A drive for success
Alumna named one of the leading women in the auto industry
By Matt Markey
It wasn’t easy, it was not smooth sailing, and it wasn’t necessarily much fun, but Pam Heminger remembers a certain management class she took as a BGSU undergraduate student as clearly being life-changing.
Heminger, a senior division manager for Honda of America, Inc., said Dr. Chan Hahn provided a significant building block in her education, and ultimately in her highly-successful career, with that course.
“At the time, that class was challenging and difficult, as well as time-consuming and serious,” she said. “But reflecting back on it now, it was the best course of my career, bar none. His instruction and guidance were remarkable.”
Heminger, who earned her degree in procurement and materials management in 1989, said the lessons in teamwork and the real-life simulations that took place in the class were outstanding tools in her preparation for work in the automotive industry.
“We went through purchasing, negotiations, case studies – your entire team had to take part in these projects, so you not only had to do the work, but you also had to manage working as a team,” she said. “It was very, very difficult, but it was so instrumental in preparing myself and others, because these were very good simulations of what we deal with in purchasing at companies like Honda.”
She also cited the role that Dr. Peter Pinto, the now retired chairman of the BGSU management department, played in her education.
“He was really great about giving students direction and advice, whether it was about their course of study, class studies, or even career development,” she said.
Heminger came to Bowling Green in 1985 intending to become an accountant, but an internship in the purchasing department of a company in Toledo during the summer following her freshman year altered the plan and Heminger changed her major.
“That was when I really understood the role of purchasing and I found out that I enjoyed it,” she said. “And that was what interested me in the automotive industry.”
Heminger said Honda had a very strong reputation for excellence in its purchasing approach, which she said is uniquely rooted in the origins of the company. And she had no trepidation about entering the automotive field, which historically has been a male-dominated arena.
“I come from a family where my father was in the manufacturing industry his entire career and I enjoyed that environment,” she said. “I saw how well he worked with people and I loved the ability to create a product and to make a high-quality product that customers enjoyed.”
Heminger, who was recently named one of the leading women in the auto industry by Automotive News and honored at a ceremony in Detroit in Nov. 2015, said technology is allowing companies such as Honda to develop flexible work schedules that make it more feasible for women to have successful careers while also raising a family.
“That’s one of the most important things that we can do as an industry, is to increase the flexibility,” said Heminger, who knows the challenges since she has been raising two children while working full time.
Heminger cited the case of a female engineer at Honda who has been allowed to do more work from home while she was pregnant. Heminger hopes that the innovative approach to managing the balance of work and family will serve as a model for her company, and the industry.
“I have gone through that, so I could understand what she was facing,” Heminger said.
“The increase in technology in the workplace is a real asset, and if we can use it properly as a company, this will definitely provide our associates with more flexibility in the workplace, and meet the needs of not only the individual, but also the company. This is an important opportunity not just for women, but for anybody who is balancing the demands of life and work.”
Heminger, who lives in the Columbus area and works out of Honda’s nearby Marysville manufacturing facility, joined Honda in 1996 as a purchasing buyer. She was promoted to a team leader in 1998 and two years later she was named as the purchasing manager of the functional engine team. She took on the same role with the electrical team the following year.
In 2003, Honda named Heminger manager of its purchasing strategic development group, and following several other management promotions, she was named manager of cost planning and was responsible for supplier sourcing and cost management for Honda’s North America operations.
In 2012, Heminger was promoted to division manager for Honda of America’s purchasing operations division, with vast responsibilities for ensuring that outsourced products meet Honda’s expectations and requirements for quality, delivery and packaging.
Currently, her most recent assignment as division manager for Honda of America’s business division involves leading multiple functions. These functions include IS, new model, accounting and finance, production scheduling, facilities and planning.
Heminger, who has served as a guest speaker at BGSU and has been very involved in the University’s Supply Chain Management Institute, said other Falcons have joined the Honda operation and done well.
“We have quite a few Bowling Green graduates here that are just really successful,” she said. “There are a number of them that had to go through Dr. Hahn’s class, and they all received that solid foundation.”
Heminger, a Pennsylvania native, arrived at BGSU right on the heels of the Falcon hockey team’s 1984 national championship, and she has a very strong connection to the sport today. Both of Heminger’s children are involved in amateur hockey and they have played in tournaments at the BGSU Ice Arena. She also travels with her children Joel and Isabel to hockey events in the U.S. and Canada and works at expanding women’s hockey in the Columbus area.
"I think everybody followed hockey at Bowling Green. It was a very exciting time,” she said. “I loved it, and we still come and watch games. It’s a great sport and as a bonus, I get to spend time with my kids.”