In February of 2019, FedEx unveiled its SameDay Bot, an autonomous delivery robot that, as the company explains in a prepared statement, was “designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers.” The bot program, which actually made its debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, began its pilot program this summer.
Julio C. Barrionuevo, senior vice president of FedEx’s Latin America and Caribbean division, says that while delivery robots are not necessarily in his region’s purview quite yet, that type of innovation, which continues to push FedEx ahead, is part of the reason he has spent twenty-two years there.
“I feel like we have a mandate to continue to develop new solutions for our customers,” Barrionuevo says. “The more we can innovate for our customers in ways that lower the cost for them, the more successful we will be.”
Barrionuevo’s arrival at FedEx in 1997 was the perfect culmination of a series of set-up roles. With his industrial engineering degree in hand, Barrionuevo joined Eastern Airlines fresh out of school—and he figured that job would last him a lifetime.
“At the time, the concept of full employment was much more prevalent,” the SVP explains. “I thought that was where I would retire.”
Eastern provided great experience and growth, enabling Barrionuevo to earn an MBA while there. Unfortunately, the economic odds were not in Eastern’s favor, and the airline eventually dissolved—but not before its COO and Barrionuevo’s boss, Joseph B. Leonard (who later became CEO of AirTran), offered his young protege some advice.
“Joe was the first instrumental executive influence in my life,” Barrionuevo says. “He said that while the finance people might often challenge us, if you really want to learn how the business operates, it’s where you should go work next.”
The young executive took it to heart, taking on increasingly complex financial roles at Ryder System. Those courses of action were incredibly effective for Barrionuevo on two fronts. “My engineering background has always helped me solve difficult problems,” he says. “Finance has allowed me to break down every business opportunity into a few smaller drivers that we can rally and create visibility around.”
When a headhunter reached out to Barrionuevo about joining FedEx, the pitch was perfect. “They said ‘Your background is in planes and trucks. FedEx is planes and trucks,’” Barrionuevo laughs. “But it really was a great way to bring those prior experiences together.”
“When I leave this job I’ll ask, ‘How many people did I develop and mentor who are now or will be leaders in key roles?’ That really does become your legacy in the end. That is what truly remains.”
Currently, the SVP oversees forty-four of fifty countries/territories in Latin America, an area where FedEx has set its sights on cultivating massive customer growth. Just ten years ago, Barrionuevo says, instituting domestic service and creating supply chain capabilities in Mexico was merely a dream. Following the 2011 acquisition of the package-delivery service MultiPack, in addition to significant investment, FedEx is now a formidable force in the Mexican domestic market.
FedEx is also focused on expanding its Latin American retail presence. “More and more, what we’re looking to do is replicate the imprint we’ve been able to establish in our more stronghold countries like the US and Mexico,” Barrionuevo explains. “The more we create possibilities for our customers to be successful globally, the more successful we will be.”
Twenty Years of Service
Julio C. Barrionuevo has been involved with St. Jude Children’s Hospital for practically as long as he’s been at FedEx. For nearly twenty years, the SVP has helped bring visibility to a hospital that he believes does an incredible amount of good for the Miami and Latin American communities. Not only did he cofound the FedEx/St. Jude Angels & Stars Gala but in 2019, he also received a lifetime achievement award at their annual volunteer conference in Memphis for his contributions to the hospital.
Innovations like the FedEx Delivery Manager—which allows customers to customize home delivery to meet their schedules—is just now being introduced in parts of the Caribbean market. Still, Barrionuevo offers that the company spends significant periods of time mapping progress of goals for those economies, while finding ways to promote growth in the region.
Barrionuevo notes that his focus is on finding ways to deliver the best possible service while lowering transportation expenses for FedEx’s customers. Transportation and logistics is a competitive, high-growth area, and one that benefits from both his problem-solving acumen and financial mind-set. “We’re targeting significant growth over the next three to five years and have developed a road map of the major opportunities that will help get us there.”
And though his personal success has kept the senior vice president at FedEx for over twenty years of a career that spans close to forty, Barrionuevo says that talent development is where he experiences the most satisfaction. “When I leave this job I’ll ask, ‘How many people did I develop and mentor who are now or will be leaders in key roles?’ That really does become your legacy in the end. Other successes come and go, but this is what truly remains.”