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akzonobelWhen Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals approached Voorne Partners it was because management was determined to implement change to improve competitiveness. That meant greater focus on the essentials: meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations of value for money products, a reputation for reliable deliveries and safe, sustainable ways of operating. All this in a highly competitive market with constant pressure on prices. The conclusion? They needed to enhance core activities by shedding those that didn’t make maximum use of their specific expertise.

Base Chemicals’ basic activity is selling chlor-alkaline products, salt bulk products, energy and water treatment chemicals to other Base Chemical plants and to external customers. Its sites generally comprise several inter-related plants dealing with raw material supply, intermediates or energy. Site services (maintenance stores, maintenance, site infrastructure, finance, HR etc.) were centralised in separately managed service units.Akzo back to base

Strategic solution

Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals had carried out a strategic review which concluded that the areas of general maintenance and maintenance stores were non-core activities and should be outsourced. A contractor to take over these activities was identified. So the site service units would be closed and their residual activities integrated into each site’s dominant customer. Recognising the complexities involved in implementing these decisions, Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals asked Voorne Partners to asses the impact on Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals’ processes, organisation and systems of the outsourcing and the closures, and then to execute the overall programme of change.

A small but complicated puzzle

In an already complex picture there was a further complicating factor. Outsourcing the maintenance activities and closing the service units would not only impact all areas of activity within Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals but also within the contractor’s organisation. So Voorne Partners had to ensure that the ongoing maintenance activities of both parties ran smoothly during the transition and that the scene was set to achieve even greater efficiency after the change.

Project Management

On the advice of Voorne Partners, a multi-functional project team was installed at each of the locations. There was also a small core team serving all the sites to ensure that experience and best practice were shared. In addition, a separate project team involving senior staff from the contractor was set up to provide first hand expertise as the maintenance activities were outsourced to them.

Phased approach

From experience Voorne Partners knew that success in any project as complex and wide ranging as this one demands not only the right structure but also well defined and well designed roles and responsibilities. Its answer was a phased approach based on Voorne Partners’ ‘Delta Methodology®’ This methodology covers all project phases, including the feasibility study. At each stage there are clear deliverables. They not only provide input for the next phase but also allow senior management the opportunity for evaluation so that the go-ahead for the next phase can be given on a basis of known facts.

Keep it simple

When two organisations are jointly managing a single process there are clear pitfalls, notably complexity and work duplication. The answer? Contracts and service level agreements that set and control boundary conditions and performance indicators. And as both companies agreed, the overall message that came out of the operation was ‘keep it simple – focus on the essentials ’. In other words: Back to the Base.

As Juergen Baune, Executive Vice President Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals, responsible for Manufacturing & Technology Services said: “Voorne Partners has again delivered a very complex project on time, in scope and on budget. The key to that success was that they kept the focus on the essentials. They made the relation with our contractor very transparent”

Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals is an important player for chlor-alkali products and water treatment chemicals with production facilities in the Netherlands (Delfzijl, Hengelo and Rotterdam), Sweden (Bohus and Skoghall) and in Germany (Bitterfeld and Ibbenbüren). Base Chemicals' head-office is located in Amersfoort.