February 2002 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Michael Beaver: Leave it to Beaver

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Michael Beaver recently started learning Spanish, and he wishes he had mastered a few more languages earlier in his career. As a supply chain executive with a global corporation, Beaver knows communication is the key to forging profitable relationships.

Speaking to colleagues and partners in their own languages helps to assure them that the company is looking out for their best interests and isn't trying to impose American norms, he says.

In December, Beaver became senior director of supply chain at Reichhold, a manufacturer of adhesives, coating resins, polyester resins, and synthetic latex emulsions. He joined the firm, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., as director of corporate logistics for North America and Canada. Later, he led an effort to harmonize logistics throughout the company's worldwide operations. In his new position, he is part of a three-member team that directs Reichhold's supply chain.

"The most exciting experience so far in my career has been taking part in a globalization effort," Beaver says. It has also been his greatest challenge. Reichhold wanted to standardize its processes around the world and leverage relationships with service providers to improve customer service and reduce costs. But Beaver found that one-size-fits-all solutions wouldn't work. It was important to respect unique business practices, such as contract provisions, among different countries.

"Reichhold operates sites in Europe, Mexico, and Brazil. The challenge for us was to make sure the facilities in other countries didn't view globalization as 'Americanization,'" Beaver explains. To figure out which reforms made sense and which didn't, he visited Reichhold's sites and met with carriers in those countries to learn about their business practices. "You standardize the best you can," he says, "but you can't standardize completely."

Beaver's new position requires an even broader vision: he must consider not only transportation and warehousing, but the entire supply chain. Under Reichhold's new supply chain initiative, it is looking for synergies across its four business units, as well as across international borders.

One major focus will be strategic sourcing. In the past, Reichhold's facilities, or groups of facilities within one country, formed their own vendor relationships. "There wasn't a point where we could look at a particular raw material from a global perspective and maximize the buy from the volume we utilize," Beaver says. Now, that's changing.

Reichhold will also seek to develop a global picture of inventory management, evaluating sources in terms of efficiency and developing performance indicators to help improve customer service.

As Reichhold aims for a comprehensive view of its operations, Beaver says he could use more help from supply chain technology companies. Systems that deliver an integrated picture of inbound and outbound freight are hard to find, he says.

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