Indirect Materials Manager - Bianca Brown


This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.

Bianca Brown is no stranger to a fast-paced career and hectic daily schedule.  Bianca, an Indirect Materials Manager in the Fuel Systems business unit, (originally hired as a member of the Supplier Quality Improvement Engineering team) has quickly been promoted within two years after starting with Cummins.  Today, she works within our Plant Materials Group and helps lead the manufacturing facility team’s material planning and processes. With growing demand for production inputs at Cummins manufacturing facilities around the world, the Company relies on materials managers to handle the accurate management of incoming ingredients.
And now for your All Access Pass.
Her business unit has recently been involved in a Six Sigma process review to help facilities and purchasing move toward synchronized business planning, an innovative new approach to supply chain operations.  As the team focuses on using and leveraging purchasing efficiencies across all business units, it’s Bianca’s role to help keep the common ingredients stay in stock and keep manufacturing raw materials available for production at her facility.  Bianca’s day starts with a cross-functional team meeting with all members of the organization to understand previous production performance and strategize about inbound demand for the day.
“First thing in the morning, I have an internal production meeting with Engineering and Operations. That’s usually where I find out if there are any material issues or if we need more tools.  By the end of the meeting, we are formulating an action plan.. Our manufacturing process is dependent on many different inputs and my job is to keep that real-time flow of materials in balance across the facility.”
After the Fuel Systems production meeting, Bianca moves to an XPI Production Meeting to discuss daily production demands between Cummins and XPI Scania, an important global joint venture partner collaborating with Cummins to develop innovative technologies.  The agenda is to discuss the planning and production activities happening within the team
“Today I’m presenting supply chain updates to XPI.  The scope of our metrics focuses on what the past week looked like from an inputs aggregate view.  Sometimes the analysis can be intense because the factory is moving so fast that we need to step back and refine our purchasing perspective of how efficient it is.  We have an innovative team here-- we’re always thinking about how increases in demand push us to work smarter, not harder.”
The analysis often focuses on open orders, out of stock parts and what the team can do to increase efficiency rates as demand fluctuates.  Bianca knows if there are open orders, raw material needs to arrive at the plant faster so production can match the increase in sales.
“Our primary goal is to keep the plant running smoothly.  That’s critical to us.  It’s how we keep our customers happy.  We measure how many times we need to call suppliers to help with incoming inputs and revising tooling forecasts from maintenance teams.  The biggest impact we can have on our supply chain to become more efficient and think beyond the plant to visualize needs before they happen.”  
After the XPI Production Meeting, Bianca meets two colleagues for lunch in the cafeteria to discuss an upcoming National Society of Black Engineers meeting.  Bianca is still active in the engineering affinity group and helps with recruiting new engineering employees to work for Cummins.  Conversation between the good friends often flows back and forth between work, planning for the meeting and fun outside of work.
After lunch Bianca participates in a Cross-Functional Work Team Meeting which consists of members of each of the functions within the Plant from Operations and Operators, Maintenance and Manufacturing Engineers, Safety, Quality and Direct and Indirect Materials.  They discuss, as a team, any production updates, review action items and discuss how the team can be more proactive and flexible.  The experience of working in an innovative, collaborative environment has impacted her career in multiple ways.
“This career opportunity is really teaching me to be a better leader because I know it is a critical role.  It’s teaching me how to answer tough questions – I’m accountable to communicate with upper management in a way that gives them comfort, but also so they understand the issues and action plan.”
Finally before she leaves for the day, Bianca has impromptu meetings with her team to review the days activities and understand what needs to be resolved before the next day. She then focuses on accomplishing the daily tasks and project updates. She meets impromptu with her manager as she prepares to launch her fourth Six Sigma project.  He gives her feedback on where she is both succeeding and how to potentially improve her development.  The experiences of interacting with team leaders and communicating with upper management during the project is invaluable to her.  She’s learning each day how to collaborate with many different personalities and cultural styles.  
“We support production machinery that specializes in precision and it takes a global team to make that precision happen.  Materials management is important because we make fuel systems, but we don’t make the steel.  My responsibility is making sure honing stones, grinding tools, bearings, etc. are in the facility at the right time so the machines can keep running.  I need my team to help me get better and they need me to help us deliver to the customer.  I love the job because it’s different every day and there’s always a new challenge.  We’re really improving here.”