“Our Lean Office approach makes us unique”

In the twenty years that Marnix Tax has worked at Sara Lee, he has been a part of intensive corporate integration as well as witness to the enterprise´s latest plans for Douwe Egberts. “We have made such widespread and significant improvements over the years that we have established firm foundations for the supply chain on which to build an autonomous coffee and tea division.” There is no doubt in this European Director of Supply Chain Development & Value Stream’s mind that the hard work has paid off.

Interview by Edith Kok

Established in 1939, Consolidated Food Corporation from Chicago changed its name to that of its most popular brand in 1985: Sara Lee. The Sara Lee/DE brand had been around since the previous year, and in 1987 the multinational took over Akzo´s body care and household products, which Akzo itself had acquired from Kortman Intradal. In 2009, Sara Lee sold this division to Unilever. Sara Lee now employs some 20,000 people and has a turnover of nine billion dollars.

In The Netherlands, Sara Lee is best known for its Douwe Egberts, Senseo and Pickwick brands. At the beginning of 2011, the company announced that it hoped to give the coffee and tea division autonomy in 2012, led by former Numico top man Jan Bennink. The turnover from this division amounts to approximately 37% of the company´s total turnover. Marnix Tax is based out of Sara Lee’s head office for Europe and western Asia in Utrecht, The Netherlands. He is directly responsible for his own corporate team of 20.

When were you first faced with integration?

“In 1998. We were struggling to make the most of our size and scale. Douwe Egberts, Intradal…it was a mixed bag of businesses whilst what we needed were chain-wide, uniform work processes. From ’98 onwards, my team developed the blueprints for these in terms of aligning the purchasing processes, and subsequently put in the groundwork for our decision to switch to SAP. It was a mammoth and constructive task yet strangely unsatisfying, since there was no sense of it having a direct impact on performance.

That’s why I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to become 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.”

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