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issue: August 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

David Barna of U-Line Corp.

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David Barna, purchasing manager for Milwaukee, WI, U.S.-based U-Line Corp., believes a successful manager needs to understand that every company operation and every dollar counts. After 25 years as a purchasing professional, he should know.

David Barna

"I pride myself on my people skills as a purchasing professional," says Mr. Barna. "You need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get into the 'trenches.' Your chances of success increase if you can stay close to your engineering group, production staff, and inventory. I expect that my staff members know the parts that they buy and how they are used. This understanding allows for more efficient buying and warehouse space utilization."

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Mr. Barna started his purchasing career in 1978 as a buyer for Century Industries (Milwaukee, WI), a large hardware distributor. Six years later, he joined Lyons Safety Inc. (Menomonee Falls, WI) and served as a purchasing agent until 1988, when he moved to his current position at built-in, undercounter refrigeration product manufacturer, U-Line Corp.

According to Mr. Barna, it was his experiences at each of these companies that have helped him to discover the key to being a successful purchasing executive. "Having worked in purchasing departments for mid-size, privately-held companies my entire career, I've developed a firm belief in the old adage, 'Watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves,'" he explains. "As a purchasing manager, you need to be able to walk the fine line between developing a close, mutually beneficial partnership with suppliers, but not lose your ability to be aggressive and results-oriented. I never lose sight of the fact that I always need to be concerned with how my decisions will affect the bottom line of my company."

Part of fulfilling this ideology, he says, is understanding the aspects of other operations within the company - a professional objective he has set for himself. "One of my greatest professional challenges is to better understand sales and marketing trends," notes Mr. Barna. "Most purchasing departments tend to narrowly focus on MRP reports and internal inventory data. I believe we need to expand our professional scope by learning more about the markets we serve, and the directions they are heading. Only then can we be proactive in our support to sales and more significantly affect the company's profitability."

Mr. Barna describes his management philosophy as "hands-on," but shies away from micro managing. "You need to have confidence in your staff and allow them to grow. Only then can a department's full potential be utilized," he says.

At the end of the day, Mr. Barna spends his time with his wife of 16 years, Chris, and his two daughters - Alyssa, who is 10 years old, and Katie, who is 13. An avid reader and collector of American first edition novels, Mr. Barna also enjoys collecting wine and serves as an in-house wine consultant to U-Line, conducting wine seminars for distributors and dealers.


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