December 2011 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Jill Hesselroth: Opportunity Knocks

Tags: Education & Careers

Jill Hesselroth

Jill Hesselroth is vice president, global supply chain at Nortech Systems in Wayzata, Minn. An electronics manufacturing services provider, Nortech Systems produces wire and cable assemblies and printed circuit board assemblies, and provides diagnostic repair and integration services.

Responsibilities: Analyzing the company's supply chain to identify opportunities for improvement, then implementing those improvements.

Experience: Various positions, culminating in manager of information technology, receiving, stores warehouses, and reprocessing, The Gillette Company; director, global business applications and processes, St. Jude Medical; fulfillment, supermarket and manufacturing value stream manager, Andersen Corporation; vice president, global operations and logistics, Zimmer Spine.

Education: BS, accounting, University of Minnesota. Certifications: CPIM, CPM, Lean Systems, Project Management.

 

I studied accounting in college, then took a job with The Gillette Company, but soon found that finance wasn't a good fit for me. I liked cost accounting, however, which made me think I'd enjoy supply chain management and operations.

My mentor at Gillette suggested I pursue certification in production and inventory management from the Association for Operations Management, along with certification in purchasing management and project management. Once I earned the first two credentials, he supported my transition into a supply chain management role.

After joining Nortech in June 2011, I spent my first three months visiting suppliers and our seven manufacturing sites to learn about this business and our industry. Nortech operates five plants in Minnesota, one in Wisconsin, and one in Monterrey, Mexico. I studied our processes, reviewed profit-and-loss statements, and observed how the company faces challenges.

Based on what I learned, I created a list of improvement opportunities. Then the company's CEO and I agreed on some challenges to start addressing. The first goal is developing standard processes for the seven sites, which will provide a solid foundation for eliminating waste and reducing costs.

We're a company of acquisitions, so although our plants are performing well, they're not necessarily doing things consistently. We'll focus on processes such as sales and operations planning, supplier selection, production scheduling, quoting, and assembly. We'll also look at our manufacturing cycle times to ensure we have our systems set up to plan resources correctly.

Throughout my career, I've been a disciple of lean systems, and my proudest accomplishments have involved creating solutions that eliminate waste, make processes flow better, and allow teams to work smarter rather than harder.

At Andersen Corp., for instance, my leader challenged me to figure out how to deliver all the materials to our manufacturing lines in hourly increments, providing just the items the operators needed to manufacture windows in the next hour. My team of operators, supervisors, lead production and materials planners, engineers, managers, and suppliers worked methodically through each component on the line.

We decided to store all materials in a "supermarket" until operators needed them. We created schedules, pick lists, and custom delivery carts that provided sequenced materials to each line. That allowed operators to stay at their stations, rather than walking away to get the parts they needed.

The new process improved our material control, reduced inventory, and yielded huge productivity improvements. And we met our goal very quickly—from concept to completion in about one year.

Moving from finance into a new discipline was the scariest decision I've made in my career, but I'm glad I did it. I definitely have a passion for supply chain management and operations, along with lean systems. It's that passion that fuels my success.

 

The Big Questions

What's on your Bucket List?

Serving on a corporate board, living in Italy and Spain for several months with my husband, learning Spanish, taking a cruise to Alaska, and improving my golf game.

What are your hidden talents?

I'm an excellent gardener when I find the time. I'm also a certified scuba diver.

Something you don't do well but really like to do?

I like figuring out how difficult things work, both mechanically and theoretically. For instance, how is a plane designed to fly?

Worst job you've ever had?

Doing physical inventory because it's wasteful. Cycle counting is much more accurate and proactive.

How have you given back to your community?

I've participated in nine Habitat for Humanity builds. My husband and I chaired the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign in our county for 10 years, and we've volunteered at schools and managed sports teams.