Steering an organization toward operational excellence comes with internal and external headwinds, and next month’s quarterly COE seminar is tackling two critical ones with the help of its featured presenters.

rubik babakanian

R. Babakanian

Kicking off COE’s Sept. 26 seminar at 10:30 a.m. is Rubik Babakanian, senior vice president and chief procurement officer at hard drive manufacturer Western Digital Corp. Babakanian’s company stands today as a $15 billion organization with its stock price on a steady upswing, but the road to be there hasn’t been without risk. Like many manufacturers with heavy operations in Asia, Western Digital suffered severe disruptions and temporary shutdowns during the devastating 2011 Japanese tsunami and Thai floods. The events in a nine-month period rocked the global supply chain and forced Western Digital to examine its risk mitigation and management practices with renewed vigor.

Babakanian, a 30-year industry veteran, will outline the methods and tools the company has put in place to better understand its supply chain, track ever-shifting risk factors, and be prepared for the next “100-year event.” Western Digital’s story highlights the universal business challenge of investing in risk mitigation, one that’s never complete – but truly pays off when crisis comes.

walt miller

W. Miller

At 1 p.m., COE welcomes to the stage Walt Miller, who serves as director of operational excellence at engine maker Cummins. Miller is in charge of driving and coaching a culture of empowerment and continuous learning at the company. He’ll share in this session his approach not only to coaching and developing leaders of the future, but in transforming longtime leaders deeply ingrained in a “command and control” culture.”

Miller, author of will share these principles through the lens of a Cummins case involving the turnaround of a plant that started out with a lagging on-time delivery rate costing millions of dollars in missed monthly sales and a rigid, top-down leadership model. It’s a story that shows a lean organization can be built and sustained anywhere with people, a process and a customer – and that behind every good leader is a great team and a great production and management system.  The challenge is how you build it and, most importantly, sustain it.

Babakanian and Miller are just part of a full-day event that includes a networking lunch and a special event at 2;30 p.m., after Miller’s presentation . Co-hosted with Fisher’s Office of Career Management and the Operations and Logistics Management Association, the third-annual Supply Chain Career Connection is a chance to network informally with Fisher’s great graduate students interested in pursuing careers in the supply chain arena. Unlike a rigidly structured job fair, industry attendees are encouraged to mingle with students, share their career path, and share experiences with their current employer.

COE also will announce the featured keynote speakers for its April 2015 summit at the seminar, immediately prior to the 2:30 p.m. networking event.

Seating and space for all of these events are limited, so register now to reserve your spot in-person or to watch a live webcast of the morning and afternoon sessions!

At a glance:

Date: Friday, Sept. 26

Location: Ballroom, The Blackwell, 2110 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, OH


  • 9 a.m.: Board meeting (COE board members only)
  • 10:30 a.m.: Morning Session – Western Digital (COE members only)
  • Noon: Networking lunch (COE members only)
  • 1 p.m.: Afternoon Session – Cummins (COE members and guests welcome)
  • 2:30 p.m.: Supply Chain Career Connection networking event (COE members and guests welcome)
  • 4 p.m.: Seminar concludes

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