"They thought I was as dumb as a bag of rocks," says Frigo, vice president of global sourcing in the Houston-based company’s distribution business unit. "They said it would take two months to train a ‘Next Gen,’ and then they’d be gone in a month."
Frigo, however, had a complex tracking problem he needed to solve and no one to do it. So despite his team’s well-intended advice, he hired Michelle Lin, a native of China’s Yunnan Province and a graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a finance degree.
Frigo’s problem was that no system existed to track a yearly total of about 200,000 unique transactions, worth $30 million, by 70 to 80 NOV oil field supply stores for items like lumber, concrete and electrical supplies. None of these products are part of NOV’s core oil field equipment manufacturing business, but they are sold as a courtesy to customers who ask for them. With no tracking system in place, NOV couldn’t tell how much the company spent to buy products from any single vendor or the number and nature of products bought and sold. Frigo wanted a database created to better understand and track spending for these products. He expected it to be a six-month job, but he wanted Lin to at least start on it during her rotation in the distribution business unit.
Lin immediately realized the difficulty of the task and made it her top priority.
"A big part of the job was knowing how to categorize the products and understanding what they were and how they were used," she says.
She had to standardize formatting for transaction entries, where one store might spell a vendor or product name one way, and another store would do it differently. She also had to learn new financial analysis software and do a little programming. "I am not a programmer," she says.
Although Lin ranks the database project at the top of her rotational tasks in terms of challenge and difficulty, she still finished it before her three-month stint ended in the spring of 2005.
Based on Lin’s database, the business unit negotiated a volume purchase with a major hardware chain and now pays standard prices for all courtesy products. Frigo says the deal, which went into effect in January, is too new to assess. However, all transactions are now treated as recurring procurement items instead of unique purchases, at least saving time and paperwork.
Frigo hired Lin full time in June 2005. She’s his translator, negotiator and financial analyst for all Chinese purchasing, which is a growing business for the unit. Since the end of Lin’s rotation, Frigo has hired six more Next Gen trainees.
In April, Frigo suggested to his team that the business unit take a breather from the Next Gen program.
"My team told me they’d kill me," he says. "Every kid has done outstanding work. They do things in days that I thought would take weeks."
|FORGING THE 'NEXT GENERATION' OF LEADERS|
|National Oilwell Varco has initiated five rounds of its Next Generation recruiting program since January 2004.|
|Next Gen group||Recruiting period||Number of recruits||Rotation start||Permanent assignment|
|1||Jan. - March 2004||16||July 2004||June 2005|
|2||Sept. - Nov. 2004||15||Jan. 2005||Dec. 2005|
|3||Jan. - March 2005||15||July 2005||June 2006|
|4||Sept. - Nov. 2005||25||Jan. 2006||Dec. 2006|
|5||Jan. - March 2006||25||July 2006||June 2007|
|Source: National Oilwell Varco|
Workforce Management, June 12, 2006, p. 30 -- Subscribe Now!