Knuckling down on fundamentals, Target Corp. has hired Anu Gupta, a retail industry veteran, to the new position of senior vice president of operational excellence.

Gupta, whose hiring was announced Thursday, will help the Minneapolis-based retailer as it works to improve its operations, such as keeping shelves stocked and simplifying its processes. Company executives have been more upfront lately about how online shopping and in-store pickup have strained its outdated supply chain.

She joins Target from private equity investment firm Hellman & Friedman, where she was a senior operating executive in charge of improving productivity and business processes. The firm has major investments of more than $100 million in 17 companies, including Abra Auto Body and Grocery Outlet.

Previously, she was vice president for process and profit improvement at Michaels, the arts and crafts retailer, from 2008 to 2013 and held a leadership role at grocery chain Safeway for three years before that.

She will report to John Mulligan, who Chief Executive Brian Cornell recently promoted to chief operating officer, another new role at Target. At Target's annual meeting for employees last week, Mulligan emphasized that his main priority will be reducing out-of-stock items.

As Cornell has been reshaping his leadership team, he has brought in a couple of executives he has worked with previously at other companies. Gupta reported to him when he was chief executive at Michaels, and they also overlapped at Safeway.

Erin Conroy, a Target spokeswoman, said the retailer used a search firm to fill the role and spoke to a number of external candidates. Cornell, Mulligan, and human resources chief Jodee Kozlak were involved in the decision, she said.

Gupta will likely make some external hires of her own after she starts on Oct. 12, but Conroy said it's too early to know how many new people will be brought in.

"Anu has a proven track record of increasing effectiveness across every aspect of organizations in a variety of complex businesses, including retail," Mulligan said in a statement. "She brings the right expertise to help simplify our operating processes to be more nimble and sustainable, an important early step as we focus on shoring up our core operations and giving guests an on-demand experience."

In recent weeks, Cornell has been more vocal to suppliers, investors, and employees that the retailer's supply chain is in need of major upgrades and that some of the nuts and bolts of the business need more attention. Target is investing $1 billion in its supply chain and technology this year.

Cornell told investors during the company's earnings call last month that out-of-stock problems in Target stores had reached an "unacceptable" level. And last week, he apologized to store managers for not being quicker to respond to store operation issues. In particular, he talked about keeping shelves stocked, cash registers running and making sure the handheld devices employees carry around always work.

Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113