March 2002 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Phil Saracin: Whatever it Takes

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Phil Saracin, global logistics manager at Kemet Corp., enjoys the challenges of finding new ways to reduce cost and cycle time, and developing new tools to improve information flow.

Through all his 23 years in logistics, Phil Saracin has never seen people pull together as they do at Kemet Corp., a leading manufacturer of solid tantalum, multi-layered ceramic, and solid aluminum capacitors. Its commitment to deliver high-quality goods on time pushes its dedicated employees to be creative.

All electronic devices use capacitors, and Kemet's customers include manufacturers such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ford, and Qualcomm. Capacitors are tiny, but without them, a plant could shut down.

"We'll do whatever it takes," to deliver orders as promised, says Saracin, global logistics manager at the Simpsonville, S.C.-based firm. "We've booked people on planes to do hand-carries to any part of the world."

When a typhoon grounded a shipment in Taiwan, "we produced new product and shipped it via another route to the customer in Hong Kong, to make sure that they would get their goods," he says.

Striving for 100-percent performance helps Kemet keep the loyalty of a customer in Ireland, for example, that might otherwise source capacitors from a local vendor. "We're supplying out of Mexico, and that customer is buying from us because our reliability is better than someone 10 kilometers down the road," Saracin says.

Contingency planning and flexible thinking helped Kemet get through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without interruption to customer service. When U.S. air traffic was disrupted, Saracin recounts, Kemet trucked orders to airports in Canada. It also located airlines that were allowed to make certain individual flights—for example, from the United States to Puerto Rico, and then on to other countries.

Emergencies aside, for Saracin the biggest logistics challenge is finding the right third-party logistics provider (3PL) and building a successful partnership with that firm. The key, he says, is investigating third-party candidates thoroughly before ever considering cost.

"As far as I'm concerned, requests for quotations are useless," Saracin says. "I think the most important thing is visiting the prospective 3PL, interviewing them, meeting them repeatedly. Then you can find a 3PL that has the tools that best match what you need to do."

A solid partnership offers many opportunities to carve time and money out of the supply chain. In Europe, Kemet's 3PL set up a process allowing the company to pre-clear goods in the Netherlands, ship them to any European Union country, and settle with Customs by the 10th of the following month. "We shaved days off the inbound process," Saracin recalls.

"There are plenty of challenges to find new, improved ways of ratcheting down cycle time, reducing costs, and developing new tools to further improve the flow of information," says Saracin.

Those challenges help make his current position "a dream logistics job," he says. "The best part of the job, though," he adds, "remains the chance to work with the worldwide Kemet team."

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