|It was a civil engineering degree
that Peter Kratz had in hand when he left Rose-Hulman in
1976. However, the most important skills he picked up
went beyond engineering: "Rose Hulman teaches about how
to solve problems and think logically, and I have used
that my whole career-trying to understand processes and
make them better."
Kratz put that learning to use in management
roles from the start, overseeing processes and people
in Procter & Gamble's paper making operations. He
also took on large projects for Pepperidge Farm,
including a technology makeover at an apple
juice facility. "They asked me to stay and manage the
facility, so I made the final transformation from project
engineering to management," he says.
"I went to bigger and bigger
plant management jobs from there," Kratz continues. At
Sara Lee, he helped
|turn around a startup facility that
was struggling out of the gate. His last 13 years have
been with Harry & David, an Oregon-based company known
for its gifts and treats, particularly delicious pears.
Kratz is executive vice president for operations in a company
known for an unusual way of operating.
"It's a very unique company,
vertically integrated," he says. Harry & David grows
its own pears, handles its own baking and candy making,
assembles its own product collections, conducts its own
direct marketing, and operates its own stores.
Under Kratz, Harry & David has made
significant improvements to a wide range of processes. It has
adopted new technology that automatically sorts the fruit
by quality and environmentally friendly practices that have
earned multiple sustainability awards. "We update our
strategic plan each year," he
|says, "deciding what size we want to
be, what products we want to offer, and how we are going
to sell those products."
His knack for strategy also helped
the company through a managed Chapter 11 bankruptcy
without interrupting service or disrupting relations with
vendors. "That's where I really used all of the skills I
had gotten at Rose-Hulman and through the years," he says.
Not surprisingly, Kratz sees that kind
of problem-solving, logic-focused teaching as an
important asset to retain and build upon as the institute
plans for the future. "I've been blessed that Rose
Hulman really wants to teach people to think and solve
problems. And, it has done a great job of sticking with its
undergraduate program and being No. 1 in that
area. Rose-Hulman has to keep thinking about what its