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Amazon hires new operations manager

The online retail giant says it hired a new operations manager, who will be charged with keeping its warehouse expansion strategy on track.

Amazon today hired a new operations manager, who will be charged with keeping the online retail giant's warehouse expansion strategy on track.

The company said it has appointed Jeffrey A. Wilke, formerly of AlliedSignal, to take over responsibilities of outgoing chief logistics officer Jimmy Wright, who is retiring.

The transition comes at a critical time, when Amazon is bringing many new distribution centers online in preparation for the holiday season and future growth.

Company spokesman Paul Capelli said Wright, who joined Amazon from Wal-Mart, did a "great job" helping Amazon build the team that set up its distribution network. A new center in Nevada is already operating, Capelli said, and centers in Georgia, Kentucky, and Kansas will be running in time for the holiday season.

"From our perspective, we are on track, we are tracking to plan," Capelli said. "We have locations. It's now a matter of execution."

In addition to Wilke, who served as former vice president of AlliedSignal's Pharmaceutical Fine Chemicals unit, Capelli said Amazon hired Ben Slivka, a 14-year Microsoft veteran, as information technology director. Slivka, a manager with Microsoft's consumer e-commerce group, will report to company chief information officer Richard Dalzell. Both Wright and Slivka will start next week.

The moves come two months after Amazon hired Joseph Galli from Black & Decker to become the company's president.

Capelli said the company is still looking for a chief financial officer to replace current CFO Joy Covey. In April, Amazon said that Covey would be moving over to fill the company's new chief strategy officer position.

Alan Mak, a financial analyst who covers Amazon for Argus Research, said that the changes are important because, like Wal-Mart, the key to Amazon's success is its logistics operation. The company's future profits depend on getting its books, videos, and electronics to customers quickly and efficiently.

But the change of guard adds to the uncertainty on the front lines, where several of Amazon's distribution centers have yet to come online and the infrastructure is, for the most part, untested.

Although Mak said he expects Amazon to do well in the long run with its distribution strategy, he said the company could see some "short-term hitches." To make sure everything runs smoothly during the holidays, Amazon might be forced to step up hiring for its distribution areas, Mak said.

That may be a setback to Amazon's long-term strategy to increase its efficiency, but Mak said the company may not have a choice. "For their business model to succeed and to become profitable it's all about logistics," he said.