My favorite part of being in logistics and supply chain management is that there is never a status quo


Sharmishtha Biswas ZLOG Alumni 2011 and India Manufacturing Excellence Leader at Johnson & Johnson. See Linkedin profile: 

Right after graduation, you joined Cummins, the American Fortune 500 Corporation that designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products. Having different roles within the company, you were working in Cummins for 7 years. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment? Is there a project that you feel especially proud of?
Answer: After my graduation in 2011, I joined Cummins NV in Belgium as part of the esteemed Global Logistics Improvement Group. During my 4 years in Cummins Belgium, I led several network design and supply chain optimization projects for North America as well as for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). One of these projects is still very close my heart.

The project was to lead the opening of first aftermarket distribution DC in Ghana, West Africa. I was leading the entire process and systems set up to open this first-of-its-kind DC for Cummins’ spare parts distribution in Africa. While this was a multi-million-dollar project, involving setting up of an entire logistics network from various master DCs across the globe to this regional DC in Ghana, this project was especially important to me as the design of spare parts distribution network for Cummins in Africa was my master thesis at ZLC, and Ghana was my recommendation! Leading this project to open a DC in Ghana was like helping a baby being born that I had helped conceive! 
My career catapulted after this project but the pride that I feel must be accredited to my teachers and thesis guide at ZLC who taught me how to design strong supply chain networks.

Last year you decided to flip the switch on your career and make a transition to a different industry, Hospital & Health Care. How well did you adapt – any highs/lows to report?
Answer: For 6 years I was in automotive industry, 3 of which I spent in India, leading pan-India spare parts distribution operations for Cummins India. This move from Belgium to India was a huge transition. The difference in work culture, business needs and market demands were significantly different and it took me sometime to adapt. After stabilizing the business for 3 years, I wanted to challenge myself by working in a more agile and complex supply chain and, consumer product goods supply chain is invariably the one with highest drama! 
Today I lead manufacturing excellence for India for J&J Consumer business, where I apart from focusing on manufacturing performance improvement, in terms of process capability and overall equipment effectiveness, I am also designing manufacturing network strategies to determine where should a product be manufactured in the vast J&J worldwide network to fetch the best commercial leverage. 
When I change jobs or roles, my most weighty decision criterion is to challenge myself. In doing so there are always days that are good and days when you question your decision. Learning manufacturing has been an uphill task but that has taught me how to be vulnerable and to candidly say, “I don’t know but I will find out”. This behavior is an important aspect of transformational leadership. This attitude has developed my bias for action, no matter what the challenge may be. I enjoy it!

Could you briefly describe your role as Leader at Johnson & Johnson?
Answer: As the MAKE or Manufacturing Excellence leader of India, me and my team deliver across 3 pillars – performance management, program management and business value creation. Under performance management pillar we manage the performance of all plants in India and draw insights from the reported data to help improve site performance going forward. Under program management pillar we drive key supply chain programs in India. Recently we launched a path-breaking program called Johnson & Johnson Production System which re-defines the way manufacturing is done today to fit the needs of future, from planning flexible production schedules to condition-based equipment maintenance – all focused on better flexibility and agility in supply chain. Finally, under business value creation pillar we continuously challenge the status quo on operating model to draw better commercial benefit, e.g – Make Vs Buy which means whether a product should be made in a J&J plant for better fixed cost leverage or should we give it for contract manufacturing for better conversion cost.

What is your favorite part about being in logistics and supply chain?
Answer: My favorite part of being in logistics and supply chain management is that there is never a status quo. Markets are changing constantly and with that the role of supply chain is evolving in its ways of serving the customer. 

In our day to day life we are invariably part of so many supply chains, in some as consumers, in others as enablers or influencers. And my education in logistics and supply chain helps me take a seat in the cockpit, driving some of the changes that the markets would see today or later. To be able to make that difference in helping a business become more customer and demand centric, is what drives me every day!

Do you have any favorite memories from being a student at ZLC? 
Answer: I have so many memories from my time at ZLC! For me it starts with the people that I met and became friends with, for life. Teachers, fellow students, teaching assistants and the admin staff – I remember each one of them as their warmth is what kept me happy and thriving in a place so far from anything familiar. 

Secondly, I love Spain! I have endless memories of my weekend trips to various parts of the country, especially of its food and culture. One such very special travel memory is of my trip to Garachico in Tenerife. I had travelled to Garachico to relax over a weekend when I learnt about Mt. Tiede as world’s third highest volcano. I have always been scared of heights but I decided to climb Mt. Tiede. I can still vividly remember the last 100 mts of the 3700 meters climb in the freezing 4 am cold when I gave up and sat down crying out of fear, of not just climbing further up but also out of fear of climbing down! I sat there for about an hour until the August sun came up on the horizon and the clouds gave way to a breathtaking sight of all the canary islands. It was beyond beautiful, and at that moment I felt like a weight had lifted off of me and I started to crawl up. I reached the summit at 7 am and I have never felt so happy, nor have I cried so hard. That for me was a life changing ‘vacation’, and definitely one of my most favorite memories from my time in Spain.