“We’re an almost invisible force that makes it happen.”

Nike, the world’s leading designer, marketer and seller of athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services, sets the bar as high as the sporting superstars who endorse its products. With the likes of Ronaldo, Iniesta, Rooney and Torres, adorning the European head office walls in Hilversum, the Netherlands, you can’t help but be inspired and energised. The campus radiates sport, fitness and well being, enhanced by the full size athletic track and other sporting facilities for the more than 1500 people who work here.

NIKE, Inc. was founded in 1964 on the handshake of athletics coach Bill Bowerman and student Philip Knight who together distributed Tiger running shoes. The company was first called Blue Ribbon Sports. In 1972, it was renamed Nike after the Greek goddess for victory. Today Nike is a more than $24 billion dollar global company, employing approximately 44,000 people worldwide, with the pledge to bring inspiration and innovation to athletes (read everyone) everywhere. Its commitment to innovation is what makes it distinct. Steve Hochman is responsible for the NIKE Brand’s supply chain planning in Europe. His team is responsible for making sure the right product is in the right place at the right time.

Interview conducted by Oskar Verkamman , written by Helen Armstrong

What’s your function in the organisation?

I lead the NIKE Brand supply chain planning for all of Europe The NIKE Brand has six geographies, Western Europe, Central & Eastern Europe, Japan, Greater China, North America and Emerging Markets.

My role covers demand planning (forecasting) and buying inventory up to the point of an order being placed and flowing into distribution centre – where fulfilment takes over. A central organisation in HQ in Beaverton, USA, is constantly liaising with our factory partners all over the world.  Our teams have a working global rhythm that allows us to adapt dynamically to demand changes and align capacities in the factories with consumer needs across many thousands of SKUs per season. I have about 100 people within my extended team – comprising 38 nationalities. We have one large European distribution centre, in Laakdal Belgium, supported by two satellite DCs in Russia and Turkey to serve Eastern and Central Europe.

How do you manage those thousands of SKUs?

Across the company, we bring our assortments together into the NIKE Brand’s key categories, which include football, women’s training, athletic training, sportswear, basketball and running.  From sales to merchandising, product development to finance -everyone is category focused because that is how our consumer shops. The general managers are the hub of these category organizations, and the supply chain serves all these categories. If you are head of football for example, you have a virtual team, and a representative from the supply chain is in the team. Someone from my demand planning team will sit in the staff meeting of GM football Europe to enable aligned accurate forecasts and smart buys.

  • Oskar Verkamman is Managing Partner of Inspired-Search

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