After a successful 27-year career with Dow, Karen Bryant of Petroleum Service Corporation is focusing her efforts to advance circular economy.
She’s Working to Build a More Sustainable Future
Armed with a freshly-minted chemical engineering degree from Michigan Technological University, Karen Bryant began working for Dow in 1993 as an R&D development engineer. She spent the next 15 years filling various regional and global manufacturing and technology center roles.
After developing a broad range of skills and proven background in operations, Bryant got her first taste of supply chain, where she learned the ropes of supply/demand balancing, asset management, inventory optimization, and sales and operations planning (S&OP). She enjoyed the experience and grabbed the opportunity to move into logistics when the opportunity arose.
“Leading the global logistics organization was the pinnacle of my Dow career. I was responsible for safe and efficient logistics operations including millions of road, rail, marine, containerized ocean, and air shipments as well as international trade compliance, and more than 400 third party warehouse & terminal operations” says Bryant.
That role also found Bryant managing Dow’s site logistics operations across all its large manufacturing locations worldwide. “I had the functional responsibility for our site logistics and operations,” she explains, “from a technology, performance, safety, and cost perspective.”
Making the Shift
After establishing herself as a results-driven supply chain, logistics and operations leader, in 2020, Bryant was ready for a new opportunity. Having spent all her working years with one of the world’s largest petrochemical manufacturers, she took a role as Senior Vice President of Operations at Petroleum Service Corporation (PSC) in Pasadena, TX. A leader in product handling and site logistics services for the refining, chemical, and marine transportation industries, PSC has more than 3,500 employees working at more than 200 refineries, terminals, and chemical plants in North America.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the PSC family, building on my career in the petrochemical industry. PSC’s long-standing history of providing safe and reliable services is a great foundation in which to continue growing and expanding our business. Having the chance to help drive the strategy and growth for the company is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am lucky to have.”
As part of her new role, Bryant is leading the launch of a new business for PSC in the sustainability sector. “Essentially, I'm responsible for all of the launch activities from A to Z,” she explains, “in terms of managing and building a new business.”
That business has taken on special importance in a world where governments, organizations, and consumers are more focused than ever on how their activities impact the natural environment. Plastics are of particular concern, with companies working to reduce the production of single-use plastics, keep plastics out of the world’s waterways, and minimize their presence in landfills.
“We continue to see a strong focus around sustainability, including ending plastic waste and circular economy in terms of how more plastic can be recycled,” says Bryant. As part of that commitment, PSC helps resin producers ensure that they’re Operation Clean Sweep® compliant. The campaign helps plastic resin handling operations implement good housekeeping and pellet, flake, and powder containment practices to work towards achieving zero pellet, flake, and powder loss.
“We have a team of experts that visit producers, helping them identify ways to change their operating processes to improve plant cleanliness and improve scrap resin quality via design and operational tweaks,” Bryant explains. “The core of the business is providing on-site services for cleaning up the pellet, flake, and powder, enabling the producers to sell the material as scrap resin.”
“Ultimately, we are leveraging our proven operational excellence and experience to develop and deliver reliable, high quality solutions and responsive services to help our customers achieve their sustainability goals,” Bryant continues. “We’re also purchasing the scrap resin to support a circular economy, enabling post-industrial recycling, and extending pellet life cycle. We’ve just opened a new warehouse in Baytown where we package the resin and sell it to the recycling market.”
Putting Technology to Work
At PSC, Bryant is also developing a technology strategy for the core and expanding businesses, including loading and unloading rail cars and trucks, rail car switching and car wash; rail car repair; packaging and warehousing operations; and operating marine docks and loading barges. Knowing that these operations need to be brought into the digital age, Bryant says her team is establishing a plan prioritizing which hardware and software could be implemented to improve PSC’s efficiency and effectiveness.
“We want to implement technology to solve real problems, not just to implement technology for technology's sake,” says Bryant, “and as we do not own the assets or sites we operate, it’s a must to focus on solutions that provide customer value and address their critical operational challenges.”
Bryant, who utilized IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower while working at Dow, sees supply chain visibility solutions as an important focus for shippers in the petrochemical industry. “Dow used IntelliTrans’ global visibility platform for railcar movements across North America, for one of the largest, privately-owned rail fleets,” says Bryant. “IntelliTrans provided the necessary visibility to optimize a multi-billion dollar network of rail cars as well as provide insights to customers on the location and ETA of the railcar shipments.”
Closing the Gender Gap
With 27 years of engineering, manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain on her side, Bryant says that women are making strides in these more traditionally, male-dominated industries, but there’s still work to be done in this area. “My experience is that entry level positions tend to have a 50/50 gender split, however at higher levels the ratio skews,” says Bryant “By the time I got to the senior level at Dow, it was probably 25% women, 75% men (give or take).”
To young women who may be eyeing supply chain and logistics as a potential career path, this Amazing Woman in Supply Chain offers the same piece of advice, regardless of gender: success in this sector requires a strong bias for action, effective communication skills, and follow-up. As a leader, make sure to establish clear roles and responsibilities and set expectations for your team she adds.
“A simple example is that if you take time out of people's schedules to meet on a specific topic,” says Bryant, “it is valuable to document the agreements and action items, and then follow-up to hold people accountable for delivering on their commitments.”
Making a Difference
This year, Bryant is looking forward to putting much energy and effort into PSC’s sustainability program—something she hopes will be “wildly successful” and a diving board for the company’s next generation of leaders and associates.
“PSC was formed in the early ‘50s and focused on the tankermen business - loading barges on the Mississippi River,” she says. “As the company evolved, it started doing more work in these facilities and on-site logistics work for all of the larger refineries and petrochemical companies.”
A key element in PSC’s next evolution, this Amazing Woman in Supply Chain says it’s exciting to play in a space where you can make a difference and help a company grow and evolve. “I want to work on that for the next handful of years,” says Bryant, when asked about her own future plans, “and then I'd love to retire somewhere warm, hopefully close to my kids, pick up some good hobbies, and enjoy traveling with my husband.”