Michele van Krieken: Formulating Supply Chain Clarity
Michele van Krieken is global supply chain manager with The Chemours Company, a $1.5-billion global chemistry company with leading market positions in titanium technologies, fluoroproducts, and chemical solutions.
Manage global supply chain for the fluoroproducts business, driving both day-to-day execution and improvements, and developing career paths for supply chain employees. Work closely with business leaders to align supply chain and business strategies.
Managerial and executive supply chain and engineering positions, all with DuPont.
M.S., Integrated Supply Chain Management, Michigan State University, expected 2018. B.S., chemical engineering, Purdue University, 1991.
Since Chemours spun off from DuPont in 2015, we’ve been simplifying, streamlining, and upgrading our tools and capabilities. One goal is to ensure visibility to our product lines. In 2017, many of our product lines sold out, in part due to price increases by competitors.
We upgraded our modeling tools and began to use sensitivity analysis methods so we can model the impact of changes in demand patterns and determine the flexibility of our supply plans.
In any supply chain, opportunities pop up that you weren’t expecting. For example, the hurricanes in 2017 and an ocean carrier consolidation caused us to rethink how we handle ocean logistics. We partnered with corporate logistics to obtain more frequent updates on the demand outlook, and began utilizing a variety of routes to shorten transit times.
Shortly after I moved to a supply chain role with DuPont, we started to implement an SAP system. Much of the work involved aligning our processes to SAP. Along with two colleagues, I played a key role in driving a standard process for order fulfillment.
When we went live, we experienced zero defects and no customer impact. That was a big accomplishment.
That experience taught me many things, especially about change management. I now take time to understand where another person is coming from by leading with questions: How do you feel about this? What’s your feedback on the process? This gets the other person to voice what I call "the ice below the water" that’s driving resistance.
I also had the pleasure of working as supply chain lead on a new product launch with a consumer electronics company. We worked with a cross-functional team to integrate our supply chain planning to support their launch schedule. We’ve been able to grow that into a double-digit revenue business with a good profit margin.
In 2005, my boss asked if I’d move to China to provide improvement resources. That wasn’t even on my radar. My husband was in Africa on a photographic safari, so we couldn’t talk for two weeks. So, I talked to my dad. He said, "This is the kind of opportunity you don’t turn down."
The job didn’t exist before I arrived, so I had to create an improvement role for the region. I developed a continuous improvement group, got my Master Black in DuPont’s Six Sigma methodology, and coached some of the businesses on sales and operations planning. I traveled all over and learned to speak Mandarin. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Over the past several years, we’ve gone through multiple system changes and transformation programs with the goal of streamlining and simplifying our IT systems. And there’s more to come.
Historically, Chemours is a company of engineers. A fast-paced environment limits your ability to analyze, and forces faster decisions. For instance, we had to make some quick asset shutdown decisions. That never happened in the past. It was the right thing to do, and it was great to see.
I got into supply chain after spending 10 years in engineering. I never left because I like being at the center of the business and getting to touch all functions.
The Big Questions
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Put people first and results will follow. This applies to work and to life.
What activity makes you better at supply chain management?
Managing a household. You plan for groceries, laundry, kids’ activities, car maintenance, and other tasks. It’s about making sure everything is on time and gaining customer satisfaction from your kids, spouse, and the family dog.
What supply chain technology would you like to speed up?
A system that provides transparency to order and inventory status and demand data, across all supply chains, from suppliers’ suppliers to customers’ customers, in the cloud 24/7.
What song titles best describe your job?
Under Pressure by Queen and You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones.