Building a Strong Global Supply Chain for Business Success

Building a Strong Global Supply Chain for Business Success

Ceylan Uensal discusses the key areas of transformation that are building Evonik’s strong global supply chain and contributing to its success

Change does not happen overnight.

In a global business, it takes time, systems and reliable, professional partners.

Above all, though, it takes people: hard-working, focused people who identify with the business and have the vision to take it to the next level.

At Evonik, a global speciality chemicals company, a supply chain transformation journey is under way. It is a multi-year, company-wide programme aiming to run a fully integrated and customer-centric supply chain system, creating significant value for both Evonik and its customers.

This corporate programme provides guidance and support to Evonik's three chemical Divisions, consisting of 15 different Business Lines.

Since the start of the programme in 2020 a strong foundation was built with the development of a roadmap focussing on implementing strategic projects in the field of Distribution, Transportation, Customer Service and End-to-End Planning, digital initiatives and Business Line-specific optimisation projects.

Among those charged with the task of making the transformation smooth and effective is Ceylan Uensal, VP Global Head of Supply Chain, Business Line Catalysts.

She gets support here from the corporate and divisional experts team, including Tobias Mahr, responsible as Head of End-to-End Planning for Smart Materials for the implementation of IBP at Evonik Smart Material Division, and Christof Albert,  responsible as Head of Business Process and Data Quality Management for Smart Materials Supply Chain for the implementation of business processes at the Division.

Ceylan’s journey to Evonik

Ceylan runs the global supply chain team with over 70 team members in Asia, Europe, North and South America, including the demand and supply balancing process, production and inventory planning and customer service – all the distribution and logistics topics and material sourcing.

She has a background as a chemical engineer and has an MBA.

After 12 years with Merck Group, working in senior HR roles, as a product manager and internal consultant, Ceylan moved to Evonik in 2013 and was globally responsible for strategic HR strategy and measures for two business lines. 

Looking for further challenges, she switched to the Supply Chain function, which she describes as a vibrant and at the same time also complex function. 

“I transformed to a strategic role in the Smart Materials Supply Chain team and was responsible for the strategy, sustainability and organisational development of our overall supply chain. I am a strong believer that Supply Chain is the backbone of our company.” 

Ceylan was Head of Supply Chain Strategy & Integration for four years, then switched to having global operational responsibility for the Supply Chain Management of the Business Line Catalysts. 

“I was very excited to take over the role in July 2023, giving me the opportunity to shape and develop the global supply chain organisation and business.” 

Challenges, achievements and a great team

She says: “The best thing about my job is the people. I have to say I am blessed with a great and international team.”

That also brings challenges, though.

Ceylan says: “I have a global supply chain responsibility with roughly 70 people. They are around the globe and we are coming from very diverse backgrounds.

“We had three legacy entities coming together in the business line, all of them bringing their own way of doing the supply chain, with different levels of maturity in processes and tools and different ways of organisation.”

She adds: “And now my job is to form one global supply chain team for the business line Catalysts. My vision is that our SCM team is running and synchronising the end-to-end process together with all interfaces to ensure highest reliability, customer fulfilment in an efficient way, with a positive NWC contribution.

“Therefore of course we need to have standardised processes, KPIs, business rules and, based on a joint mindset, be steering our supply chain together, so that we contribute to the business targets and goals. ”

Ceylan says she relies on expert colleagues like Christof and Tobias to “support me in building up these essential parts, like end-to-end planning and making SAP the backbone of what we are doing later in the supply chain”.

The early signs are good

In the first eight months of her current role, Ceylan is already seeing progress, adding: “What I'm very proud of is that I really set up a global structure with my team where we have constant exchange now and where we have a joint target and vision to work for.”

When it comes to Evonik’s supply chain transformation roadmap, much rests on the business line supply chain teams and also on Ceylan and her team.

She says: “Of course this is a major change in the way my team is working. Last year with the support of Tobias Mahr’s team we introduced IBP Demand and will continue with the other IBP modules.

“And in parallel we migrated together with Christof’s team five of our Catalysts site on SAP. My team is also supporting the corporate roadmap to optimise the distribution, transportation and customer service set-up. 

“Although this is all a huge stretch for all, it is necessary to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our Supply Chain and reach a higher maturity level.

Ceylan says: “For me the key success factor is to empower my people and foster them in building up the necessary competencies and give them the confidence to take over responsibilities.”

What is true for the business line’s supply chain is also true for the other business line supply chains.

“During the last five years the company decided to strengthen its function as one of the major contributors to NWC and for running an efficient and effective value chain for the business.” 

Three areas of focus

Ceylan says there needed to be a clear structure, with three major areas of focus.

The first is to establish an integrated end-to-end planning process, interlinking the forecast-to-produce process with the order-to-cash process.

She adds: “This is where Tobias comes in, as one of Evonik’s key experts when it comes to Integrated Business Planning (IBP) implementation and usage. He and his team have been a great support in not only rolling out the tool but really developing an end-to-end understanding.”

But the digital support is only one aspect. It needs to be embedded into a smoothly running S&OP process in which all relevant parties are contributing and driving towards the optimal business result. 

“And that’s exactly what we are right now doing, we are recharging our S&OP planning process,” says Ceylan.

The second area is to establish transparency.

“Without having the full insights through our operation processes we cannot steer according to KPIs or identify improvements needed in our execution. Also transparency creates a better understanding and is the basis for better decision making and higher quality discussions.

“Therefore, it was a major cornerstone to migrate five of our sites also into SAP.”

Christoph’s team was leading this effort and provided SAP and process competencies but also training and change management support. 

The third area is to establish an efficient distribution network.

Ceylan says: “From a business perspective it is important that we have optimal lead times to our customers with a high delivery performance.

“Therefore, we have reviewed our current step-up of warehouses and are now about to consolidate and optimise those. Also with the support of the corporate and divisional programme, we now increase our track and trace visibility to provide more on time updates about customer deliveries.”

What are the targets?

In terms of targets, the most important one is to build a strong and competent team, because “coming from three different legacies, the structures are different, the competency level is different”.

Tools and processes are important and a basis for work, but the most important are the people with their passion for the business and the customers. 

Ceylan says: “Therefore, it is my duty as their manager to provide them with the best conditions, guidance and support so that my team can deliver their best performance.”

“We are now defining together how the right structure and roles shall be and what are the necessary capabilities everyone needs.

“Also, it is important we share our knowledge and best-practices, but also our problems and failures with each other to learn from it. 

“In the end everyone has an important part in the value chain, either as Supply planner, or Stable driver or Customer Service Representative.”

Ceylan adds: “We strive for execution excellence, which means that everyone is clear about their responsibilities and proactively executes its part of the value chain, always having a look out for the interfaces before and after to ensure that all runs smoothly.

“What we want is to have sophisticated End-to-End planning based on the demand, with an optimal production plan provided, which enables the business to have the right level of product availability and high level of delivery performance at lowest possible costs and inventory levels.”

The roadmap is making a positive difference

Ceylan says the corporate-wide Supply Chain roadmap has had an impact on the “whole company”, adding: “By introducing IBP demand planning for all business, now Evonik has one way to forecast which is the basis for all of our supply chain planning.

“Before, every business claimed to be very different and not comparable. But with clear business rules and valuable support by the experts, forecasting is getting more and more into the blood of everyone and we see increasing benefits – for example, higher product availability, optimal utilisation and raw material planning and cost control.”

Ceylan adds: “Also for my business line it is very important to have a reliable forecast. Although our business has a high variety of products and customer base spread across the globe, we are now in ongoing exchange with the sales team to improve the demand planning process. 

“Also in recent years the important contribution of the Supply Chain function to the Net Working Capital has become clear.

“My business line relies on my team and me to set and steer the optimal levels of inventory, so that we can ensure on the one hand the necessary product availability but on the other hand to not hold too much inventory.”

All of this has given the supply chain team a boost: “I would say during the last years the importance of the supply chain role itself has clearly grown, while the confidence in this role for me and my colleagues has grown with this.”

Embedding sustainability into the supply chain

As with all businesses, big and small, sustainability is key.

“Evonik is very determined regarding sustainability. We offer our Next Gen product portfolio to our customers, supporting them in reducing their carbon footprint by using those products as their raw materials.

But the question is, ‘what can the Supply Chain do regarding sustainability?’

Ceylan says: “This is a topic close to my heart because it is not only enough to fulfil customer requirements, but we need to do it in a responsible way. Therefore, the supply chain needs to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of Evonik.”

She adds: “Our impact is in reducing Scope 3 emissions coming from the raw materials or transportation. Upstream, we work closely with our suppliers to find alternative raw materials with a lower carbon footprint and downstream we are looking for alternative transportation modes, fuels or technologies.

“So we can use for instance HVO as an alternative fuel or e-trucks or maybe also ammonia-based ocean carriers.

“Also circularity is an important contributor. By using reusable packaging, for instance pallets, we can not only reduce emissions but also waste. “

A considered journey to AI integration

Integrating AI into the processes is more of a long-term vision, according to Tobias.

He says: “We started our journey to implement integrated business planning from SAP. I always promote that we first need to fix the basics, to have a good foundation, a good ERP system to focus on the standard functionalities of IBP before we start to use such lighthouse topics as AI and supply chain control tower.

“Sometimes it's not a good idea to make the second step before you make the first step.”

Tobias adds: “We started I think four years ago to roll out IBP for Demand as the first module of the integrated business planning to ensure that we have a reliable forecast with an appropriate forecast accuracy, because for all subsequent planning processes like production planning and inventory planning, you need a good input.

“IBP is a complex solution that requires a deep understanding of the business processes as well as the data that have to be integrated.

“Therefore we decided to take some time in advance of the implementation and spent nine months evaluating the business requirements towards an IBP for Response and Supply tool implementation.”

Key partner: Camelot

With global businesses, partners play a critical role. Among those partners at Evonik are Camelot Management Consultants and Leschaco & Logward.

Ceylan says: “We are now working with Camelot in regards to the IBP Response and Supply implementation.

“In my previous work I already had some interactions and projects with Camelot. We worked together on defining competitive lead times and defining the right replenishment strategies for that. “

Tobias says: “When we selected an implementation partner, what convinced Evonik was the change management concept that was presented by Camelot.

“We are aware of the fact that the IBP for response and supply implementation will be a huge mindset change. People are currently used to plan production for single plants, but in future we will use IBP for Response & Supply for network planning, network optimisation.

“It's my experience over past projects to include people from the beginning, to have a good change management concept, a good training concept and a good support concept afterwards.

“Camelot brings not only that part, but also broad experience when it comes to the complex solution of IBP. I'm happy that we found Camelot as an implementation partner for this project, for this journey.”

Key partner: Leschaco & Logward

Christof says Leschaco & Logward has been a long-standing partner, which has “taken over more responsibility in our transportation area.

“So they are now our new lead logistics provider for the US region.” 

He says “many more sites” have come to Evonik via multiple mergers, meaning Evonik’s SAP system needed to be laid out before L&L’s services could be used.

“We are talking about shared warehouses, another logistics perspective and then the shared shipments for example, and adopting routes in the system.

“Then we link to L&L systems via our ERP systems. So again, we need to have an exact database here. The data accuracy must be very high and reliable.

“It means L&L takes over more responsibilities than ever before. We will go to other regions and countries with that extended service, building on the success here already from L&L.”

What will happen next?

Looking forward Ceylan is very sure that the journey she is on with her team will be further successful and that they will reach the planning and execution excellence they are striving for and contribute with this to the business success. 

Also the corporate wide Supply Chain project will continue and further shape the distribution and transportation landscape of Evonik. 

She adds: “My target for this year is to complete the first steps of the transformation of the supply chain of my team.

“And the first thing is really to strengthen our whole end-to-end capabilities. Really recharging and re-engineering our sales and operational planning process and also utilising IBP.”


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