Henkel’s Dirk Holbach: “Success depends to a large extent on people”

On September 1 Henkel purchased the laundry and home care company, The Sun Products Corporation, in the USA, an acquisition that took it to second position in the North American laundry care market. With a price tag of around 3.2 billion euros this is the second-largest acquisition in Henkel’s history. The deal is in line with the German company’s four strategic priorities: to outperform the competition as a globalized company, with simplified operations and a highly inspired team. Playing a major role in the integration of the new company will be Dirk Holbach, Corporate Senior Vice President & CSCO Laundry & Home Care. For several years he and his team have been driving operational excellence in the supply chain by making processes faster and more standardized, focusing on cost-efficiency as well as end-toend optimization. We met him at the new global supply chain office in Amsterdam where he is now located.

By Helen Armstrong, Martijn Lofvers and Edwin Tuyn

Henkel, the German-based global consumer goods and technology company founded in 1876 and well-known for its brands such as Persil, Loctite and Schwarzkopf, has undergone continuous change over the last years. Having firstly streamlined its portfolio and footprint, it recently centralised supply chain operations in Amsterdam.  This along with an integrated IT platform will allow it to further standardize and accelerate business processes.  Its three business units – Laundry and Home Care, Adhesive Technologies and Beauty Care – together employ around 50,000 people from 120 countries and generated sales of more than 18 billion euro in fiscal 2015. The diverse employee base is purposefully gathered to give the company a competitive advantage as it leverages its strengths in mature markets and further expands in emerging markets.

What is your responsibility?

“I am head of end-to-end supply chain for our Laundry and Home Care business unit which has net sales of more than 5 billion euro. The acquisition of Sun Products will take this towards 7 billion Euro. Each business unit has a similar supply chain operation and each unit has its own Executive Committee of which the supply chain head is a member. I have end-to-end responsibility from net demand planning, manufacturing and procurement of materials to delivery to customers. We also have six regional hubs, as well as 31 factories and more than 70 warehouses within my business unit.”

Why centralise global supply chain operations in Amsterdam?

“With the centralisation of our global supply chain activities we foster the harmonization of processes across the entire company. This will lead to higher process standardisation, improved customer service levels and enhanced efficiency.  Logistically it is very well located. We are 10-12 minutes from Schiphol which is one of the best airports in Europe for global connections.
Also, Amsterdam is a hub for many supply chain companies so you find talent here. But we also search for people globally and Amsterdam is an attractive location to move to. Our company headquarters in Dusseldorf is just a couple of hours away which is another advantage.
Last, but not least, the local environment provides the necessary infrastructure when setting up a business. We now run global operations for all three business units out of Amsterdam. The big advantage of a central office is that it fosters communication between the departments. A lot of people are travelling so we have shared desk space which not only is more efficient, it creates movement. We have seen a significant increase in interaction between the three supply chains and our purchasing colleagues based on a joined agenda.”

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Read the full article in Supply Chain Movement 23 | Q4 – 2016

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