“Expect the unexpected”

Thanks to the opportunities on offer within Eastman Chemical, Peter Briggeman – having started his career at the bottom of the ladder – was able to work his way up to his current role as director of Supply Chain and Central Services EMEA. “I caught up on my education and training along the way but I think it’s my experience that is really invaluable to me.” Briggeman often refers to his ‘healthy obsession’ for supply chain. “I wake up every morning with a good feeling inside!”

Interview by Edith Kok

Known for inventing photographic roll film in 1888, George Eastman was largely responsible for the expansion of the Tennessee-based Kodak Eastman industrial corporation from 1920 onwards. In 1994, the chemical division split off as an independent company, Eastman Chemical. “It was the best thing that could have happened to us,” says Peter Briggeman. “At that time, the share price was sixty dollars. We’re now at over a hundred dollars per share, while Kodak’s is valued at around four…”

Eastman Chemical manufactures over 1,200 semi-finished products across its sixteen plants. PET was previously its largest bulk product, but that was divested at the beginning of this year. Peter Briggeman: “We were the market leader for many years, but there is a lot of over-capacity nowadays. In the words of our CEO, James Rogers, in his corporate message, we prefer to focus on value-creating items as a path to growth.”

Eastman Chemical currently employs over 10,000 people, generating a turnover of approximately 5.8 billion dollars. EMEA accounts for 17% of the turnover yet 26% of the profit. “That is because of the exchange rate and our product range,” explains Briggeman. Expressed in volume terms, this includes: fibres (for cigarette filters and fabrics) 16%; speciality plastics (as packaging materials, medical applications and displays) 20%; coatings, adhesives, special polymers and inks 34%; and performance chemicals and intermediates (building blocks for other chemical products) 30%.

Heading up the supply chain of EMEA’s three plants (Middelburg in The Netherlands, Workington in the UK, and one in Estonia) and the service activities too, Briggemans’ responsibilities include: customer contact, planning, purchasing, stocks, process improvements, logistics and IT. He is in charge of a budget of approximately 10 million dollars within a division with overall costs of around 250 million. He is based out of the company’s European headquarters in the Dutch city of Capelle aan den IJssel, and manages a team of 120 staff (65 in Capelle, 30 in Middelburg, and 25 in the Service Centre in Cologne), of which nine employees report directly to him. He himself reports to the supply chain director in Tennessee.

A ‘healthy obsession’…?

“And to think that I used to want to be a forest ranger! I first got involved in logistics during my military service. Ever since then, I can’t seem able to visit a supermarket without wondering where the bottles of juice were sourced from, how they manage shelf-lives, etc. While our supply chain might be somewhat less advanced than those in the fast moving consumer goods sector, we are pretty much leading the way within the chemical industry. We implemented Effective Supply Planning before BASF did, for example. On a more strategic level, I spend a lot of time thinking about how you can influence the future of the chemical industry through the supply chain. We are currently experiencing a shift towards the Middle East – because of the raw materials – and Asia, because that market is exhibiting the strongest growth. What should be done with the old regions? Should we always keep the specialties local and are we aiming for mega-production in Asia? Nowadays, more Chinese than North American students are completing degrees in English … it’s developments such as these that fascinate me. Unfortunately I don’t have all the answers…”

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