March 2019 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Bernice Cannon: Shooting for an Optimized Supply Chain

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Supply Chain

Bernice Cannon is supply chain manager for Nouryon, a global specialty chemicals company, formerly AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals.

Responsibilities: Oversight of logistics and supply planning; liaison between the business and the production plant.

Experience: Supply chain manager, North America, and customer service manager, both with AkzoNobel; account service manager, FMC Corporation; management trainee, Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Education: Ball State University, B.S., Business Management, 1993; Keller Graduate School of Management, MBA, International Business, 2014.


My company became Nouryon effective October 1, 2018. We then had 60 days to change the name from AkzoNobel, or we'd be out of compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. We had to complete permits and registrations, change titles, and overhaul our paperwork.

This was one of our biggest accomplishments. The key was communication across the organization. We made sure everybody understood what needed to be done and held weekly meetings to ensure we were complying with the regulations.

Currently, we manage an integrated, global supply chain with a regional focus. Unlike many supply chains, electric power is our most expensive raw material. So we're willing to pay a little more in logistics costs to optimize our power consumption.

We look at power costs and volume at all our production facilities, along with the customer's location, to determine which location to fill an order from. Even if a customer is closer to one site, we might produce their orders at a site that's farther away, if we'll save enough on power to make up for the transportation costs.

Another current project is working with our vendors to understand the platforms they offer that can increase visibility into our supply chain. For instance, our fleet consists of about 620 rail cars. I can track and trace them, but I also need to know where they are at a push of a button, especially during hurricanes or other weather events. I'm working with one of our vendors to develop a visibility platform.

I went to school for accounting, but in my third year, decided I didn't want to work in accounting for the rest of my life. I finished my degree in business management with a human resources concentration.

In 2000, I joined AkzoNobel's polymers division as the customer service manager. I reported into the supply chain, and took on roles in inventory management, ocean freight, and logistics.

I knew bits and pieces of the supply chain because customer service touches them all, but didn't know it in depth and in detail. So, I started digging into it.

I found a mentor within the AkzoNobel organization who knew me and my capabilities and also had been in supply chain. I started visiting sites and meeting managers. I'd ask, 'what do you do in purchasing? What do you do in logistics?' I needed to understand how we all interacted.

Everyone was willing to talk. I've stuck my foot in my mouth many times, but people realized I was a straight-shooter and my honesty and integrity were real.

On my agenda now is optimizing our inventory and logistics. We're aiming for growth and want to make sure our costs don't increase as fast as we grow. We're looking at where we can increase production in plants that are already constrained, and reviewing our storage location options to determine which one is more cost-effective.

I love the dynamics of supply chain. There's always action, whether it's figuring out how we can best serve our customers or dealing with a derailment on the railroad. It's always something different that keeps you on your toes.

The Big Questions

1. What hobbies or activities make you better at supply chain management and logistics?

Puzzles. Supply chain and logistics are like a big puzzle. You're trying to figure out the best solution to, for instance, getting more production out of a plant or reducing inventory costs.

2. How would you describe your job to a five-year-old?

I figure out how to get candy to a store near you.

3. If you could throw a dinner party and invite anyone, who would you invite?

My mom, because she has always encouraged me. My former boss, Jo Shepherd, because she believed in me. My high school teacher, Ms. Paul, because she told me to dream big. My best friend, Monique, because she's always in my corner. And I would invite former president Barack Obama.

4. If you had $1 million to start a new venture, what would you do?

I'd set up a service for single parents who are less fortunate to help them build their skillset so they can provide for their families.

5. What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Take more risks, believe in yourself, and know that you are unstoppable.