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Alumnus Peter Kratz Picks the Right Answers in Juicy Markets

November 21, 2012

By Steve Kaelble

  Peter Kratz

Peter Kratz has been called on by big-name companies like Procter & Gamble and Pepperidge Farm to improve and manage production processes. But it was a civil engineering degree that Kratz had in hand when he left Rose-Hulman in 1976. 

According to Kratz, the most important skills he picked up went beyond engineering: "Rose-Hulman teaches about how to solve problems and think logically, and I have used that my whole career- trying to understand processes and make them better."

Kratz put that learning to use in management roles from the start, overseeing processes and people in Procter & Gamble's paper-making operations. He also took on large projects for Pepperidge Farm, including a technology makeover at an apple juice facility. "They asked me to stay and manage the facility, so I made the final transformation from project engineering to management," he says.

"I went to bigger and bigger plant management jobs from there," Kratz continues. At Sara Lee, he helped turn around a startup facility that was struggling out of the gate. His last 13 years have been with Harry & David, an Oregon-based company known for its gifts and treats, particularly delicious pears. Kratz is executive vice president for operations in a company known for an unusual way of operating.

"It's a very unique company, vertically integrated," he says. Harry & David grows its own pears, handles its own baking and candy making, assembles its own product collections, conducts its own direct marketing, and operates its own stores.  The holiday season is its busiest time of the year.

Under Kratz, Harry & David has made significant improvements to a wide range of processes. It has adopted new technology that automatically sorts the fruit by quality and environmentally friendly practices that have earned multiple sustainability awards.