After transitioning from IT to supply chain, Mary Beth Fischer of Procter & Gamble puts on several hats that position her as a truly Amazing Woman in Supply Chain.
Sinking Her Teeth into a Hands-on Career Opportunity in Supply Chain
In her role as Innovation Diamond Leader at Procter & Gamble, Mary Beth Fischer wears two distinctly different hats. She’s responsible for the management of the company’s upstream innovation, which involves product portfolio management, reformulations, and cost-saving ideas that support P&G’s value streams. As part of her responsibilities, Fischer also helps introduce and manage corporate sustainability initiatives.
Hat #2 finds Fischer “owning” the beginning of P&G’s chemicals supply chain. “About a year ago, I took over our order management team, which is responsible for order acquisition and order management,” says Fischer, who oversees a team of six customer service logistic associates who are responsible for end-to-end order management. This entails communicating with customers, managing delivery options, and working with shipment planners to develop physical distribution plans.
These activities all take place at the very inception of P&G’s chemicals supply chain. “I’ve never been part of this group before, and I’m pretty excited about it,” says Fischer, who continues to oversee governance of P&G’s terminal operations. “We have about six third-party logistics providers (3PLs) that are handling railcar storage, overflow storage, or contract manufacturing.”
From IT to Supply Chain
On any given workday, these varied responsibilities are put in front of an Amazing Woman in Supply Chain whose career has included both supply chain and information technology (IT). Having worked in IT for both Hewlett-Packard and P&G for several years, in the early-2000s Fischer helped the latter roll out SAP, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
“I was traveling to different plants and satellite offices, implementing SAP,” says Fischer, who was fresh out of college at the time. “It was great exposure.” In that role, which spanned about 2-3 years, Fischer was first introduced to supply chain.
“As I visited different locations, I was trying to understand their inventory management, their picking methods, and other manufacturing processes,” says Fischer. “I decided that I liked supply chain more than IT because it was more real to me, and more hands-on.”
Earning her Stripes
Fischer’s first role in product supply was for the Iams and Clairol acquisition teams, which was responsible for integrating the two entities’ supply chains. “It was amazingly difficult. I worked very long nights on those projects and for weeks on end,” says Fischer, “but I loved it.” In fact, she calls it “one of those roles that you always look back on,” because it’s where she earned her supply chain stripes and really began understanding how these complex networks operate.
After joining P&G’s chemicals division in 2008, Fischer spent six years as the glycerin supply chain leader, which is essentially the business owner for the company’s glycerin division. As a part of the company’s product supply division, this role serves as a conduit for sales, marketing, quality and purchasing.
“I learned so much in that role because I spent a lot of time at our Cincinnati Glycerin plant, which is right down the road,” says Fischer, who in that role also learned how to coordinate with the company’s sales and order fulfillment teams. “I was at the crossroads of everything for the supply chain.”
Moving On Up
In her next role as P&G’s physical distribution leader for chemicals, which she served in for about four years, Fischer was introduced to IntelliTrans. “At the time, we were looking at transportation operations, contracts, relationships, automation opportunities, and next-gen opportunities for transportation,” Fischer explains. In 2017, as part of that process, the company implemented the IntelliTrans Global Visibility Platform (GVP).
The move was revolutionary for P&G’s chemicals business, which was previously lacking state-of-the-art supply chain and shipment visibility. “You can buy a doorknob on Amazon and see where it is at any time with a click of a button, but we were putting in extraordinary effort to know where our rail cars were,” Fischer recalls.
“We were running on spreadsheets, so the GVP was very instrumental for us in terms of taking a leap forward with technology,” she continues. “Our two physical distribution analysts continue to use it all day, every day. It was a great solution for us.”
Today, P&G has one full-time IntelliTrans contractor who Fischer calls the “cornerstone ” of the chemicals division’s physical distribution operations. “We recognize where our core competencies are and where IntelliTrans’ core competencies are, and we mesh those together,” she adds. “It’s a fantastic partnership.”
A New Opportunity: Risk & Compliance
As an Amazing Woman in Supply Chain, Fischer not only works in a male-dominated industry, but she’s also in oleochemicals—which is also dominated by male professionals. Thinking back seven years to a carrier meeting where she was the only woman in the room (with 17 males), she says the gender balance has improved, but that there’s still work to be done in that area.
To young women who are interested in supply chain careers, Fischer’s best piece of advice is to explore the areas of supply chain risk and compliance, both of which are becoming increasingly important in the modern business world. “I saw that exact major listed on an intern’s resume recently and thought to myself, ‘that’s brilliant, and probably the upcoming niche needed in supply chains,’” Fischer says, pointing out that P&G places a particularly strong emphasis on quality as an organization.
“There's quality in everything we do. All of our supply chain employees work hand-in-hand with our quality employees, and I think it's going to continue to be the way of the world,” says Fischer. “If I had a daughter today who was 18 years old and interested in supply chain, I’d tell her to think about majoring in supply chain risk and compliance.”
She’d also suggest an organizational behavior minor—something that not all up-and-coming supply chain professionals may be thinking about while in college or on the job. However, she sees it as an important piece of the overall puzzle. “In the supply chain, you deal with a lot of different components, personalities, needs, and hierarchies,” says Fischer. “If you don’t have strong relationships, then all of the fancy data, contracts, and other elements won’t come together properly.”