As part of Michigan State University (MSU), the Axia Institute in Midland, Michigan is strategically positioned as the premier value chain innovation center, poised to deliver revolutionary advances in the functional areas of procurement, manufacturing, data analytics, materials management, packaging, logistics and customer service to companies globally.
Katherine A. Franz has been guiding that work as the Institute’s executive director. Since joining the Axia Institute in 2015, Franz has worked diligently to position Axia as a value chain center of excellence and to bridge the gap between academia and industry.
“Our institute leverages Michigan State’s No. 1 ranked supply management program, and we work to help industry solve its greatest challenges,” Franz said. “We serve as a neutral, third party and bring companies in like industries together to solve their most pressing needs. We are currently supporting the pharmaceutical industry to accelerate opportunities created by serialization requirements and will take a similar approach with other industries in the future.”
Franz’s path to the Axia Institute took her through undergraduate studies at MSU and the pursuit of her master’s degree in business administration at Central Michigan University. During college, she followed in her father’s and grandfather’s footsteps to General Motors.
“Wanting to expand my capabilities, I sought out challenging assignments. I was afforded incredible opportunities at GM and then Ford and GE leading manufacturing operations and large business divisions across six continents and have lived in 17 locations across the globe,” Franz said.
Her last move brought her to mid-Michigan from Scottsdale, Arizona. Throughout her career journey, Franz has been personally and professionally inspired by many women such as Deborah Stewart Coleman, vice president at Ford Motor Co. and executive vice president/chief operating officer at the National Urban League; Lucille Fallon, director of corporate and foundation relations at Michigan State University; Taylor Franz, architect and Franz’s daughter; Dianne Watson, dean at Baker College and Franz’s aunt; Shirley Weis, chief administrative officer and vice president and emerita at the Mayo Clinic; and June Youatt, provost at Michigan State University.
Her advice to other women: “Find a way to succeed. Be resourceful,” she said. “You can always find something to learn even from the worst of situations. Turn challenges into advantages. It’s very important that your values align with those of your company. You do the best work when you are inspired.”