Chet Mullen: Material Guy

Chet Mullen: Material Guy

Chet Mullen is director of materials planning and logistics at Raymond Corporation, a manufacturer of materials handling equipment and systems, in Greene, N.Y. Raymond is a division of Toyota Industries. Mullen has held his position there since 2010.

Responsibilities: Sales operations planning (materials planning, master scheduling, configuration management and order entry); material control (internal warehousing, logistics and shipping); materials planning (procurement planning and production planning); operations excellence; inbound and outbound logistics.

Experience: Sergeant/supply, U.S. Air Force; corporate materials manager, Exide Electronics; director, logistics and planning, Kollmorgen; manager, materials and quality, Alfa Laval; supply chain leader, Honeywell; director, strategic sourcing and business integration, Flow International.

Education: B.S., business administration and management, Southern New Hampshire University, 1986.

After high school, I spent a few years in culinary school. I thought I’d go into the restaurant business, but I didn’t want to work on holidays when everyone else was celebrating with family. So I enlisted in the Air Force, where I spent five years in a logistics job in Athens, Greece. When I got out, I earned a degree in business, and continued working in supply chain management.

Today, at Raymond Corporation, I manage the handoffs among suppliers, manufacturers, engineers, and marketing and sales teams to ensure operations run smoothly. Raymond focuses on custom-designing materials handling equipment and solutions for customer facilities. We go to market through 22 dealerships, which employ about 2,200 field service representatives. My job is to get finished goods and service parts to those technicians, and make it as easy as possible for them to do business.

Raymond operates two manufacturing facilities, in Greene, N.Y., and Muscatine, Iowa. Along with complete systems, these factories produce about half our service parts. Approximately 370 suppliers also provide parts to the factories and to our service operations.

Raymond’s plants produce 200 to 300 percent more today than when I joined the company in 2010. Managing that constant growth in a fixed footprint has been challenging. Because we can’t resize the factories quickly—and, in most cases, we don’t want to—I have to get materials to the floor faster, and focus on the status of line-side deliveries. To produce three times as much product in the same space, we have to plan every part carefully.

We manage our velocity through standardized work, making sure we can repeat the same process every time. And we work on replacing inventory with information, so we never have any parts in the factory other than exactly what we need to serve the customer.

One current project involves operating with our suppliers as a virtual factory, as if there were no distance between us. We want to hand parts from their assemblers to our assemblers, with nothing in the middle but what’s absolutely necessary.

For example, we’re determining optimum lot sizes for suppliers’ production and our production, and thinking about the containers used to package the product. If product comes off a supplier’s line in the same container we’ll use to consume that product on our line, we can maximize the load in the truck that delivers the product here.

We’re also optimizing transportation in other ways. For example, we used to have trucks deliver components from Canadian suppliers to our factories, and other trucks deliver finished products to our dealerships in Canada. All those trucks were backhauling empty. Now we ship component parts in the morning, then use the same trucks to bring back finished goods in the afternoon.

Through these and other initiatives, Raymond will be able to produce even more product within the same footprint as we continue to grow.

The Big Questions

What would you do for fun if you had more free time?

If I could be a full-time grandfather, I would. And I’d like to improve my fishing skills—I do a lot of fishing, but not much catching.

What’s at the heart of your business philosophy?

Stay focused on the customer. Also, when you’re tackling a problem, if you haven’t solved it for customers, shareholders, associates, or stakeholders, then you haven’t solved it.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Never turn down a chance to learn. Take every course your company offers. Getting exposed to new subjects and staying current with your industry are the most significant things you can do.

If you received a surprise package, what would you like to find inside?

A case of wine and a crystal ball.

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