Corporate Execs

Rick CohenWalt HavensteinPhong Vu

Speak to LFM and SDM Students

By Monica Nakamine
December 20, 2002

During the fall ’02 semester, industry leaders were invited to speak to the LFM and SDM students to discuss their company and its leadership and business strategies. Recently, Rick Cohen of C&S Wholesaler Grocers spoke to the LFM ’04 class; Walter Havenstein of BAE Systems and Phong Vu of Ford Motor Company each made a presentation to the SDMers at their Fall ’02 Business Trip. Below are highlights of each speaker.

C&S Wholesale Grocers

Rick Cohen, CEO of C&S Wholesale Grocers, visited LFM on October 21, 2002 as a proseminar speaker for the LFM ’04 class. Cohen gave an introduction on what C&S Wholesale Grocers is, who they serve, their recent successes, and the growing pains they have experienced since the early ’80s.

According to Cohen, C&S Wholesale Grocers is the largest food wholesaler in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, supplying directly to supermarkets. While partnerships with some of the largest supermarket chains have contributed to their growth over the past two decades, the key to the company’s success is mainly due to the concept and implementation of self-managed teams. Instead of trying to control workflow on the floor, Cohen allowed his managers to create their own teams, which were driven by incentives for each team member to earn more money. Floor workers for any given team retrieved a specific number of crates for each client per day. Cohen merely provided his employees with the motivation to go beyond their own limitations.

For instance, Cohen agreed to pay floor workers $18 an hour if they moved 25 pallets within that timeframe. Teams not only rose to the challenge, but they surpassed their own expectations by exceeding what was originally required of them, and increasing productivity by 40 percent along the way. Although an increase in wages may have been a source of encouragement for floor workers, Cohen is convinced that they were also driven by the challenge to do better than they previously did and the friendly competition between teams.

BAE Systems

Walt Havenstein is the president of Information & Electronic Warfare Systems (IEWS), which is a business unit of BAE SYSTEMS. Based in Nashua, New Hampshire, the subsidiary is a major producer of aircraft self-protection systems and tactical surveillance and intelligence systems for all branches of the armed forces.

Havenstein spoke to the SDMers on "Leading in a Complex Environment." While the defense industry is nothing short of complex, the company and its employees are guided by a simple statement: "We Protect Those Who Protect Us." Havenstein emphasizes that this statement is a reminder to all employees why they should take pride and care about the work that they do. Each person’s skill, craftsmanship, and/or business know-how contribute and support the military men and women who defend Americans and their values.

"Walt emphasized the power and importance of identifying the underlying passion of why you exist as a business and why people come to work each day," said Allan McQuarrie, SDM ’02. "For BAE Systems IEWS, that passion comes from ‘protecting those who protect us’ and serves to align the organization on all that matters the customer."

Ford Motor Company

Phong Vu, director of corporate deployment and consumer-driven Six-Sigma at Ford Motor Company, discussed the Six-Sigma concept and process at Ford. In order to quickly increase customer satisfaction and eliminating waste, Ford needed more than just a normal plan; they needed a breakthrough to accomplish this goal.

But what is 6-Sigma?

Six-Sigma uses a methodology called DMAIC (Define Measure, Analyze, Control) to incorporate statistics and well-known problem solving techniques into a systematic approach to identify and eliminate defects that cause variability in any business and/or manufacturing processes.

Other key elements of the Six-Sigma methodology are:

  • Data driven
  • Use of statistics to identify critical few causal factors
  • Accountability – all results must be statistically validated and remain in control over time
  • Dedication of the best people to quickly solve the biggest problems for the business in a timely manner

"A certain percentage of our products have zero Things-Gone-Wrong (TGW)," said Vu. "That means that we know how to build perfect cars, but we can’t build them the same way often enough due to variability in our processes. Reducing variability is the single fastest way to improve quality and reduce waste."