How Johnson & Johnson’s Supply Chain Made Strides in 2016
Kathy Wengel, Worldwide Vice President, Supply Chain, gives an exclusive look back at her division’s biggest wins over the past year—and strategies for keeping the company competitive for years to come.
Wengel has worked at Johnson & Johnson for nearly 30 years, so she has a unique and well-versed perspective on what it takes to oversee the manufacturing and quality of the company’s consumer, medical device and pharmaceutical products, as well as employee safety and many other key responsibilities.
We sat down with Wengel to hear about her team’s biggest achievements in 2016—and how she plans to help Johnson & Johnson keep changing the trajectory of healthcare for years to come.
If you could sum up your role at Johnson & Johnson in just one sentence, what would it be?
I am responsible for all aspects of Johnson & Johnson’s global supply chain, covering all three of our sectors—consumer, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. My team brings to life every product we sell, anywhere in the world. This includes planning; sourcing; internal and external manufacturing; distribution; customer service; quality; environmental health, safety and sustainability (EHS&S) and engineering and property services.
What separates Johnson & Johnson from other companies when it comes to its approach to the supply chain?
As the world’s most comprehensive healthcare company, I’d say it’s our ability to connect our broadly-based portfolio end-to-end across an extensive global footprint. This allows us to not only meet today’s demands, but also anticipate, understand and meet our needs five years from now.
I’ve been here 29 years, and I’ve seen us move from a totally decentralized approach to the supply chain—that is, a number of related but essentially stand-alone supply chains, with little visibility and virtually no leveraging of our size—to a cohesive and effective global organization that’s still tightly aligned with our business units.
We’ve standardized the things that are most important, such as quality systems, operational improvement methodologies, procurement, IT systems and our approach to talent, for example, while allowing our businesses to maintain those operational aspects that are most important to their customers. This transformation over the last three years has given our supply chain a real competitive advantage.
And we’ve been able to over-deliver our financial commitments, which enables Johnson & Johnson to re-invest in serving our patients, consumers and customers.
We touch more than a billion people around the world every day—and we’re preparing to reach the next two billion people.
What, to your mind, were the three biggest supply chain wins for Johnson & Johnson in 2016?
I’m especially pleased with our improvements around quality, cost and customer satisfaction, which are reflected in improved survey scores and a number of awards from our largest customers and partners, including such retailers as Walmart, Watsons, CVS and Rite Aid, and healthcare networks like Cardinal Health.
We’ve also developed a comprehensive supply chain strategy that’s guiding our investments and sharpening our focus on the areas that provide the most value, and highlighting the capabilities we’ll need to be successful in the future.
Finally, we see diversity and inclusion as a huge part of our success, and recognized the need to give our colleagues at all levels diversified experiences, moving more people across sectors and regions so that they understand the business end-to-end.
Our role in bringing all of Johnson & Johnson’s products directly to patients, consumers and customers who depend on us at the most special and most vulnerable times of their lives is a special responsibility.
What about achievements in the areas of quality and safety?
The year 2016 was very strong in terms of quality, as evidenced by the results of our health authority inspections and field actions.
In addition, we were able to proactively assess our company acquisitions and quickly put together action plans to successfully integrate them, thus ensuring a continued, reliable supply of safe and effective products when and where they are needed. Thanks to the hard work of many people in quality and compliance, and our colleagues in the Chief Medical Officer’s team, we have put in place benchmark processes in these areas to improve outcomes around the world.
What do you love best about your job?
The interaction I have with R&D and commercial—and our role in bringing all of Johnson & Johnson’s products directly to patients, consumers and customers who depend on us at the most special and most vulnerable times of their lives—is a special responsibility, truly putting us at the heart of the company and enabling it to help change the trajectory of healthcare.
I’m always energized to spend time with so many of the men and women who bring to life the products and solutions we take to market. Their commitment to Our Credo inspires me every day.
As a member of the company’s management committee, it’s an honor and a privilege to carry this responsibility on behalf of more than 50,000 supply chain associates to deliver a reliable supply of high-quality healthcare products to people all over the world.
How can the Johnson & Johnson supply chain stay competitive in the years to come?
We have to continue to build our processes from the lens of our customers’ evolving needs. Further, we must improve our ability to pivot quickly in response to changing market needs and expectations, making quick sprints in technology in a different way to get results that add value now, rather than large long-term projects.
Part of what makes all of this especially exciting is new innovations that improve our ability to monitor operations in real-time using the “Internet of Things,” giving us real data that helps us anticipate and orchestrate everything from our suppliers to our customers.
The bar is always rising, and we will need to make sure our workforce is equipped to deliver. As much as we’ve changed in recent years, it pales in comparison to what we anticipate in the next three years. Johnson & Johnson’s supply chain is definitely well-positioned to meet this challenge.