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logo akzonobelAkzo Nobel Base Chemicals works in highly competitive markets with constant pressure on prices. Base Chemicals is selling chlor-alkaline products and water treatment chemicals to third parties. Its success depends on meeting and exceeding customers' expectations of value-for-money products while responding to societies' expectations with safe and sustainable ways of operating.

Simplicity: the 'base' for success

Akzo Nobel confronts the challenges of its market with a culture of continuous improvement. Looking for new ways to increase competitiveness and reduce business costs, the company focused onakzo zeehonden its business structure and processes and consulted Voorne Partners for advice on how to operate more simply and more cost-effectively.

Voorne's assessment of problems and potential solutions led to a preliminary suggestion: the company should implement an SBE (Single Business Entity), which would handle all commercial and financial activities on a Europe-wide basis; simpler, more efficient and more cost-effective. Akzo Nobel asked Voorne Partners to conduct a feasibility study. The business case was quantified and organised for presentation and proved promising enough for Akzo Nobel to give the go-ahead.

A three-fold challenge

At this time, Akzo Nobel was also carrying out a take-over that would bring a German-based operation into the SBE project, and was about to implement a new Europe-wide SAP system. In response to the complexities of this three-fold challenge, Akzo Nobel set up a European project.

On the advice of Voorne Partners, the Akzo Nobel project team had a multi-functional and multi-level structure. Multi-functional because the three initiatives would impact almost all the company's functions, from marketing, sales, purchasing, production, warehousing and logistics to finance and reporting. To ensure that the involvement of the Akzo Nobel organisation was focused at the right level in terms of scope and detail the project organisation structure had multiple levels.

Phased approach

Voorne Partners knew from experience 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 the Voorne Partners 'Delta Methodology®'

This methodology covers a total of six 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 confidence.

Focus on change management

The first phase after the feasibility study is the creation of a blueprint. Like the blueprint for a building it shows the design of an end product and it integrates organisation, business processes and IT, necessary to support and complete the overall solution. With change approaching on three fronts, Voorne Partners put the focus on change management. Some changes only required training in a new system, others fundamentally changed peoples job content and yet others involved aspects of company culture and individual perception. Voorne Partners provided the necessary methodology to allow Akzo Nobel management to handle and manage those changes. The methodology allows all changes to be recognised and enables tailor made plans to address the changes. Generating the plans and delivering their objectives remained a line-management responsibility. A big responsibility in this case, that was made easier by Voorne Partners advice, based on years of experience with complicated changes.

As Berthold Raadsen, Project Manager of Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals said: "This new structure is part of our continuous effort to improve our customer service and our cost position. The knowledge and expertise of Voorne Partners was crucial to deliver this project".

Today, Akzo Nobel Base Chemicals has an operational SBE that gives it a low cost platform for future business success. SAP is operational throughout Europe and the German acquisition has been successfully integrated. For now it's back to basics for Base Chemicals, but as always with a sharp eye on the look-out for potential improvements.

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.