‘A Long Road’: Bonnie Fetch’s Journey to VP of Supply Chain and Advocacy for ‘Non-Traditional’ Hiring | 2022-04-05
There is no doubt that the demand for supply chain management executives is exploding. And just as companies affected by the crisis seek to diversify their suppliers, they must also expand the network of supply chain managers (CSCOs).
Bonnie Fetch, the new vice president of global supply chain and manufacturing for Cummins Inc., takes on a role still dominated by men. Fetch, who joined the company in 2018, was chosen in January to lead supply chain operations at Cummins – which designs, manufactures, distributes and services a broad portfolio of power solutions including electrical products at diesel, natural gas, battery and fuel cell.
Fetch, who describes her career path as “eclectic,” says she hopes to inspire other women to join or climb the supply chain ladder. Here’s what she has to say about disrupting the industry, working on your terms, and going from restaurateur to supply chain manager.
Fetch’s father and grandfather both worked for Caterpillar Inc., during times of instability in American manufacturing, and she often saw them out of work, laid off or on strike. When it came to choosing a career, it didn’t seem like an attractive place for a young woman.
“So I went in a completely different direction, into hospitality, and I ran restaurants for a number of years,” she explains. “But this business is very hard on families. You work early in the morning and late at night, according to a chaotic schedule. Fetch decided to venture out on her own and started Take Me Away, a small private travel agency. It was there that she received her first lesson in industry disruption, as the internet arrived. “The whole structure of the mission changed and led to leaving the company.”
After leaving the travel business and being pregnant with her third child, Fetch decided she wanted to work until she had the baby and then make time to stay home with her kids. for a certain time. She signed up with an employment agency for a temporary assignment and was placed with Caterpillar Logistics as an inventory clerk.
“I thought it was the last place I wanted to work. But it was a job in inventory control for the logistics division, and it was quite interesting. She worked three months and went on maternity leave again, but after six months she decided she “wasn’t a very good stay-at-home mom.” So, as a mother and wife in the mid-1990s in industrial manufacturing, she pulled off the unusual feat of negotiating a flexible work schedule that suited her children’s needs. “It was unheard of at the time,” she says.
Fetch worked in receiving desk operations in the warehouse, then had the opportunity to become a warehouse supervisor.
“That’s when I had the first idea that I didn’t know what supply chain was. Management and logistics were separate functions then. But I liked being where the action was. I loved supervising people and seeing the products come in, and organizing that.
Seeing her potential, Caterpillar moved her to a human resources management position.
“I was ready to try something new, but I didn’t know why they asked me. It was probably because I was good at [leading] people,” she speculates, “but also because my boss saw an opportunity for me to grow in the business. She did, and as a result, she was offered positions at the company’s headquarters, two and a half hours from her home. It wasn’t going to work out due to her dual work/family situation, so she decided to leave and return to the restaurant business, first in human resources and then as an executive running multiple outlets. at retail in the Boston market.
Perhaps realizing what they had lost, Caterpillar invited Fetch back to start a shared services division that centralized all HR functions, where she became senior director of human resources, assisting a vice president in one of Caterpillar’s major business segments. It was in this role that she discovered that supply chain was her true calling.
“I spent a lot of time at the manufacturing sites, rotating shifts at various locations, and I really learned to understand manufacturing. I loved being in a factory where things are made.
She talked to her boss about taking over running a business.
“He got me talking to a group of his peers in leadership roles and they thought I had an interesting background,” she says. “But it wasn’t a typical supply chain and manufacturing setting. So he gave me a job at the head of a transmission company in Europe. It was a $400 million operation with three locations outside of North America – a big promotion. “That’s where I really learned the importance of supply chain, building supply chain capacity, including sourcing, planning, logistics and manufacturing — the whole end-to-end flow. You cannot neglect any of these components.
Eventually, Fetch ended up running Caterpillar’s spare parts distribution business, the most important position she ever held in the supply chain. Somewhere down the road she met Tony Satterthwaite, vice president of Cummins, and they talked for almost a year about what Cummins was trying to do in terms of transforming its supply chain of a set of different functions into a collective whole, as well as integrating the newly acquired distribution channel into the supply chain. Eventually, Satterthwaite persuaded Fetch to join Cummins in making the transformation happen. In September 2020, she was promoted to Vice President, followed by her current role as Head of Supply Chain and Manufacturing.
“The road has been long, eclectic and winding,” she says. “I feel like I’m back where I started, in the supply chain. What I like is that it’s so complex, and I like complex things. The supply chain offers tremendous opportunity and no shortage of challenges. It has been a truly rewarding opportunity to help people solve complex problems and travel the world. I intend to finish my career here.
Fetch is acutely aware of the challenges of women in business in general, and in traditionally male-dominated industries such as manufacturing in particular. In 2017, she published a book, “(Un)Skirting the Issues: A Guide for the Well-Intentioned Man in Today’s Workplace,” with co-author Jessica Poliner, a corporate lawyer who has held executive positions. with increasing responsibilities in law, sales, marketing, distribution, operations, mining and government affairs.
“We need more women in supply chain leadership positions,” Fetch says. “We are still underrepresented. I always feel like we’re not attracting women, because we’re looking for people who have held key positions in manufacturing, instead of looking for people who would appreciate the opportunity to transfer their skills. »
Yes, being a woman is unusual in this role, but what’s important to her is that she didn’t have a traditional training in supply chain and manufacturing and learned how to ‘to like.
“I come from a non-traditional background and happen to be a woman in what is still a very male-dominated industry,” she says. “I would love to motivate someone by showing that someone with my eclectic career can rise to the head of supply chain operations for a $24 billion company. I want them to feel encouraged.