Shilpa Patel, 45
Regional purchasing director, Faurecia Interior Systems of North America
Big break: Being offered her current job in 2017
Shilpa Patel recalls that when she was a teenager in Toronto, her father had a mission: for his children to develop a strong work ethic.
So he made the 16-year-old Patel and her two siblings work in a factory.
“I worked as a line operator for an injection molding company for three summers … and, oh, my God, standing on my feet for eight hours straight,” Patel recalled with a laugh. “His mission was definitely accomplished, because all three of us are professionals today.”
Patel said the experience helped her gain a greater appreciation for what happens on a factory floor.
Today, the 45-year-old is the regional purchasing director for Faurecia Interior Systems of North America.
Her team helps identify cost savings and solve supply chain issues at several Faurecia factories. The plants make interior vehicle parts, such as instrument panels and center consoles.
Patel has worked in the auto industry for 18 years, but she didn’t begin in manufacturing. Before joining Faurecia, she spent 10 years in accounting and finance roles at Cooper Standard Automotive Inc.
In 2017, she switched from accounting to a world a lot closer to the factory floor.
“Faurecia’s executive leadership actually approached me and said, ‘You know, we want to develop you and help expand your perspective. Because we think you can do more than just accounting and finance,’?” Patel said. She said the move has allowed her to see the business through a different lens.
Before taking on the regional purchasing role, Patel worked at the supplier’s technical center in Auburn Hills, Mich. But to further develop Patel’s understanding of Faurecia’s processes, leadership moved her to the company’s plant in nearby Fraser, Mich.
Patel now oversees purchasing for four factories. She’ll assume buying responsibilities for two additional plants this year.
She is a member of the company’s diversity and inclusion group. Patel also mentors employees informally and through a structured company program.
“I love to see others progress,” she said.
Patel says she is looking forward to being part of a changing automotive industry. “There’s a huge flux in creativity, and new technologies are on the rise,” she said. Patel believes there is “a lot of opportunity for innovation and new value spaces” within Faurecia.
In March, she was named a recipient of a Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead Award from the Manufacturing Institute.
— Angelina Czarnecki