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“Studying Lean Manufacturing is one thing, but implementing it on the factory floor makes it much more tangible.”


product director of the Oral Care toothpaste factory in Amersfoort soon afterwards. The contrast was vast. Up until that point I had been managing teams of about fifteen people, but this gave me the responsibility of leading a team of 120. Downsizing had reduced staff numbers by half just before my arrival, and the employees who remained had been through a rough time. The cuts were part of a wider reorganisation process across our manufacturing plants. I was given enough money to invest and to realise volume growth. This was essential because we wanted to grow not only our A-brands, but also our private label products, and that only works in large volumes. This provided an incentive to work harder, which I am a fan of. We went from two to three shifts. Above all, the transition to Lean Manufactur- ing turned out to be an eye-opener – studying the theory of it is one thing, but implementing it on the factory floor makes it much more tangible. Especially considering all of the practical changes that we implemented, like the introduction of downtime track- ing and more visible adjustments such as tool carts organised according to Lean principles. Employees gained a greater sense of responsibility, started adapting their own production lines and car- rying out simple maintenance work themselves, etcetera...”


Then you became Supply Chain Director for The Netherlands... “And I was given the opportunity to align the supply chain exper- tise within each of the various divisions by creating a supply chain shared service unit. During this reorganisation, we brought together 27 employees from Household & Bodycare, twenty from Coffee & Tea (Retail) and thirteen from Coffee & Tea (Out of


Home). Prior to this, they had worked in sales, production and finance and their methodologies were distinctly different, espe- cially when it came down to the details. The supply chain planning on the retail side of Coffee & Tea, for example, was completely different from that of Bodycare, particularly in terms of promo- tions. To make the most of our size, in other words to combine our functional expertise, we harmonised the methodologies into best practices and formed a process-oriented supply chain organisation. By formalising our services to marketing and sales in contracts, including prices per activity, our internal clients became more conscious of the costs associated with supply chain complexity. This led to a large-scale complexity reduction programme which enabled us to reduce our supply chain costs considerably. We were able to shrink our product range by 17% without our turnover suf- fering, and optimised it to such an extent that, in the end, we were making more profit per SKU. 37% of the savings came from logis- tics, 11% from personnel costs, 17% from cost prices and 35% from the cost of inventory.”


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o what extent is your work as European Director of Supply Chain Development & Value Stream a consequence of this? “Very much so. We have eleven European countries with 360 sup- ply chain professionals; The Netherlands being the largest with 60. Each country was already reporting on all of its supply-chain related activities to the European Supply Chain Vice President. We simply turned it into a matrix: staff report on the improvements in performance concerning internal and external clients up the hierarchical chain, whilst process performance indices such as


involved and give them sailing lessons and I used to be a hockey coach. I love to play the piano. I always wanted to play but put my career first, until one day, around my 35th


birthday, I heard someone say: Never put off till tomorrow what


you can do today. I called the music school from the car and have been playing classical music, pop and jazz – and loving it – ever since. I also like to play tennis occasionally and I go to the gym regularly. When it comes to holidays, we enjoy agritourism in Tuscany and camping in the French Alps.”


Culture: “I have a soft spot for music. If we are organising workshops for the team in the middle of nowhere, I’ll spend the evening before, picking music that best suits the atmosphere I want to create. Personally, I enjoy listening to Sting, Bløf, Mercedes Sosa and Anouk as well a lesser-known artists such as Ruben Hein and Marieke Jager. I hardly watch television, certainly not in long stints: afterwards, it always feels like you have eaten an entire jar of liquorice allsorts instead of dinner. I like to watch arthouse films at the Lux cinema in Nijmegen.”


Reading: “I don´t read as much as I would like to. I was captivated by Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith because of the way it probes into the oppression caused by the Stalinist regime. My most recent discovery is Jonathan Franzen, a great Ameri- can writer. I always enjoy reading Paolo Coelho, especially because of how his life experiences get you thinking about your own. And then there is Herman Koch, Nicci French…psychological thrillers that are great for taking on holiday.”


Professional inspiration: “I’m not the kind of person who devours business books. I find trade meetings and industry events much more inspiring. Take GS1 for example. I’ve attended regularly since 2005 and am a member of the commit- tee and co-chair for the Efficient Replenishment steering committee. We learn a lot from each other and there is always an opportunity to team up with others when you´ve been struggling on your own. That’s why I am a great supporter of bundling resources.


When feasible, I like to visit the AIM´s European meetings, every other month in Brussels, and occasionally the ECR Europe Supply Chain steering commit- tee meetings. I don´t tend to go to conferences very often, but the ECR ones are pretty good. I´d rather work towards results than listen to other people´s arguments. They never quite manage to encompass what really makes or breaks success. Similarly, I can´t think of any one person or company that I am inspired by, but I can think of an organisation: the Van Laarhoven Commission – coordination at a government level to bring parties together for the bundling of resources. Fantastic!”


Society at large: “I don’t really do very much to help society outside of work but I am interested in the environment in general, which is almost second nature having studied in Wageningen. I do find an outlet for that at work, by promoting sustainable transport.”


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SUPPLY CHAIN MOVEMENT, No. 1, Q1 2012


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