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Q&A with Steve Davis, Supply Chain Executive in Ingredients / Biochemicals

1) Can you give me a quick overview of your career progression to date?

Looking back over my career I’m very proud to have had an opportunity to advance through several different facets of the supply chain function in both the flavors & fragrance (Givaudan and IFF) and food / biochemical ingredients (Corbion) industries.  Out of college as a chemical engineer, I started out in process development with P&G but shortly thereafter got my MBA and moved into management roles in production, global supply chain, plant management, global procurement and most recently as VP of Operations in North America at Corbion.

2) Any recent evolutions in the way you approach supply chain?

Having worked in the food ingredients industry for most of my career, I have witnessed how attitudes and legislation governing food safety have changed.  It is no longer just good enough to say that you are producing according to GMP standards.  You have to take much more of a hands-on approach with your entire supply chain to ensure your supply partners produce to the same standard.  This requires more time and effort to guarantee they will not compromise the integrity of your products.  A simple certification form or audit self-assessment is no longer good enough.

3) What do you consider the biggest challenges for a Chief Supply Chain Officer these days?

One of the biggest challenges today is to find the right balance between cost, quality, and supply risk.  This is absolutely true whether you are talking about manufactured or purchased ingredients.  We all face pressure to reduce costs and improve margins especially in markets that are stable to shrinking.  The best way to do this is through continuous improvement and optimizing the end-to-end supply chain.  There can also be a temptation to compromise and cut corners on quality or to take unacceptable risks to single source or have a single point of manufacture.  My experience is that at some point these decisions will come back to haunt you and jeopardize your customer relationships.  A balanced approach ends up being the most cost-effective choice in the long run.

4) What role do contract manufacturers play in your supply chain?

In my last three roles, I took the initiative to establish organizations and policies to establish and maintain Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMO).  Contract manufacturing can no longer be seen as a necessary evil but should be viewed as a way to cost effectively, add capacity and/or capabilities to what a producer already has available.  It is also an effective way to manage sourcing risk.  Some CMO relationships can and should be transactional but others should absolutely be seen as a partnership.  They are after all an extension of your own manufacturing footprint and their performance and quality is a reflection of you.

5) What do you look for in supply chain talent today?

In my teams I look for people who not only have the required expertise in their given area (S&OP, distribution, logistics, manufacturing, quality, etc.) but are equally adept at collaborating and working across functions.  Can they see their role from the eyes of their internal customers?  Can they see the broader picture and strategy of what we as an organization are trying to accomplish?  I also look for individuals who are willing to listen, to learn, and to ask for help.  Organizations are just too lean to expect a high degree of specialization these days.  So, a person who is flexible and versatile and does not wait to be asked will always succeed in my teams.

About Steve Davis – LinkedIn

Steve Davis is an experienced and accomplished executive who has led global and regional organizations across the supply chain through times of crisis and growth to unprecedented performance in service, quality, cost effectiveness and safety.

Steve has most recently served as Vice President of the North American Operations for Corbion, the global leader in the production of lactic acid and lactides and functional ingredients for the bakery and biochemical industries.  As VP, he has had overall responsibility for 7 manufacturing plants in addition to regional quality, S&OP, distribution and logistics.  Prior to joining Corbion, Steve spent 22 years in the flavors and fragrances industry.  He was the Global Procurement Director of fragrance ingredients at IFF and the Head of Global Procurement of chemicals at Givaudan.

Steve is a 3rd generation Penn State Nittany Lion where he earned his BS in Chemical Engineering, graduating with Honors as part of the University Scholars program.  He served as president of the Penn State chapter of Triangle Fraternity.  He also earned his MBA from Xavier University.