Manufacturing Institute’s 2018 STEP Ahead Awards

The Manufacturing Institute recognizes three AGCO women with 2018 STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards.

AGCO 2018 STEP Ahead Award
March 6, 2018 by AGCO

Manufacturing Institute’s 2018 STEP Ahead Awards

The Manufacturing Institute recognizes three AGCO women with 2018 STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards.

Manufacturing Institute 2018 STEP Ahead Awards

The Manufacturing Institute, the authority on world-class manufacturing talent, has announced the 2018 STEP Ahead Award Honorees and Emerging Leaders. These women have accomplished success within their companies and have proven to be leaders in the industry as a whole.

The STEP Ahead initiative launched in 2012 to bolster manufacturing’s attractiveness to women and to help improve the perception of careers in the industry among younger generations. The Institute champions diversity and works to empower women leaders. Since 2013, it has annually awarded the STEP Ahead Award to honor women who demonstrate excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory floor to the C-suite. This year, the Institute will recognize 100 Honorees and 30 Emerging Leaders with the STEP Ahead Award at a gala in Washington, D.C. Read more about the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards!

“This is the sixth consecutive year that women at AGCO have been honored with a STEP Ahead Award. We are very proud of this year’s honorees and their accomplishments and support of AGCO’s success,” said Lucinda Smith, Senior Vice President, Global Business Services at AGCO. “The recognition through the STEP Ahead Program supports our diversity and inclusion approach as part of the AGCO Global Women’s Network (AGWN).”


AGWN is a business advisory group focused on the attraction, retention, development and advancement of women at all levels of the organization. The organization was established to provide a platform to proactively cultivate the leadership skills of women and men, thus driving excellence in innovation, customer service and business outcomes.

We’d like to give a special congratulations to each one of our AGCO 2018 STEP Ahead Award Honorees and Emerging Leaders:

AGCO’s Manager of Parts Logistics Operations Laurie Cantu

AGCO's Manager of Parts Logistics Operations Laurie Cantu is selected by the Manufacturing Institute as an Honoree for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

“One efficient team is needed to make a quality machine,” says AGCO’s Manager of Parts Logistics Operations Laurie Cantu who has been selected by the Manufacturing Institute as an Honoree for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

As Manager of Parts Logistics Operations, Laurie Cantu is a leader in driving annual cost improvements for AGCO. This year, she has led her to team to deliver more than $1 million in cost saving projects and counting. For example, when she took on the complex project of revamping AGCO’s delivery network for Western Canada, the company’s parts delivery time to dealers in the region were cut in half, resulting in more than $350,000 in annual savings over the previous delivery network.

Her leadership in strategy development and deployment for Logistics in North America has been critical to the implementation of AGCO’s Transportation Management System (TMS), which is expected to deliver a substantial $24 million in savings. Throughout the TMS project, Laurie has challenged the status quo and elevated the entire team with her motivational attitude and unmatched ambition for results. In addition to inspiring and coaching her team, her well-rounded technical knowledge and strategic vision make Laurie a true thought leader.

As a cross-functional and cross-organizational leader, Laurie is passionate about coaching and mentoring others to produce the best results for AGCO. When she recently worked with a diverse team on the analysis for a large trucking services bid for the company’s GSI brand, her thoughtful and strategic guidance of those involved allowed them to more clearly understand how to manage a project of its magnitude and complexity.

Laurie is devoted to the community on both a personal level and as a representative of AGCO.  She is actively involved in AGWN, an initiative that recently partnered with the Kane County Farm Bureau to award a scholarship to a deserving young woman who is pursuing her degree in Engineering.

See Lauri Cantu’s webpage on the Manufacturing Institute’s website.

AGCO’s Supply Chain Analyst Rachel Hawn

AGCO's Materials Analyst Rachel Hawn is selected as an Emerging Leader for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

“Manufacturing is evolving in leaps and bounds, and to be a part of those big changes and continuing evolution is my passion. With forward thinking and continuous improvements there is no limit to what manufacturing can accomplish,”  says AGCO’s Supply Chain Analyst Rachel Hawn who has been selected as an Emerging Leader for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

The AGCO facility in Jackson, Minnesota, wouldn’t be the success it is without the work of Rachel Hawn, supply chain analyst. With responsibilities including material flow efficiency, maintaining optimal inventory levels and part replenishment, Rachel works cross-functionally to bridge the gaps between purchasing and material handling. Recently, she was challenged to make sure there is a Plan for Every Part (PFEP) of the AGCO Corporation tractors. This required Rachel to develop a wide variety of new plans including warehouse strategies and material path flows.

As she developed the PFEP manual, Rachel identified the skills needed within the group to achieve a successful outcome. She created a skills matrix, identified training resources and implemented a training plan in partnership with the AGCO Training Academy to improve team capability. Through all her work, Rachel emerged as a leader within ACGO who continuously displays ownership and leadership among her colleagues.

Rachel regularly coaches and mentors her peers, sharing what she has learned to improve results. Recently, Rachel volunteered to be the “Lean Office Champion.” In this role, Rachel works with each team member to adopt Lean principles, taking advantage of their time together to encourage others into leadership roles.

She is active in AGWN by serving on the recruiting team and organizing the first annual AGWN Jackson Women’s networking event.

Rachel is a valuable leader in her place of work and her vibrant community. As a resident of Superior, Iowa, a small town with barely over 100 residents, Rachel knows that every volunteer contribution counts. She has served on the Superior City Council and other committees since 2010 when she was just 23. Within the City Council, she writes grants for the Parks Committee and Fire Agency to secure funding. Her grant writing efforts have helped the city pay for new wildland fire fighter gear as well as fund park playground equipment.

Four out of the last five years, Rachel’s husband and she have worked opposite shifts. And, she continues to further her education while doing so. The past two years,  she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in manufacturing management and quality management. She also started her master’s program last month with Southwest Minnesota State University and plans to complete her MBA within two years.

Rachel says she would really like to reach out to women who think that their grow paths are limited due to family, income, or whatever the case may be. She believes women can be successful while having a career, completing education, having a family including young children, and volunteering & serving in office all at once.

See Rachel Hawn’s webpage on the Manufacturing Institute’s website.

AGCO’s Senior Assembler Heather Erickson

AGCO's Senior Assembler Heather Erickson is selected by the Manufacturing Institute as an Honoree for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

“I have the best job in the world! I make something every day, continuously seeking ways to make the product and the process better. Building new products reminds me of putting together complex puzzles. My reward is when our customers acknowledge the quality of the products that we manufacture,”  says AGCO’s Senior Assembler Heather Erickson who has been selected by the Manufacturing Institute as an Honoree for the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.

With a positive and passionate spirit, Heather Erickson has become a key leader at AGCO where she encourages coworkers to embrace new technologies and identify workplace improvements.  As a Senior Assembler/Operator at AGCO’s Tractor Assembly plant in Jackson, Minnesota, she leads sub-system and system assemblies of critical parts, working from engineering drawings and work instructions.

Recently, Heather made wearable technology (Google Glass) for standard work instructions possible by participating in the restructuring and sequencing of thousands of operational method sheets. Heather has become one of the spokespeople in the Jackson plant for the Glass project and has been featured in both magazines and on NPR to discuss the future of manufacturing. Her leadership is helping AGCO understand the value of disruptive technology for employees’ daily productivity.

Heather is constantly seeking ways to improve her skillset, and has taken several advanced education classes to increase her contributions to her organization. She values leading by example and her constant efforts to improve herself and her work environment inspires all those around her. Heather has seen the personal and professional benefits of on-the-job training and serves as a plant floor advocate for new training programs. In her role as an influencer, Heather was integral to building curriculum for select Assembly Academy training. Her expertise and dedication to making sure instructions are accurate and complete have been invaluable for the organization.

In addition to her significant contributions at work, Heather is actively involved in a number of community activities. She participates in several groups with her three active daughters and helps develop content for AGCO’s Jackson Facility Assembly Academy, which offers development and employment opportunities to the Jackson community. She is also a leader within the Jackson chapter of AGWN, has worked to promote breast cancer awareness with the Susan G. Komen organization and supports the March of Dimes.

See Heather Erickson’s webpage on the Manufacturing Institute’s website.

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