The Clorox Company maintains a dominant position in a number of consumer product categories such as cleaning and laundry products and is focused on accelerating growth. For Clorox, an important part of enabling growth is to continue attracting and retaining supply chain leaders.
“The demand for top supply chain talent continues to grow exponentially, and demand is far exceeding available supply,” says Mark Hersh, the company’s director of supply chain strategy. “We’re competing with a lot of organizations for the best people, so we need to keep developing our own people internally so we have that talent.”
The company’s internal focus on driving growth and increasing its market share even further also requires supply chain employees to have an expanded skillset. This focus is at the heart of the company’s 2020 Strategy, a major goal of which is expansion into new categories, channels and countries.
Clorox’s use of a value chain segmentation approach also requires a broad skillset. The approach tailors supply chain design and capabilities to meet the needs of individual products and markets. These needs include not only sourcing materials at a low cost, but also service, speed to market, greater agility and overall responsiveness.
“We need leaders in our supply chain who can think more broadly than in just one area,” Hersh says. “Our plan for growth requires us to bring in new business, create new products and make changes to our portfolio, and we need people who can do well in that environment. We’re creating supply chain ‘general managers’ who are people that have a strong understanding of key industry trends, understand the market place and can apply this external view into their daily work and thought processes.”
A Forum For Growth
Clorox in 2011 began to seriously address the challenge of developing supply chain talent when it developed its Supply Chain Strategy and Leadership Forum (SLF) program. The program, developed in partnership with Georgia Tech University, is offered annually to 40 senior supply chain managers on the university’s campus. Clorox and Georgia Tech jointly developed content for the program.
“Georgia Tech is a prominent university. Its supply chain curriculum was most recently ranked in the top five by Gartner for overall program and program scope categories across U.S. supply chain graduate programs at major universities,” Hersh says. “Clorox also has a supply chain hub with a high number of managers across multiple disciplines located in Atlanta; so it’s great that we have Georgia Tech as a local resource.”
The first class was offered in 2012. Classes are offered in two five-day periods, one in late January and the other in mid-March. Students work on assigned projects in teams between sessions. Although many supply chain employees are based in Atlanta, at least 20 percent of each class’ attendees are from international Clorox locations.
Clorox ultimately plans to train many more senior supply chain managers through the program, a process that is anticipated to take five years to complete. Two classes of nearly 100 people have already graduated from the program.
Although the SLF program is intended mainly for supply chain leaders, Clorox reserves seven or eight seats for sales, marketing, research and development, finance, IT and HR personnel. “This enables cross-functional learning and provides a forum to discuss concepts and issues through different lenses,” he adds.
Graduates of the program receive continuous education opportunities monthly in the form of webinars, articles and other Web-based content.
A “lite” version of the program will be offered to junior supply chain employees beginning in 2015. It will cover many of the same topics, only within a single-week structure, Hersh says.
The program’s curriculum focuses on four elements: strategic thinking, operational excellence, leadership development and applied knowledge. Within the strategic thinking area, students develop capabilities in areas used to develop supply chains including value chain segmentation, collaboration and network design.
The operational excellence area focuses on operating areas including inventory planning, manufacturing, process design, transportation and distribution center operations. In the leadership development section, employees develop skills including change management, critical thinking, effective communications with executives, influence and strategic persuasion and managing across boundaries.
The applied knowledge segment involves dividing each class into seven project teams to work on actual company projects. Each team has 16 weeks to complete a project and then present a proposal to Clorox’s Product Supply Executive Committee, which includes all of the product supply organization’s vice presidents and directors.
“The immediate application of learning is what makes this program unique,” Hersh says. “Students work on real-life business issues for Clorox applying the skills they learned in class. We take these recommendations and turn them into projects that drive value.”
The program’s goal is to be self-funded based on the value generated by the projects. One team’s recent suggestions enabled the company to put a more effective supply chain in place for one of its product lines, while another team worked on a route-to-market options to more effectively supply Clorox’s e-commerce channel, Hersh adds.