Throughout October we’re celebrating Manufacturing — and our people who bring innovation to life every day. See what Amanda Tolhurst, director, U.S. Logistics, has to say about her time in Manufacturing. Earlier this year, Amanda was recognized by the Manufacturing Institute with a STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead award for demonstrating excellence and leadership in her career.
In October of 2012 I made the journey from our Whirlpool Canada offices in Mississauga, Ontario, to our Marion, Ohio operation and took my first steps out onto the manufacturing floor. I was there to talk to the team about potential career opportunities — opportunities outside of my comfort zone — and boy was I both nervous and excited!
Having spent the first seven years of my career with Whirlpool Canada in various supply-chain roles including sales and operations planning, and outbound distribution, I was ready to try something new. Looking back though, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for all of the learning I would take away from the next five years that I’d spend focused on the journey to build operational excellence in delivering parts to our plants and to our assembly lines. That day, back in 2012, opened new doors for me. It opened my eyes to a whole world where materials and parts become tangible products that we eventually deliver into the most personal of spaces: people’s homes.
Many people from the other areas of the Integrated Supply Chain often ask me about my time in manufacturing and how different it is from the roles within our corporate offices. A lot of things are similar, especially in the materials management space. You’re still managing inventory levels, the physical movement of product, and working with cross-functional teams. But the main difference is that it’s all happening inside of a fast-paced, laser-focused environment where success is measured in seconds and minutes. Everyone on the shop floor is a extension of the broader team with a single goal: Building a quality product. Manufacturing is a world that envelops you. One in which your co-workers not only become your friends and partners, but they come your allies in driving for day-over-day improvement in safety, quality, delivery and cost.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the National Manufacturing Associations’ STEP Ahead Awards, which recognize women in manufacturing. During my three days there, I met amazing women of all ages and backgrounds, and heard their stories of how they started their careers — and what motivates them each and every day to strive for excellence. There was a common theme: Working in manufacturing is a unifying experience. No matter what industry or role each woman came from, manufacturing provided a common language that sparked conversations, which united us as a team, and focused on: How can we improve safety, increase quality, deliver products faster and more efficiently, and continue to drive down costs to ensure we are competitive.
I have recently transitioned from Manufacturing Operations into our Customer Fulfillment organization. As I settle into my new role and learn more about our goals, objectives, processes and partners, I will carry with me many of the lessons I learned during my time in manufacturing. However, none will stay with me as strongly as this: The power of a team pulling the in same direction is limitless. No where is that more evident than manufacturing. I’m reminded of that every day, and so thankful for the opportunities it has provided.
That’s why manufacturing matters to me.