Carolyn Lum’s Strategy for Operational Success


Carolyn’s Strategy for Operational Success


“If you’re not working on the right strategic topic for your company, you will still lose the game.”

Carolyn Lum’s Strategy for Operational Success

In the ever-evolving landscape of operational excellence, Carolyn Lum stands out as a beacon of innovation and success. As the Vice President of Operational Excellence for Phillip Morris International (PMI), Lum has a rich history of transforming the operational landscape of global conglomerates through her pragmatic and customer-centric approach to continuous improvement (CI).

Carolyn’s story is a powerful testament to the remarkable impact that Lean and Kaizen methodologies can have on the corporate world. Starting as a mechanical engineer, she quickly realized the potential for process improvement and efficiency optimization in every aspect of business operations. Her journey through various multinational corporations has equipped her with a unique perspective on driving operational excellence on a global scale.

Lum’s journey into the realm of operational excellence began with her foundational experiences at a GM and Toyota joint venture, which she credits as a life-altering phase. Her role at PMI revolves around cultivating an operational excellence culture across various operations functions, including procurement, supply chain, and manufacturing engineering, aiming to propel PMI towards unparalleled heights of excellence.

The core of Lum’s philosophy lies in the “fit for purpose” approach, which diverges from traditional phase gate models. This approach emphasizes understanding customer needs and applying the most relevant CI tools to address specific challenges. It’s a shift from a one-size-fits-all methodology to a more tailored, impactful strategy that prioritizes immediate business needs and results over rigid adherence to a predetermined path.

Lum’s strategies are not confined to manufacturing environments. She underscores the importance of operational excellence across all business functions, including sales and marketing, where significant untapped potential lies. Through her leadership, PMI has seen remarkable improvements, such as halving the delivery times of machines, a testament to the efficacy of her methods.

One of her critical strategies involves coaching and empowering leaders and teams through hands-on problem-solving and leveraging operational excellence tools effectively. Lum’s focus on “learning by doing” and her belief in the endless journey of continuous improvement echo through her initiatives to drive meaningful change and business impact across PMI.

Looking ahead, Carolyn is optimistic about the role of innovation and technology in shaping the future of operational excellence. She anticipates a greater emphasis on data-driven decision-making, automation, and the integration of artificial intelligence in continuous improvement processes.

“As we look to the future, technology will increasingly become a key enabler of operational excellence. By harnessing data and embracing innovative solutions, we can uncover new opportunities for improvement and drive our organizations to new heights of efficiency and effectiveness,” Carolyn concluded.

While wrapping up, Lum’s insights extend an invitation to listeners of the “Leaders in CI” podcast to embark on a transformative operational excellence journey. Her story is a compelling call to action for leaders seeking to navigate the complexities of today’s business world with agility, foresight, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Tune into the “Leaders in CI” podcast to dive deeper into Carolyn Lum’s visionary approach to operational excellence and discover how to implement these strategies within your organization for sustainable growth and success! 

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