Jennifer Blanchette has a lot on her hands. As the director of manufacturing at Baxter Healthcare, she oversees the production of 40 different high-quality products, 13 manufacturing lines, and about 300 employees across two facilities.
But Blanchette has never aimed to just get it done — throughout her career, she’s continuously found ways to get it done better.
After starting at Baxter, which specializes in producing several life-saving health products and medicines, Blanchette worked her way through a series of roles — from engineering and quality to now leading a key manufacturing facility for Baxter’s Global Pharmaceutical Business Unit — while making critical changes along the way.
For example, Blanchette’s nominator for the Influential Women in Manufacturing award wrote that she improved several processes at the company’s Round Lake, Ill. drug delivery and penicillin plant, such as, “employing visual management, improving floor communication and employee engagement, and driving accountability.”
Yet, Blanchette, who has been at Baxter since 2002, has become more than just a tireless leader — she’s also a hard-working mentor to other women in her field, which is one of the many noteworthy reasons she was chosen to be a part of this year’s Influential Women in Manufacturing.
Five things you should know about Jennifer Blanchette, Director of Manufacturing, Baxter Healthcare
- She kicks project-management butt: Blanchette got a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering from Michigan Technological University and received her PMP (Project Management Professional) along with her six sigma black belt certification in 2006.
- She was told she might not be able to hack it: “I started in corporate roles where I was in engineering and quality,” Blanchette explains. “When I wanted to move into manufacturing, it was very difficult as I was told I had no manufacturing experience. I was able to get into manufacturing at a lower level to gain the experience because I knew how important it was to me and my career.”
- Manufacturing keeps her on her toes: “I think manufacturing brings so many benefits in development for a career,” she says. “It is a fast-paced environment that drives problem solving, rapid decision making, multi-tasking skills, and leadership earlier in your career compared to some traditional jobs.”
- She’s been a change agent: “As a strong woman at the helm of two manufacturing plants, Jennifer has led by example through speaking up, showing courage, displaying empathy, asking hard questions, and challenging the status quo,” her nominator wrote. “As a result, she has driven change by breaking down many different complex processes (preventative maintenance, inventory management, batch release, training and more) into manageable work streams of standard work. All of these processes have seen significant quantitative improvements under her leadership.”
- She’s fostered growth in other women in manufacturing: “She has sponsored numerous employees for development programs, and encouraged them to build their breadth of knowledge, pursue their education, and/or take that promotion,” her nominator wrote. “She has frequently taken women from positions like production operators, to team leads, to supervisors. For this reason, she has heartfelt thank you letters she keeps in her top drawer that say things like, ‘Thank you for your guidance and leadership, I hope to be a great leader like you one day.’”
Words she lives by: “Fail fast and learn from your mistakes — but keep trying.” Learn what advice all of our 20 Honorees have for females entering manufacturing careers. Download your copy of the 2020 Influential Women in Manufacturing E-Book.