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Dirk Holbach on change management and digitalisation

Dirk Holbach, Corporate Senior Vice President Global Supply Chain discusses change management and driving digitalisation at Henkel.

Dirk Holbach
Manufacturing Global

Corporate Senior Vice President Global Supply Chain

Dirk Holbach, Corporate Senior Vice President Global Supply Chain has worked at Henkel for almost his entire working life. Having joined the company as Junior Manager of Corporate Purchasing in 1996, adopting several more roles before taking on his current position in July 2015. Holbach believes that the company continuing to be majority owned by the Henkel family for over 140 years sets the organisation apart from its competitors. 

“It provides us with a different strategy: the Henkel family has shown its continued commitment to the company, enabling us to operate with a long-term perspective. We have a strong company culture, and our shared values help us to create sustainable value for future generations,” he explains. “Our portfolio is diversified because we have two consumer goods businesses and one that’s focused on industrial markets. It’s certainly a unique mix.” 

Holbach understands that the journey to achieving digitalisation is a continuous one and not something that can be accomplished overnight. “I’m always looking at the business benefit for implementing technology because introducing digital for digital’s sake doesn’t make any sense. It’s important that new technology helps solve business challenges, such as ensuring that processes become faster, cheaper and more agile.” Holbach understands the challenge of change management and the process involved for a successful culture shift. “There’s a whole transformation of the business to consider and it’s vital that you give employees the time to understand and embrace new technologies and provide targeted support and training.”

Henkel has five core values: customers and consumers, financial performance, sustainability, people, and the foundation as a family business, “it’s become part of our DNA and is anchored into our mindset,” explains Holbach. 

In order to drive and grow an organisation Holbach emphasises the importance of having a team that is aligned to a common objective, which is why Henkel places considerable value on its recruitment drive, as well as ensuring it retains the talent it already has. “People are key. As part of our digital journey, I’ve built up a small, centralised regional team that works on a range of pilot use cases as well as the implementation across all our sites,” says Holbach. “Our recruitment strategy is to ensure we have a solid mix between data scientists and traditional engineers with an understanding of our businesses. We must ensure that all of Henkel’s employees have the opportunity to upskill themselves, by having access to digital learnings that will enable training on the capabilities that are relevant today and in the future.”

To develop this core value, a member of Holbach’s team, Sergey Afanasyev, International Digital Transformation Manager at Henkel, is focusing on connected workers and digital upskilling. “I like to encourage digital collaboration between the people using mobile technologies as well as helping build and develop the skills that employees need today because of the digital technologies already in place,” explains Afanasyev, who believes that new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and Big Data should be embraced to achieve a competitive advantage.“Technology itself is agnostic. It’s important to us that we only leverage technology that is true to our vision and strategy.”



“There’s a whole transformation of the business to consider and it’s vital that you give employees the time to understand and embrace new technologies and provide targeted support and training”

Dirk Holbach | Corporate Senior Vice President Global Supply Chain, Henkel

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