When Jenn joined us at Caliper to oversee our purchasing processes last April, the earlier waves of the COVID pandemic were still hitting. Factories all over the world were cutting back operations, container ships were delayed or stuck, and nearly every industry’s supply chain was tangled.
But all throughout, Caliper never missed fulfilling an order. Indeed, our production line has continued to run without a hitch. “We’ve been very lucky,” Jenn admits. “A big part of that is having great relationships with our suppliers and customers.” But just as important is Jenn’s ability to think creatively and quickly, fearlessly changing strategy when needed. Or, as she puts it, “being flex.”
In fact, flex defines Jenn’s days. “I’m constantly wearing different hats!” The core of her work is ensuring the production team has all the raw materials and packaging they need to keep production running. “That means I’m also sourcing all our ingredients, and working with the R&D and Quality teams to ensure they meet our specs, and have all the needed documentation and certifications,” she explains. “We make sure we have everything we need to support claims on our products, so that whenever the time comes that we have an audit, all our ducks are in a row.”
We make sure we have everything we need to support claims on our products, so that whenever the time comes that we have an audit, all our ducks are in a row.
There’s also the challenge of keeping a steady flow of inbound supplies, but not too much–an issue that has also demanded plenty of flex. Take, say, the currently popular system of ‘Just In Time’ inventory management, where companies limit their risk by maintaining as low inventories as possible, ordering only on an as-needed basis. “That doesn’t work when all of a sudden you’re impacted by a pandemic,” Jenn explains. “Instead, you have to strategically plan how you’re inventorying the items you do have”–for example, ordering higher volumes of certain ‘higher shortage risk’ items more frequently, and having stage gates in place to handle any disruptions in the supply chain. “We try not to have a single sole supplier of almost anything, in case things become complicated.” Systematizing the process is critical, she adds. “We can track inbounds and outbounds through the system, so we can document with ease.”
Another facet to Jenn’s work is building and maintaining relationships–both with her colleagues at Caliper in the R&D, Quality, Production and Finance teams, and with her suppliers and ingredient customers. “I work with so many different people, but we all have the same goal–to get quality products out. We all work together to streamline,” she notes. “We’re lucky to have partners who are interested in our products, and watching us grow.”
I work with so many different people, but we all have the same goal–to get quality products out. We all work together to streamline.
Being a Purchasing Lead may be “a small piece of the supply chain,” as Jenn describes it, but it’s a complicated job description that has her calling on every part of her diverse background–which includes a BA in psychology and certification as an integrative nutrition health coach, as well as solid experience working in fulfillment and purchasing with food- and nutrition-focused CPG companies.
Does being a professional procurer in her workday translate into being a super shopper when she’s home? Not exactly. “I’m for online shopping all the way, because I like to do it from my couch,” she admits. But for big purchases, like the RV she and her husband recently bought, she’ll do the research. “I love what I do, so I guess I do bring my work home.”