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“Planners have been asked to switch to standard schedules with weekly planning activities.”

hard work getting everyone used to the new routine. One essen- tial element in doing so involved monitoring to spot any deviations from the activity schedule, then identifying the root causes and eliminating them. Ultimately, everyone is positive as long as things go smoothly, which means we can focus on delivering added value instead of focusing on the difficulties. Having said that, it is impossible to monitor everyone, all of the time. That involves too much bureaucracy and often creates resistance. However, I am planning on repeating the monitoring process now and again. Don´t worry though, I’ll still allow staff enough time to take their tea and coffee breaks!”

demand forecast accuracy, perfect order ratios, etc, are reported through the functional reporting line. Each process has an inter- national business process owner who manages a network of coun- try-specific business process owners who in turn, and collectively, report to me. More specifically, this relates to processes like supply chain planning, order to cash, purchase to pay, make to demand, and logistics. Whilst my colleague in the hierarchical reporting structure focusses on what the countries are doing, I focus on how they are doing it. We both report into the Senior Vice President of Operations.”

What is currently your biggest challenge?

“Speeding up how quickly we can get goods through the chain. After the coffee has been picked, it takes 187 days to get it into the shops, and that’s far too long. We have examined everything: trans- port times, inventory, the stages needed for processing. Right now, I’m not in a position to say how many days we can reduce it down to. We know that the major gains can be made in our inventory, we need to create more flow. We work to the Lean principle of ‘EPEC’: we make every product, every cycle. We have even transferred these principles to the office which is particularly interesting: Lean demand planning. In doing this, we have brought the sales and the production planning down from a one-month to a one-week cycle. Demand planning, in particular, was not in sync with production. If it is even one day too late, production will literally be sitting and waiting for it. All of these activities have now been synchronised.”


How unique is it to adopt Lean principles in the office? “Very. I was giving a presentation on the topic and the audience certainly seemed very interested. A factory is much more receptive to Lean principles because its working with standard procedure is accepted, but people working in office environments are gen- erally highly educated and, on the whole, much less enthusiastic about the idea. Perhaps it’s better suited to Japanese culture than the culture here in Europe. Each of our countries is actively imple- menting Lean principles and we have asked our people to let go of local methods. Planners have been asked to switch to standard schedules with weekly planning activities, for example. It has been

Have you booked demonstrable results? “We’ve been working to Lean Office principles for two years now. Between 2008 and 2010, our inventory level went from 34 to 40 to 32 days; the 40 day mark was when we were working to the ‘every product, every cycle’ principles, and it is normal in such cases for the length of time to rise temporarily. During the same period, the service level also improved, going up from 97.4 to 98.6 and then up to 98.9 per cent. In our sector, 97.4 is dreadful. Customers notice it because items are out of stock, which is not the case at 98.9%.”

Now the company’s working on making Douwe Egberts autono- mous again… “We haven´t been able to leverage as much scale for the business as we had hoped, which means we are going to have to man- age Douwe Egberts differently from now on: quicker responses, greater focus on fewer things, a simpler structure, etc. This is also why I’m going to be spending the next two years leading a project team for the reorganisation of the processes, structure and systems in the areas of production, supply chain and purchasing. In other words, we are going to be redesigning, again, but we will not be throwing away everything we’ve achieved so far. More importantly, we have made so many changes over the past few years, and cre- ated such firm foundations for our supply chain, that we can be confident in our success.”

It still feels like back to square one. “Buying and selling parts of a business does indeed seem like a waste of resources. Moreover, people tend to become emotion- ally attached to a business and its way of doing things, which is something we don’t always appreciate sufficiently. However, it does come with a number of advantages. Every integration leaves a footprint behind, including a lot of good things which allow the business that remains, or becomes autonomous, to grow a bit more. Someone recently pointed out to me how many differ- ent companies have owned the Zendium brand, which is very close to my heart because of the time I spent at the production facility in Amersfoort: first Akzo Consumer Products, then Kort- man Intradal, Sara Lee and now Unilever. And at that moment, I realised that it’s not so different from life: you move house, you get a new job…it’s a lot like the circle of life!”


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