Elizabeth Rennie | September/October 2012 | 22 | 5
Reed DuBow, CPIM, uses her financial and inventory management expertise to make a meaningful difference for countless people. She is the chief financial officer for a social services agency that combats homelessness and poverty.
“Although I am no longer in manufacturing … the APICS body of knowledge can be resourced and used in any environment,” she says. “Lean for the office was necessary when I was hired for my current position. Cash flow was an issue for this organization, and solving issues involved just throwing more personnel at a problem. There was no analysis, and time management didn’t exist.”
DuBow set up processes and workday calendars that staff could easily follow. The calendars noted when items were due to government agencies and audit dates. She established a review requirement for all work before it went out the door and redefined job descriptions. All nonpermanent records more than seven years old were destroyed, and she created an archive list of where filed items were stored so they could be more easily retrieved.
Inspiration from APICS affiliation
DuBow’s involvement with APICS began when she worked for a manufacturer of electronic testing equipment. “My company bought a subsidiary that had terrible cash flow and inventory problems,” she says. “We brought on consultants who were long-time APICS members. [They had] a wealth of experience in operations management and supply chain problem solving. I was encouraged to join APICS and attend meetings to build on my manufacturing background. I stuck with it, joined the Northern New Jersey APICS chapter, and eventually became chapter president.”
DuBow also values APICS conferences very highly. “The annual APICS international conference is always such a great mechanism to keep current on operations management issues,” she says. “I always leave feeling very inspired.”
She remembers a key lesson from APICS 2009: DuBow heard a presentation on marrying financial with supply chain and operations management functions and recalls being pleased that “someone was taking bean counters seriously.” This was a significant experience for her because, as she explains, people in different departments so often are unaware of how their actions and outcomes affect various business segments.
DuBow says that, in a manufacturing, distribution, or retail environment, auditors are inclined to focus on inventory and its valuation. It’s a tangible asset and tends to hold a noteworthy place on the balance sheet. “This is why the accountants love to tell operations that inventory should be zero. No inventory equals no auditor questions equals no problems,” she says. “While this is not a realistic expectation in today’s organizations, it does illustrate how the departments need to communicate and work together.”
The APICS 2009 presentation taught her that, with a top-down-driven sales and operations planning process in place, many common inventory issues can be reevaluated on an ongoing basis to satisfy real market demand over a longer-term planning horizon. Communication between sales, production, purchasing, research and development, and finance can be significantly improved. Applying this knowledge at work, along with her team’s implementation of lean and Just-in-Time principles, contributed significantly to DuBow’s three promotions in just 10 years—from accountant to assistant controller to controller.
DuBow’s favorite APICS activity is the student case competition, which frequently takes place at APICS district and national events. “My chapter has sponsored student teams, [and] it is a great thrill to work with these students to prepare them for the competition,” she says.
In addition to volunteering her time with these student teams, DuBow has served her chapter as director of pre-dinner forums, vice president of programs, vice president of finance, executive vice president, president, and past president. “Volunteering for APICS has quite literally changed my life. It has required me to practice conflict management and organization and development skills [and] allowed me to meet and network with some really terrific people,” she says. “Volunteering pushes my boundaries, expands my knowledge base, and proves to myself I can do things I never thought I could.”
Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.