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ASCM Insights

Leadership Lessons from ASCM Board Chair Pamela Dow


Editor’s note: ASCM is celebrating Women's History Month in full force! Throughout March, my team and I will be:

Every one of these efforts drives home a powerful message: Women are invaluable to the supply chain profession. They bring fresh perspectives, shaped by their unique backgrounds and experiences, and their diverse skillsets are essential for navigating the complexities of today's global networks. Pamela Dow, CSCP, chair of ASCM’s board of directors, is a perfect example. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dow about pivotal career moments, leadership strategies and more.

Elizabeth Rennie: When you look back, is there a pivotal moment that really got you where you are today?

Pamela Dow: Each stage of my career has had pivotal moments that enabled me to get the next promotion and opportunity. If I were to select one, it would be my early career at TRW Automotive Electronics (now ZF). I was the twelfth person hired into a new greenfield site that had great leadership over my 11 years in the manufacturing operation. I was constantly challenged and trusted to take on positions that developed my skills in systems, materials, operations and program management. It created a solid foundation that I continued to build on throughout my career. I never turned down an opportunity to learn something new.

Rennie: Can you share one specific strategy you used to achieve a prominent role in your organization?

Dow: I treat everyone as a customer — direct team, peers, leadership and anyone in the organization who needs knowledge or support. I have always been a leader and resource that enables people to achieve their goals, which delivers for the bottom line of the company. I utilize the network that develops from these relationships for my own learning and growth. I've always been inquisitive, asking and learning about all parts of the organization.

Rennie: Why is having women in leadership positions so essential?

Dow: I view this as not only women in leadership, but full diversity in leadership being essential. It provides diversity of thought, experience and perspectives that facilitates open discussions and teamwork to achieve results that beat expectations.

Rennie: After all of your professional success, what do you still struggle with today?

Dow: Even though supply chain management is a household term today, I struggle with corporate leaders still not understanding the true value of supply chain and the investment in people, process and technology that is required to achieve the end to end process definition, simplification and alignment that delivers significant results to the bottom line of the company.

Rennie: How do you try to solve that problem? Please share some of the strategies you use. 

Dow: The easiest way is when customer delivery, cost and inventory are out of control at a facility: At these times, they’re willing to invest in people going to the location to fix the issues. I proved that having the right ownership, skill and capability with the local resources that work at the facility delivers sustainable, long-term results versus flying in resources that create a solution. After all, if it isn't bought in and owned by the local team, the solution stops as soon as the resources leave, which is not sustainable.  

In automotive there are new vehicle program releases and changes with at least a few customers each year. So, I would gather launch performance and cost data (such as inventory shortages, premium freight, inventory levels, delivery, resources flown in to support) for the launches over the past two years and compare it to investing in supply chain launch resources early in the program development.  Leadership couldn't refuse the idea because the cost after failure was much higher than the cost to proactively invest. 

Supply chain improvements in areas that deliver hard cost savings are easier to justify and get leadership approval for investments — areas such as purchasing piece price reduction, transportation savings through rate negotiations or removing a truck from a route through truckload utilization improvements. The difficult area is with process improvement, as it's not as tangible and is usually a future cost avoidance versus an immediate cost reduction. I've been successful at influencing the investment by showing the relationship to inventory control, production schedule performance and premium freight reduction that will result from a process improvement. I was also very successful at influencing finance to let supply chain set the inventory targets with detailed data and planning sheets that incorporated supplier footprint changes, customer claimable obsolescence, prelaunch inventory bank and reduction projects versus having an arbitrary reduction target set. Inventory is not constant, but flows with what is going on in the business. 

Rennie: How has your ASCM affiliation, particularly being board chair, helped support and enhance your experiences in supply chain?

Dow: ASCM provides so many resources for all levels of people who work in a role within the end-to-end supply chain scope. Certification in one of the many ASCM products that elevates an individual's knowledge, commitment, skill and capability. Achieving certification requires dedication, time management and the application of concepts so important to improving supply chains within a company and their extended partner network. My affiliation and role in ASCM over the years has not only expanded my network with supply chain professionals, but also enabled individuals, corporations and communities to develop knowledge and skills beyond their university and college studies to become team members and leaders who excel in delivering results.

Rennie: What are you doing to empower, support and advance the women at your company?

Dow: I have many formal and informal coaching, mentoring and sponsorship relationships with current and past coworkers. I'm always willing to give honest feedback and support the changes that are required for development and career progression.

Rennie: How does being a supply chain professional enable you to make an impact and create a better world?

Dow: My 38-year career in supply chain management and operations enables me to lead, coach and mentor supply chain professionals from intern or entry level through achieving senior leadership positions. This is my passion for giving back and developing future supply chain leadership.


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