Ebbe Gubi’s agenda, Director Demand Supply Integration, Grundfos

Nine questions about the topics on the supply chain agenda of a supply chain professional.

By: Helen Armstrong  (Supply Chain Movement)

Grundfos is one of the world’s leading pump manufacturers with an annual production of more than 16 million units. Ebbe Gubi has been with the Danish company since 2004, first in Inbound Logistics, then Corporate Procurement and for the last three years in charge of implementing S&OP globally. It’s a challenge to impose structure onto entrepreneurial-minded people, but essential as the company expands, especially in new regions.

1. What is the strategy of the company: Operational excellence, product leadership or customer intimacy?

If you ask the management it is all three. We are trendsetters in new technology, putting immense focus on innovation. We aim to have the best products in the market. However, it’s through our partnership with our customers we often bring about our new developments. The company was founded in 1945 and from the beginning visitors were always invited into the owners’ home. This type of personal relationship with customers is still very important. Operational excellence is also on our agenda today. We want to finance our own growth, to stay independent, so we need cash flow and that comes from the supply chain. Our pumps aren’t cheap and we face more competition from manufacturers from Eastern Europe and China so our operational excellence is becoming a priority.

2. What is your responsibility regarding the supply chain?

Sales & Operations Planning. It is my task to ensure that capacity can support demand, from machines and materials to manpower. We have a rolling monthly forecast from sales to plan operations for the next 18 months. It is my job to orchestrate the implementation of our S&OP strategy across our 20 production facilities and 60 global sales companies. This was practically non-existing when I took the job three years ago. It is working now, but it takes time to integrate the process. My team and I often need to remind people of the processes. Traditionally this company was very entrepreneurial, and local-oriented, but because it has grown so much we have to be more structured.

3. What are the main business challenges that drive supply chain projects at the moment?

Firstly, the global market situation. We have a two-way challenge. On one hand we have huge growth in new markets like Russia, South Africa and somewhat in China: I guess we have around 20% growth in emerging markets. At the same time, in our traditional West European market, we face stagnation. How do we best serve both new growing markets and old stagnating ones at the same time?

In our old markets we need to reduce costs to be competitive and broaden our target markets. Here we are also focusing on project sales, such as public infrastructure.

Secondly, legislation is driving major changes in our product portfolio. For example, from January 2013, EU law will tighten regarding the efficiency of electrical pumps. Our company is very focused on sustainability but, even so, our pumps have to be even more energy efficient. We are already getting ready for that, making new pumps and selling old stock. Wholesalers can still sell after the deadline but we will not be able to supply them any longer. It’s a nightmare at the moment!

Thirdly, Grundfos set its own mission that we will never exceed our CO2 emission of 2008. However, we are growing at 9-10% per year so that has become a supply chain challenge too.

4. What supply chain challenges keep you awake at night?

Not one in particular but I often find myself thinking about how to serve the old and new markets at the same time, with an ever growing portfolio. Nothing is fixed, everything is changing. The complexity is just growing.

But I have found that jogging is a good way of both getting my head around these challenges and also making sure I sleep better at night.

5. What do you do about these challenges?

Luckily I’m not alone. The company employs 20,000 people and I have a good team and good colleagues around me. But, of course I am expected to set the direction for how to get there.

I try to map out the challenges and determine which are interlinked and which are independent. And then I spar with my team, my boss, my colleagues, consultants, etc. And try to find relevant books or articles that address those, or similar, issues.

Over the last three years, we’ve had an ongoing project for Sales & Operations Planning, adapting new technology, new processes and new roles as we go along.

6. Who do you like to meet for exchange of knowledge?

I like to meet peers who have similar jobs, for example at conferences. We are also in a research project called Value Chain 2020 run by IMD in Switzerland.  We meet up to four times per year and it brings together people from 10 or 12 multinationals as well as academics. It is a good mix and we inspire each other. This is perfect for me.

7. Which book has inspired the most and why?

When I took on this job, I read ‘Demand Management Best Practises’ by Colleen Crum.  The message comes across as being very simple – very clear and logical – but it’s very difficult to implement! Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones is similar. It sounds so simple!

8. Where do you expect to be professionally in five years?

Most likely working within supply chain, and for a global company. I have a very cross- functional position and I’m in touch with people around the globe, which I enjoy very much. However, I am also ambitious and when this position has matured, in two or three years’ time, I’m not sure I’ll be the right person anymore. It will then probably need someone more operational.  However, it’s given me the taste for this kind of major-change project and I believe our strategy is working which gives me a good feeling.

9. What do you use for an agenda?

I have a red notebook in which I write down important things but then I also use a Blackberry and mini laptop.