Chief Supply Chain Officer at Colgate-Palmolive
Mike Corbo joined Colgate-Palmolive (CP) in 1982, straight out of college.
“On my 40-year anniversary the CEO took me out to dinner with a couple other people, and I had a very nice time,” he says.
Corbo had a degree in chemical engineering but already knew that was not where his passion lay.
“One of the things that attracted me to Colgate is that they were hiring people to work in plant operations, and operations really interested me,” he says. “I never really intended to follow chemical engineering.”
In the intervening four decades, Corbo has worked his way around the world, excelling in a host of manufacturing and supply chain roles.
After a six-month training programme, he was sent out onto the factory floor as a foreman. For the first 14 years of his career, he “bumped around the US,” before he finally got the opportunity to fulfill his ambition to travel, taking up a position as Manufacturing Director in the Philippines.
“I always wanted to work outside of the US,” he says. “I just had that desire to learn.”
There followed a similar role in Malaysia, after which he worked in Colgate’s divisional teams, starting in central Europe and Russia, and then heading back to the Asia division.
“The one I had the most fun in terms of learning was as Head of Supply Chain for Latin America,” he says. “It’s the biggest division in Colgate, and covers all the product categories.”
In terms of the different challenges he faces from region to region he says: “You’re using the same equipment and processes but it’s the cultures that are different. It comes down to how you motivate people, what gets people excited.”
“The Thailand plant is motivated differently to our plant in China, and to the one in Tennessee. But people come to work every day and want to do a good job. You have to give them the resources and the capabilities to make that happen, and the direction.”
Corbo believes his long years in manufacturing has provided “an incredible foundation” for his current role as CSCO.
He says: “I was learning how people produced things, day in and day out, and how they achieved the required consistency and discipline to do it right and do it well.”
“What people want in a supply chain is consistency and reliability, and that’s what manufacturing is about. The definition of quality is making the same thing over and over, with low variability.”
He says his current role is dynamic and global. “We look at supply chains all over the world, and manage them.”
Corbo adds: “At the moment, the main supply chain challenges are really the magnitude and the frequency of disruptions. They're not planned. Whether it's a government intervention, a business intervention, a commodity price, they come frequently, without warning, and how quickly we can rebound and continue to supply is really our daily challenge.”
Looking to the future, he says: “I think the future for Colgate is very bright. We want to be an innovative growth company, but to do that, we need to invest and focus on our people. We have to make sure the people have the competencies, the capabilities, and the resources to thrive and help us achieve our goal of growth and innovation.”
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