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Implementing Innovation

  • Kia Wood

Steve Brown

What led you to a career in supply chain?

In the late 1980s, I was brokering integrated circuits in Silicon Valley. I found I liked sourcing better than selling, which led to purchasing and planning positions. After two decades at Hewlett-Packard (HP) in the fields of project management, planning, procurement and global product life cycle management, I wanted to see what else there was. I found MityLite — an awesome company with equally incredible leadership. I’m learning the core tenets of lean and loving it. At MityLite, I manage a team of four buyer/planners. We try to resist sharply increasing commodity cost for raw materials and make sure our customers are happy by having the right parts in the right place at the right time, price, quantity and quality. Core to these efforts is the elimination of waste in kaizen fashion — small, incremental steps that guide them to success in creating better value for our customers.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered on your career path, and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges is being able to see and try to implement an innovative idea before its time: Few things are tougher to overcome than entrenched ideas. One overcomes resistance with patience, data, and gentle and logical persuasion. I had to say the same thing in more than 200 presentations before it was believable, adopted and then a widespread practice.

What has been your most fulfilling accomplishment so far?

I conceived and co-implemented a global trade-in program for Inkjet, Scanjet and LaserJet out-of-warranty customers. This trade-in program saved tens of millions of dollars by retaining a greater percentage of HP’s installed base of out-of-warranty customers. Of particular importance (and gratification) was obtaining [then CEO] Carly Fiorina’s personal approval for the project, which eliminated senior management resistance. 

What is your top career goal moving forward?

I hope to teach supply chain at a university full time. I have taught supply chain and operations at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business. I’m currently on staff, so I’m partway there.

How has ASCM Membership made a difference in your career?

Our entire buyer/planner team and several other department folks are taking the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management course on-site at MityLite. The company is all in for APICS classes and has invested heavily in furthering the team’s education.

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