Sarah Ahti, 42
Purchasing director, Cooper Standard
Big break: Co-leading successful global and regional purchasing teams
Sarah Ahti has been working to keep the supply chain humming at a time when plenty of obstacles are gumming it up.
Ahti works for Cooper Standard, a materials science and manufacturing company with operations in 21 countries. She directs how Cooper Standard purchases plastic components and resin. Cooper Standard manufactures resin into parts that it sells to General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and other automotive clients.
That’s not the only hat Ahti wears. She also manages Cooper Standard’s North and South American regional purchasing teams, which work closely with the supplier’s program teams and customer-facing teams to source parts.
Ahti often uses the word “we” — her acknowledgment of hard work that’s completed by the members of her teams.
“I work with an amazing team of people, and working with them really motivates me,” Ahti said. “It’s their successes and our overall contribution to the organization.”
Her teams played a crucial role in maintaining Cooper Standard’s procurement and supply chain processes over the last year and a half as the industry grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic and encountered supply chain disruptions.
She has maneuvered her teams through multiple supply chain challenges, such as material allocation problems, and changes in lead and transit times.
“The automotive supply chain is really all tied together, one way or another, to support the vehicle volumes at our original equipment manufacturers,” Ahti said. “The short answer is, on a day-to-day basis, we continue to work with our plants and our supply partners to ensure that we communicate with them what we need to support our customers.”
Her career in procurement, purchasing and strategic sourcing spans 20 years. She previously worked for Ford as a buyer, for Johnson Controls as sourcing manager, procurement director and more, and for Adient in corporate services procurement.
Ahti says she has had great mentors along the way. Those relationships have taught her the value of establishing and maintaining mentor-mentee connections. She keeps in touch with many people she mentored in her previous roles who reach out to discuss job opportunities or to get her perspective on things.
“I participated over that time [in] both formal and informal mentoring programs that ... I've held onto and focused on over the last 20 years,” she said.
— C.J. Moore