life or the project they are doing. We’re growing together so we can be successful.”