Arun Raman is an outstanding builder and shaper. "He has taken supply chain design and transformation to a whole new level for our business," says colleague Betty Kelly, a Six Sigma Black Belt. Case in point: when Raman designed the supply chain for a new Caterpillar product—the general duty undercarriage—he slashed manufacturing costs so effectively that his process became a new model for the company. "Over the past few years, my strategic sourcing process has been used in 94 projects, saving Caterpillar $56 million," he says.
Raman leads strategic sourcing for the Caterpillar unit that makes undercarriages—the moving parts that drive the company's bulldozers, harvesters, and other machines. His influence is strong: peers and managers regularly look to him for ideas and information. "Arun has quickly established himself as the resident expert on strategic sourcing on our team," says Angela Mare, supply chain manager at Caterpillar.
"I'm good at math, which is used everywhere in the supply chain," says Raman. He majored in information technology in college, then homed in on supply chain management while working for his M.S. in industrial engineering at Penn State. For Raman, though, the lure of this career goes way beyond numbers. "I like to be challenged every day," he says, and the supply chain satisfies that need. He also loves the chance to work with suppliers all over the globe. "In the morning, I talk with Europe, at night I talk with China," he notes. "That excites me."
The dynamics of the global economy guarantee more than enough complexity to keep Raman's job compelling. For example, in the past 18 months, the Japanese currency has weakened by 25 to 30 percent. Two years ago, Raman advised moving manufacturing out of Japan. "But maybe that's not such a good idea, now that we can get some of our components there for 30 percent less," he says. Staying flexible in a volatile world is never easy. But helping to define the manufacturing footprint for the next 10 to15 years is one of the enjoyable aspects of his work, he says.
Active in APICS since his student days, Raman now uses that organization to advocate for the rising generation. Not only does he serve as director of student chapter affairs for the Lincoln Land Chapter of APICS, but he has earned a spot on the APICS national board. As student/young professional director, he works to ensure that APICS is serving the interests of millennials.
"Making a difference in people's lives makes me happy," Raman says. "So it's a pleasure to introduce young people to the endless possibilities found in a supply chain career."
From the food we eat to the huge machines that build our homes and roads—everything needs to move from supplier to consumer," he says. "The supply chain is literally everywhere."
HOMETOWN: Chennai, India
ALMA MATER: The Pennsylvania State University
CURRENT POSITION: Supply Chain Performance Engineer, Caterpillar, Peoria, Illinois
NOMINATED BY: Javier Zarazua, Black Belt, Caterpillar; Betty Kelly, Six Sigma Black Belt, Caterpillar; Angela LaMere, Supply Manager, Caterpillar
Dealing with business uncertainties, such as exchange rates and external factors, which can disrupt the supply chain.
Absolutely. I have led sourcing studies that had a large impact on direct material costs, resulting in bottom-line savings.