Kristen Fry, 40
Purchasing division manager, Honda Manufacturing of Indiana
Big break: Having a supervisor convince her to take a big promotion when she wasn’t sure she was ready, as well as Honda opening a factory in her hometown
Kristen Fry was on her way to a bright future in the retail industry in 2006, doing inventory management for a big shoe seller in Indianapolis after receiving a degree in business management from nearby Butler University. Then, career lightning struck.
Honda Motor Co. chose her hometown of Greensburg, Ind., an hour’s drive from Indianapolis, for a major automobile assembly plant. Luckily, Fry had developed some skills in inventory management systems that Honda also used in its operations.
Fry’s transition from retail to manufacturing, which led to her current position as purchasing division manager for Honda’s Indiana plant, began with a newspaper clipping from her father announcing the Japanese automaker’s pending arrival. The plant began production in 2008.
“I thought, oh, wow, this is really my opportunity to not only come back to a community I really love, but also to be a part of a world-renowned company and start at the ground level,” Fry said.
She started in maintenance and repair in 2007 and worked her way up the ranks. Now, she manages supplier quality, supplier delivery, supply chain management, new model development and packaging — all from the purchasing side.
Fry credits a supervisor who offered her a promotion to leading purchasing for new models as her big break after a few years on the job. “Personally, I didn’t feel I had all the experience to do that role at the time,” she said. “But he really helped me, gave me the confidence and paired me up with a mentor who taught me how to manage the business as a whole.”
That was useful as Honda expanded production at the plant from just the Civic compact sedan to the Insight hybrid, then the CR-V compact crossover, then recently the CR-V Hybrid. Adding models means adding complexity to Fry’s job sourcing parts for multiple vehicles with multiple trims and features.
Among the critical tasks Fry has taken on: establishing a team dedicated to cost reduction in the supply chain, which has resulted in millions of dollars in savings; reorganizing inventory to get critical parts closer to the assembly line as complexity has increased; and working with a key supplier to stabilize output and avoid supply shortages.
For that last task, Fry went to the supplier’s location to understand and eliminate the urgent risk to production.
“I think when you get into those situations, it’s how quickly can you turn around the tornado effect?” she said. “It’s very, very difficult in a high-pressure situation, and being able to do that in four short weeks was a success in my eyes.”
— Laurence Iliff