Cheryl Harrity: Cooking Up World-Class Service

NAME: Cheryl Harrity

TITLE: Corporate director of supply chain

COMPANY: MGP Ingredients, Inc., Atchison, Kansas, since 2010

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE INCLUDES: Traffic specialist, fleet supervisor, warehouse supervisor, Acme Markets; consultant, logistics practice, KPMG Peat Marwick; vice president of transportation, CS Integrated; professor, Letter of Appointment, University of Nevada, Reno; practice lead, supply chain, APQC; partner, NaviChain Consulting.

EDUCATION: The Pennsylvania State University, BS, business logistics, 1985; Temple University, MBA, physical distribution, 1991.


Cheryl Harrity caught the logistics bug from Penn State professor John Coyle. An accounting major when she entered Coyle’s Business Logistics 101 course, Harrity soon changed her focus, choosing logistics as her major and her career.

What made the pull of logistics so strong? “I could make things move and happen,” Harrity says. “I could make an impact.”

Harrity has held a variety of supply chain positions, working for manufacturers, service providers, and consulting firms. Since December 2010, she has been making things move and happen at MGP Ingredients (MGPI) in Atchison, Kansas.

From manufacturing facilities in Atchison; Pekin, Ill.; and Onaga, Kansas, MGPI produces three kinds of products: food ingredients, food-grade alcohol, and biopolymers. The latter are used to make eco-friendly utensils, toys, decking, and other items. The primary raw materials for all these products are wheat, sourced from ConAgra Mills, and corn, sourced from Bunge Corp.

Harrity first came to MGPI as a consultant, tasked with assessing the supply chain and recommending initiatives to make the company a world-class customer service organization. “We benchmarked the whole supply chain on the qualitative side, using the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Supply Chain Management Process Standards, and all the quantitative benchmarks developed at APQC [where Harrity once served as lead in the supply chain practice].” MGPI then hired her to implement those improvements.

Harrity’s domain at MGPI encompasses customer service, procurement, logistics, transportation, and inventory management. Her current focus includes programs to improve sales and operations planning, optimize inventory, and develop a better transportation program, both in North America and worldwide.

One of Harrity’s main projects has been choosing a lead logistics partner and establishing that relationship. After a nearly five-month evaluation, MGPI selected Ryan Transportation, Lenexa, Kansas.

Ryan started managing MGPI’s dry transportation in January 2011 and took over the liquid moves in March. The two companies recently finished linking their information systems, and are preparing to start communicating via file transfers.

“We’ve also implemented SAP in the organization,” Harrity says. Thanks to that software and the integration with the Ryan system, MGPI now can respond to customer orders much more quickly than in the past.

“We’re moving orders instantaneously to Ryan’s transportation management system,” she says. “We’ve also improved timeliness, error prevention, and cost efficiencies in serving our customers.”

Since logistics first caught her imagination, Harrity has enjoyed countless opportunities to make things move and happen. But what has been happening in Atchison might be the most enjoyable of all. “I’ve always loved my job,” she says, “but this is definitely the best place I’ve ever been.”


The Big Questions

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I read and play golf. I’m an officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, and the American Logistics Aid Network, an association that helps nonprofits such as the Red Cross provide disaster relief.

Ideal dinner companion?

Colin Powell. He’s a logistics person and one of our most credible leaders. He fought adversity and made it to the other side, proving that you can be anything you want to be.

First Web site you look at in the morning? It’s like opening random, fascinating pages in an encyclopedia.

Business motto?

Today’s success only serves to create tomorrow’s challenges. Opportunities lie in continuously challenging yourself and others to be all that we can be.

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