Christine Krathwohl brings 18 years of logistics and purchasing experience to the top logistics position at GM. She spent eight-and-a-half years at Ford and Visteon before joining GM in 2002, where she has held numerous positions in North America, including as logistics business planning manager and director of inbound logistics, before moving to Germany where her roles included director of supply chain planning and supply operations for GM Europe, as well as purchasing director for electrical components and for corporate administration services.
Krathwohl’s experience will be invaluable as GM launches many new vehicles, tries to grow in an uncertain economy and–a critical focus for her– improves relations with suppliers.
At the same time, she will be readjusting to life in her native Michigan following several years in Wiesbaden, Germany, including waiting for her new house to be built in Northville, some 30 miles northwest of Detroit. You might also spot her playing a few rounds of golf before the cold Michigan winter sets in.
Christopher Ludwig: What do you like most about logistics?
Christine Krathwohl: I love that every day there are new challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed when you manage a network the size of GM’s. The coordination between my team and suppliers allows us to successfully manage these challenges, ensuring we can design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles.
CL: What is most challenging about it?
CK: The most challenging aspect of logistics within the automotive industry is the necessity to be nimble and react quickly to the continuously changing environment, such as market condition changes, natural disasters, etc.
CL:What has been most surprising about the role for you?
CK: So far, I have not been surprised yet in my new position. While I was in Europe I tried to keep a pulse on the state of logistics as I have a passion for this field.
CL: You bring years of logistics experience to this role, in contrast to several of your predecessors, who were newer to logistics. Will this experience make a difference in the role?
CK: My predecessors were extremely successful managing the logistics organisation due to their strong leadership skills, which are more critical to the success of an organisation than being an expert in that field. I do feel that my previous experiences will allow me to quickly provide input and guidance in strategic and tactical decisions.
CL: If you were not working in the car industry, what would you be doing?
CK: I would work for a non-profit organisation whose primary focus is on children, giving them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.
CL: You are just moving back to the US after being based in Germany–what will you miss most about it?
CK: I miss the European lifestyle, spending Saturday mornings at outdoor markets and being able to walk everywhere. I also miss the weekend trips you could easily take to a neighbouring country to explore and enjoy other cultures.
CL:What are you looking forward to most about living in Michigan again?
CK: Friends, family and collegiate sporting events for MSU (Michigan State University).
CL: What do you enjoy in your free time?
CK: I love to cook, travel and play golf.
CL: Which books would you recommend?
CK: I recommend ‘The Last Lecture’, by Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon Professor. I am currently reading, ‘The First 90 Days’ by Michael Watkins. I also enjoy political thrillers/espionage books; some of my favourite authors are Daniel Silva, Vince Flynn and Ken Follett.
CL:What are you driving?
CK: I drive a Cadillac SRX. I would love to drive the Cadillac CTS V Coupe, especially on the German autobahn.
CL: What are your goals for the rest of the year as related to business?
CK: A major focus will be on the new vehicle launches for the remainder of this year and the preparation for the ones in 2012. I will also work on achieving operational and financial targets as well as improving our current supplier relationships–this has been a top focus area for me during my first 90 days on the job.
CL: Do you have any lessons that you’re keeping in mind as you steer GM’s logistics through these turbulent times?
CK: As stated earlier, in the challenges we face, we need to be able to quickly react to the market–whether this is a recession or a growing market. It is critical for us to continue to provide as much transparency of our business to our suppliers and providers so we can collectively manage these changes as efficiently as possible. Building and maintaining strong supplier relationships are paramount to managing these challenges.