For Sherise Brown and Katrina Allen of Detroit Manufacturing Systems (DMS), a woman’s place is on the shop floor. As two female leaders who worked their way up from assembly staff to Supply Chain Superintendents, they bring important assets to the automotive manufacturing industry.
“Women tend to be patient, we listen, we hear what you’re saying,” Katrina says. “One of the things that we bring to the table is a lot of wisdom where we can make good decisions. ”
The focus of their management style? Cultivating and uplifting a strong team. It’s that kind of leadership, Sherise and Katrina say, that got DMS through the unpredictable post-pandemic environment.
In this episode of Auto Supply Chain Prophets, co-hosts Cathy Fisher and Terry Onica sit down with Sherise and Katrina as they share their supply chain management secrets.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- What Supply Chain Superintendents do.
- Why you should pursue training and certifications.
- What women bring to the supply chain.
- How great leadership and teamwork can keep your supply chain afloat in unprecedented times.
- Why supply chains should embrace automation
Featured on this Episode
Name: Sherise Brown
Title: Superintendent of Supply Chain and Logistics, Detroit Manufacturing Systems
About: After growing up with a father who worked in a manufacturing plant, Sherise never thought she would find herself in the industry. But after serving in the military, she found that she liked the structure that supply chains had to offer. A decade ago, she came into DMS as an Assembly Worker and climbed the ranks to Superintendent.
Name: Katrina Allen
Title: Superintendent of Supply Chain, Detroit Manufacturing Systems
About: Katrina started as assembly line staff at DMS 10 years ago, working her way through higher positions as a Dock Coordinator and later a Shipping Supervisor. This year, Katrina became a Supply Chain Superintendent alongside Sherise.
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[0:40] Meet the guests: Cathy, Terry, and Jan welcome two exceptional female leaders in the automotive manufacturing industry: Katrina Allen and Sherise Brown from Detroit Manufacturing Systems.
[3:40] Pushing to the next level: Katrina and Sherise talk about their favorite things about supply chain management: engaging with and empowering employees and working collaboratively across departments.
[6:21] A woman’s wisdom: What can women bring to the table in supply chains? A lot of assets that will benefit the industry, Katrina and Sherise say, from patience to wisdom and the ability to multitask.
[7:56] Staying afloat: A shortage of manpower is one of the biggest challenges that supply chains face as the fallout of the pandemic continues. Katrina and Sherise explain how exceptional teamwork and leadership at Detroit Manufacturing Systems helped the company stay afloat in unprecedented times.
[9:44] Embracing automation: Sherise talks about how implementing a Warehouse Management System increased the accuracy and efficiency of the supply chain, and why others in the industry should embrace automation.
[8:34] Maintaining the line: Katrina walks us through a day in the life of a Supply Chain Superintendent.
[12:23] Get certified: Not everyone gets specialized supply chain training before entering the industry, but Katrina and Sherise both did. They explain how classes and certifications can help your supply chain career.
[13:39] Breaking down silos: Silos — or divisions in a company that operate independently of one another — have long been a problem in the automotive industry. Katrina and Sherise explain how they, as superintendents, break those silos down and facilitate teamwork.
[15:18] The one thing: Katrina and Sherise share some simple yet wise advice for aspiring Supply Chain Superintendents: today is your opportunity to build the tomorrow you want, and treat others how you want to be treated.
[3:18] Katrina: “DMS is a very wonderful company to work for. As far as integrity, we have a saying that’s called gifted rich. Our organization is big on respect. We may be in different positions, but we respect the position that you’re in. And that’s what makes the company so great. Respect is one of the main things that we focus on.”
[4:43] Katrina: “I just like empowering people and pushing them to the next level. One of the things I do is, I walk to all my guys and say hey, I want somebody to tell me what can I change today? Or what have you learned today? And I tell them every day, you want to be a team leader, tell me what you learned today. If you can’t tell me anything then you learned today, how can you train someone else?”
[6:42] Katrina: “Women tend to be patient, we listen, we hear what you’re saying […] One of the things that we bring to the table is a lot of wisdom where we can make good decisions. And being in the supply chain, you have to make good decisions because you are dealing with so many different suppliers and different employees. A good decision maker makes an excellent manager.”
[14:48] Sherise: “I over-communicate. I’m sending out emails, I’m sending out texts, I’m making phone calls, and I’m scheduling meetings so we can all be on the same page. I think that’s very important. The objective is to send out a quality product and make money. Since that’s our main objective, let’s get on board so we can go in the same direction.”
We really can’t predict the future because nobody can. What we can do though, is help auto manufacturers recognize, prepare for in profit from whatever comes next. Auto Supply Chain Prophets gives you timely and relevant insights and best practices from industry leaders. It’s all about what’s happening now in the automotive supply chain and how to prepare your organization for the future. Because the auto supply chain is where the money is.
Jan Griffiths: 00:40
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Auto Supply Chain Prophets. We all crave that high energy inspired, engaged, motivated leadership in the auto supply chain, and it’s not easy to find, particularly on the shop floor. Today, you’ll get a taste of it with two exceptional Supply Chain Leaders from Detroit Manufacturing Systems. There’s a lot of buzz about DMS around town these days. And you’ll hear authentic leadership in Action on the shop floor. It’s raw, real and straight from the gut. You’ll find yourself pondering. Is supply chain really about parts or people? Let’s jump in and find out. We are joined today by two amazing female leaders in the world of manufacturing and our beloved industry of automotive. We are joined by Katrina Allen and Sherise Brown. Katrina, welcome to the show!
Thank you, Jan for having me.
Jan Griffiths: 01:42
You are welcome. Sherise, welcome to the show!
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Jan Griffiths: 01:48
Let’s get into it, shall we? Katrina. Tell us what is your story? How on earth did you get into manufacturing?
Thank you, Jan, I got in it. 10 years ago, I started off on a line. I went from the line to a team leader in the supply chain management. From there I went as a duck coordinator. And I went from Duck coordinator to supervisor and now I’m a superintendent this year.
Jan Griffiths: 02:13
We love that. Sherise, so what’s your story? How did you get into manufacturing?
I have a military background. So I love the structure. I never wanted to get into manufacturing. My dad was manufacturing he worked in a plant. However, years later, like country and I’ve been in manufacturing for 10 years, I came as assembly worker to team lead to supervisor production. Once I went ahead to a supervisor and production and supply chain asked me to come over to be a supervisor in a supply chain. I like new adventures rolled over to that then I became a lead supervisor, a supply chain and from there for three years I have been a superintendent currently in supply chain.
Cathy Fisher: 02:54
You ladies are so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us today, we would like to learn a little bit about the organization that you both work for Detroit Manufacturing Systems. So Katrina, tell us a little bit about DMS.
DMS has been in operation for 10 years now. It started off with Andrew Ross, she was a woman. And she sold it to Bruce Bruce is an awesome CEO as well. DMS is a very wonderful company to work for. Far as integrity, we have a saying that’s called gifted rich. Our organizations is build on respect. We may be in different position, but we respect the position that you’re in. And that’s what makes the company so great. Respect is one of the main things that we focus on.
Terry Onica: 03:40
You two ladies are very passionate about what you do. So what do you like best about working in supply chain? Let’s start there.
One of the things I like is empowering the employees and supply chain, we tend to get a lot of people who love to put their input in now. That’s one of the things that I love to see is the engagement of our employees in the supply chain. I can give you an example of one of the guys. I walked off the floor. And I didn’t have my glasses on. He’s like, you know he’s supposed to have on safety glasses. One of the lady said you shouldn’t be talking to her like that, because she’s the superintendent. So when I walked up to him, he said, Hey, I apologize. I said, What’s your apologizing for? He said, Because I told you to put your glasses on, because I didn’t know who you were. I said what you did was you told me right and I was wrong. So no, don’t apologize for nothing. That is right. He said, I have gained so much respect just from you telling me that, he said. That was a whole different department. He said I want to join the supply chain. I just like empowering people and pushing them to the next level. One of the things I do is I walk to all my guys who say hey, I want somebody to tell me what can I change today? or what have you learned today and I tell them every day you want to be a team leader. Tell me what you learned today. If you can’t tell me anything then you learn today, how can you train someone else? So now they’ll come to me, guess what I learned to train them? And then they’ll tell me. So that’s one of the things I push my guys to do on a daily basis.
Terry Onica: 05:10
So Sherise, what about you? What do you like?
What I like about working supply chain is that its supply chain is a huge umbrella. And you have different sections of that umbrella that makes up the whole supply chain by being a superintendent not only on my direct contact, working with my material handlers and my supervisors on the floor, but I also deal with the planners also deal with the dot coordinators, I love the fact that I’m communicating with everyone as a team. So it’s not just me, in the office given directions, it’s me out there with my team out there with the hourly saying, Hey, how can I help you? How can I assist you? What can we do to make BMS better, because at the end of the day, it’s all about making money. So what can we do to make the job easier and put money in our pocket. So it’s the collaboration of different people in a supply chain, and then to also branch off to different departments, to the production side to the quality side, to the IT side, nothing would happen without the supply chain, you wouldn’t have no production cut, you wouldn’t have parts. So being a department, that is the heart of it, is awesome to me to know that I’m there, and my people there they make a difference. And to make a greater.
Cathy Fisher: 06:21
We are so impressed with both of you and how you’ve come up through the ranks, and especially the supply chain side of your organization. What are some unique talents or skills that you feel that women bring to supply chain functions? Katrina? What would you say some of those unique talents and skills are?
Definitely skills of patients, women tend to be patient, we listen, we hear what you’re saying. Wisdom, I say that, really, because that’s one of the things that we bring to the table is a lot of wisdom where we can make good decisions. And being in the supply chain, you have to make good decisions, because you are you dealing with so many different suppliers, and different employees. So a good decision maker makes a excellent manager.
Cathy Fisher: 07:14
Sherise, how about from your side? What is your perspective on the special talents or skills that women bring to supply chain?
I think that women brings the talent of learning and how to multitask. I believe that you are learned at a young age how to multitask how to do your work in school how to have a job. Didn’t grow up to be a adult, being a wife, being a mother having a job. Just multitask period. I think that aspect come into the supply chain, because of supply chain is so broad, you have to know how to do everything at the same time.
Cathy Fisher: 07:50
Most certainly, with the chaos that we’ve had in the supply chain recently, you better be able to multitask.
Terry Onica: 07:56
So Katrina, what are the changes that you’ve seen in supply chain since COVID?
One of the things I’ve seen is trying to maintain without going under, especially with the suppliers with the restraints, because they can get the different materials, which is a overflow to the next supplier. And I think that that’s one of the things that supply chain can learn from is making sure we stay afloat with it. So if you can get great leadership where you can still be able to support your suppliers and still maintain your employees as far as paying them and no one is losing their jobs. I think that that’s where we did very good at maintaining the supply chain at DMS.
Terry Onica: 08:41
So Sherise, what changes have you seen?
Manpower issues, people having to go out because they have COVID, or they have been exposed have been around to someone. But at the same time, because of the manpower issues, we still have a business to run. It’s amazing because even with the lack of manpower, the people that come there, who we work with, it’s creating us to be a more family and bring team cohesion. Because we’re no we missed two or three people. So you have a person that has to do their job and half of another job. For me, the biggest thing is the manpower. But the silver lining is that we become more tight knit as a family because we’re depending and helping out each other more.
Terry Onica: 09:27
What do you believe has been your greatest contribution to supply chain at your organization? Katrina?
I would say improving the processes. So we not only improve the processes, but we added new workshops in to motivate the employees to keep them.
Cathy Fisher: 09:44
Sherise, I understand that you are involved in a special project right now that’s around automation. Could you share with us a little bit about what you’re doing?
Yes, at this very moment on DMS has decided to go into WMS, which is a warehouse manufacturing system. That way our hollow drivers can scan when we received a truck, and they can scan the actual material and compare it to what’s on the ASN and BOL to make sure that we match up what we have. Now once the hollow driver moves that material off the truck, we can now look, go into the UI, go into the computer and see exactly where that material is being moved to and from. So now that would bring down issues of losing material in a warehouse. Now accuracy is more effective and more accurate.
Cathy Fisher: 10:37
Sherise, what advice would you have for an organization who’s trying to embrace automation, adopt automation as you’re doing to encourage your team your workforce to accept that change? Because it’s a big change, I would say.
Yes, for one is to be patient, to be understanding, to expect a lot of questions, and a little bit more chaotic in the beginning. But overall, during time, it’s gonna get better and make your job easier. So just be patient with learning new things, the new processes, and keep an open mind.
Terry Onica: 11:12
So Katrina, what is a typical day for you in supply chain as a superintendent?
It is making sure everyone is in position to make sure the flow is right on the floor. That means I walked the floor to make sure the trucks is coming in. We get in and out on time, no detention time. I, as well as I go to each line, just to assist to make sure that we have enough manpower to service the lines. Throughout the day, I’ll make sure that the plan is clean. So that’s one of the things I focus on all day, throughout the day, walk the floor every hour and a half just to make sure it was going on. Everyone is in a PPE, classes, vests. I want to make sure of seatbelts is on. Safety come first before anything. So that’s pretty much my daily test. When I first get in, I make sure I always check the emails to make sure when we come in if there’s any power shortages, and I focus on making sure that the line is well maintained before I go to anything else, but that’s my daily duties as a superintendent, just to make sure the flow of the whole building fires supply chain is functional.
Cathy Fisher: 12:22
We noticed that both of you had the opportunity to take some training, specifically around supply chain. What advice would you have to people who maybe are looking for a job in manufacturing or especially in automotive? Where would you say that they should focus on getting the skills with the training?
Focus on certificates. Those kinds of courses, just educate you so that when you get into that field, and when we went to Michigan State is we learned things that are now happening. So those kinds of courses will definitely help you go to the next level.
Cathy Fisher: 13:01
Tell us about your experience Sherise with the training that you had.
If you decide to come to supply chain, know what area of the supply chain you want to go into. Go into an area that interests you that pitch your interest, or that you really like. I love being in a manager role. Because for me, I love helping people, I would not enjoy being a planner. Because you’re sitting at your desk majorityof the day, you’re really not doing too much interaction. If you come into a supply chain, I would say pick an area of the supply chain that you were really like. It’s no longer work is something that you excited to do.
Terry Onica: 13:39
Silos have traditionally been a big issue in organizations in automotive for a long time. How do you as a leader break those silos that exist to get everybody working together as one.
Communication is number one, the key. Sometimes it has to be over communicating. When you just do the bare minimum of a communication, something can fall off. And I don’t care how many times I have to say it, I’ll say it because I realized I have to over communicate to all the departments so that we can all work together on the shift, we actually have our own text string, all of us get on one text string. We communicate on that one thread, so we know what’s going on. Sometimes if you send us an email out if you are on the floor. You don’t get it. I just think that one of the main things is over communicating, that helps out a whole lot.
Terry Onica: 14:36
Sherise, what about you? Do you have any advice for breaking silos?
When I was on the floor, I would have various meetings with everyone like just to add on to what they’re trying to say I do the same thing I over communicate. I’m sending out emails. I’m sending out texts. I’m making phone calls, I’m scheduling meetings so we can all be on the same page. I think that’s very important. The objective is the amount of quality product, and making money, since that’s our main objective, let’s get on board. So we can go in the same direction.
Terry Onica: 15:09
I have to commend you ladies, you’re just amazing your confidence your people skills. I can see why you do so well in supply chain.
Jan Griffiths: 15:17
And now, it’s time to share some of that wisdom. Katrina, what is the one piece of advice you would give to supply chain leaders out there today in the automotive industry? Something actionable that they could implement right now.
I will say today is your opportunity to build the tomorrow you want. That’s one of the quotes that I live by.
Jan Griffiths: 15:39
There it is. That’s beautiful. sharees Sherise? What’s your piece of advice?
My one piece of advice is treat people on how you want to be treated. Everyone knows what’s going on supply chain. Where are we know about the chip shortages. We know it’s affecting every supplier, every manufacturing, we know that been there. But at the same time because you want people coming back and want to be there. Don’t forget in the midst of the chaos you need to treat them on how you want to be treated so they continue coming back.
Jan Griffiths: 16:10
Well said, Katrina Allen, Sherise Brown, thank you very much for joining us today.
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