BI interview Janet Kuhn
04 July 2018
Jana von Puttkamer

An exciting career in Global Supply Chain Management

At the start of her career, Janette Kühn did not expect that she would one day work in Global Supply Chain Management at Boehringer Ingelheim. She is now responsible for SCM Training Management and oversees the training needs that arise from global projects within Operations. She was initially more interested in Human Resources or Marketing until she got to know more about Global Supply Chain Management. That proved to be a turning point in her career.

Ms. Kühn, you oversee Training Management for Global Supply Chain at Boehringer Ingelheim. What exactly does that entail?


We provide the training courses that employees need to work in Supply Chain Management (SCM). I myself oversee the training needs that arise from global projects. In concrete terms, this means any project that relates to Operations, such as the global movement of goods, the deviation process or production processes. In fact, our remit covers anything related to the launch of new systems, since employees need training in whichever new system is introduced. I ensure that appropriate training is provided.


How did you come to join Boehringer Ingelheim?


I completed my dual-study training at Boehringer Ingelheim six years ago. This meant that I did my apprenticeship while studying at the University of Applied Sciences, Mainz.


I had a range of practical placements at Boehringer Ingelheim: we were allowed to swap assignments every six months so that we could familiarize ourselves with many different business areas and put theory into practice.


Did you always want to go into Global Supply Chain Management or did you actually want to do something quite different?


Supply Chain Management was not really at the top of my list. I was initially leaning towards HR or Marketing, as I found it easier to grasp those areas, and I felt I would be able to reach my full potential there both creatively and personally. Supply Chain Management wasn’t even on my radar at first.


However, I ended up in the Supply Chain Management department through one of my placements, and they allowed me to dispatch goods myself. That was the turning point. I was taking orders and then processing them independently, so, in other words, I would dispatch them and create the resulting invoices. This was great because, at the end of the day, I could say: “I sent these items off and processed real orders on my own.”


Having a lot of contact with customers was another important factor. For instance, I was involved in a lot of conversations about the movement of goods or the expected arrival time of deliveries. I liked the combination of interacting with people while at the same time working with Boehringer Ingelheim’s products. It excited me, and I realized that I wanted to pursue this career path.


It sounds like you were very enthusiastic. What do you like best about your current job?


The best thing about it is the interaction with colleagues. I really like making calls and helping people. Because I work on the global side of Supply Chain Management rather than simply focusing on Germany, I have close contact with people abroad. That means that I might be calling China in the morning and Argentina or the United States in the afternoon. There’s plenty of scope for communication. I love that feeling of being able to help someone and experiencing the resulting gratitude of my colleagues.


What are the biggest challenges you face in your job and how do you overcome them?


The biggest challenges are in project work. That’s because, in Training Management, we provide support to a wide range of projects, which vary in more than just scale. The smallest project that I supervise involves around 80 employees, while the largest involves around 5,000.


There is a team behind each of these individual projects, and each team uses 100% of its available resources to promote its own specific interests and believes that its own project should be the number one priority. However, here in Global Supply Chain Management, Training Management is the interface between different business areas. In concrete terms, this means that we provide support to any project that converges with our business area. This means that we can’t direct all our available resources to one single project. Instead, we work with all of them.


On the one hand, project work is really enjoyable, because you gain a lot of insights, become familiar with various systems, work on different projects and get to know the people involved. On the other hand, it’s also challenging. This means it’s crucial to prioritize because you can’t be everywhere at once. Sometimes, you have to work out who has the greatest need, where support is most needed, and at the same time, you need the strength to say: “I’m sorry. I will work on it, perhaps tomorrow or the day after, but it won’t be right away.” Of course, you then also have to live with the consequences and subsequently stand by your decision to weigh up and assess the situation in that way.


Because you work with so many different departments, do you think of yourself as an advisor as well, or are other skills more important?


I would agree and say that it actually is a kind of advisory service. Providing advice is certainly part of it, but it’s not the only aspect. There is a lot more to my job. I have to make strategic decisions and work to resolve prioritization conflicts between different parties. Creativity is also important, as it simply enables you to create and test out a range of strategies or approaches. Furthermore, I see myself as a planner who takes a methodical approach and creates a plan for how things will be achieved.


Training Management is an interface for all areas of the business and we provide support as well as advice to enable projects to be implemented, designed, carried out, and monitored. I really love that combination.


In your opinion, which skills are particularly crucial if you work in Global Supply Chain Management?


In my opinion, the most important thing is the ability to make strategic decisions. You need to be able to evaluate data and then work out what is feasible. For example, if I see that my transport costs are high, and I come up with a strategy to that effect, I also need to consider how I’m going to use that information and whether I can proceed in that way.

It’s also important to have people skills. You need to be a good communicator so that you can deal with people and resolve conflicts. It is important to be a team player, as you need to work closely with others and reach compromises both in terms of manufacturing and in sales. That’s because it isn’t always easy to see what is important and what is not.


What advice would you give to young talent who are interested in working in Supply Chain Management?


I would definitely recommend that they do work placements and try to get a feel for as many different areas as possible. We have Logistics and Planning departments, various projects, or Training Management for example. Supply Chain Management itself is incredibly diverse, and it is definitely worth doing placements in this area so that you become familiar with different aspects and can see where your own interests and strengths lie.


And, the final question: Is there anything about Boehringer Ingelheim as a company that you particularly appreciate?


I appreciate the approach to family and the social responsibility at Boehringer Ingelheim. Up to now, I haven’t had any problems in reconciling my commitments to my family, my private life, and the company.


Everyone is very understanding, and, for me, being able to study at the same time also worked out really well. Boehringer Ingelheim gave me excellent support by allowing us to take leave from work, providing us with training materials and a mentor to supervise our work, and much more besides. I believe that Boehringer Ingelheim is an excellent employer in this respect.

"I love the combination of advice, strategy and conflict resolution, says Janette Kühn. "
Jana von Puttkamer
picture interview Janet Kuhn
At the start of her career, Janette Kühn did not expect that she would one day work in Global Supply Chain Management at Boehringer Ingelheim. She is now responsible for SCM Training Management and oversees the training needs that arise from global projects within Operations.

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