Bedie R. Kohake
Currently, Bedie Kohake works with DSM Dyneema® LLC in Greenville, North Carolina as a Plant Performance Engineer for the fiber and UD production facilities. She is married to Ron and they are blessed with two daughters, Virginia (10) and Julia (9). Bedie is very focused on the work-family balance and has made career changes to be able to achieve this. She enjoys family, photography (especially taking pictures of her husband and girls swimming) and reading.
Bedie attended North Carolina State University and completed her BS in Chemical Engineering in May 2010. She then joined DuPont in their Field Engineering Program and started her first assignment as a process engineer at the DuPont Dacron® plant in Kinston, NC. There she worked in staple, rug fiber production and helped increase production capabilities by 60% through output increases and waste reductions. Bedie was also part of a team that developed a new polyester fiber used to make fabric with the feel (or ‘hand’) of rayon. This was valuable to give an alternative to rayon, which is produced using chemicals harmful to the environment.
From this assignment, Bedie was moved into the Production area in 1992 as a Section Leader. She enjoyed working with the people and learned a lot about Supervision and Management from her DuPont® colleagues and the additional development that the Field Engineering Program offered.
In 1993, Bedie made a choice to leave DuPont® and the fiber industry to join Burroughs Wellcome® in the Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API) facility (also known as the “Chemical Plant”) in Greenville, NC. She joined as a Technical Specialist and was able to work on several processes to continue developing and introducing new pharmaceutical products to the consumers. She worked with the production team to increase Zidovudine® yields by over 25%, lowering the cost of the API. Zidovudine® is the active ingredient in the anit-HIV drug, AZT, and was made from naturally occurring organics that were in limited supply. So the yield improvements allowed more of the drug to be produced and distributed – as it was in short supply at the time.
Bedie also had the opportunity to start-up the commercial process for a second generation API, Valacyclovir®, introduced to provide better treatment for herpes. This was offered as an alternative to Acyclovir® (Zovirax® brand) and provides more efficient delivery of the active chemical to the body. The start-up in Greenville was on the fast-track and was such a success that Bedie was aked to travel to the plant in England to help commercialize the process there.
When Catalytica® purchased the Greenville facility in 1997, Bedie had the opportunity to become a manager in the Chemical Plant, leading a department of 40+ processors, supervisors, and engineers. Bedie had the opportunity to work on a partnership with Pfizer to build a hydrogenation facility in Greenville and help provide more capacity to make their new antibiotic, Trovafloxacin® (Trovan® brand). The Greenville facility was started with success and a perfect safety record. While with Catalytica in 2000, Bedie was featured in a Fortune magazine excerpt article “Women Move UP in Manufacturing” (Fortune May 15, 2000).
In 2001, when DSM® purchased the Greenville facility, Bedie worked on the management team to integrate the chemical facility into the DSM® organization. In 2002 she became the Director of the Chemical Plant, leading the division of 125+ employees. Bedie continued in this role until 2003, when she asked to move back into a Manager role to achieve a better work-family life balance (having two toddlers at the time!).
Bedie worked in Quality management and then moved to DSM Dyneema® as Plant Services manager in 2003 when the new fiber facility was completing construction. This offered her the opportunity to use and build on her fiber, production support, and quality skills. The Plant Services department provided process engineering, quality assurance and compliance, automation engineering, computer & systems support, and project engineering support for the entire Greenville DSM Dyneema® facility. In leading this group, Bedie had the opportunity to grow the facility support staff from less than 15 people to a group of over 40, and to add more support services – over the next three years. DSM Dyneema® experienced phenomenal growth at the Greenville site during this period, with 5 plants being added and professionalization of a young, growing organization.
In 2007, Bedie was asked to transition to the Global Program Manager role for the Life Protection business. In this role she developed supported global manufacturing programs at three production sites worldwide and was the manufacturing voice in the business team. While this experience was very rewarding and offered the opportunity to grow professionally and experience different cultures, Bedie struggled to maintain the work-family balance needed for her family.
In 2010, Bedie made the tough decision to step out of management and asked to be moved to an individual-contributor role as an engineer. She was supported by the management team in taking on the Plant Performance Engineer role in Greenville. In the Plant Performance Engineer role, she is able to use her leadership and cultural skills to improve the technical and procedural processes at the plant. This has been a great change and Bedie is enjoying the rewarding experience of being more involved in her family life and raising two wonderful young ladies.