Interview with Robert L. Moser, Senior Vice President Global Key Accounts and Wolfram Heymann, Vice President Marketing Global Key Accounts
“Understanding local needs, but acting globally”
For many years Brenntag has had a successful Global Key Account program that is valued by suppliers and customers alike. Robert L. Moser, Senior Vice President - Global Accounts and Wolfram Heymann, Vice President - Marketing, Global Key Accounts talk about the advantages of Brenntag’s Global Key Account program, how the team is positioned and the outlook for the years ahead.
How are Brenntag’s Key Account teams positioned on a global scale?
Moser: Each of Brenntag’s four global regions has a Director of Key Accounts who is responsible for managing the activities with our Key Account customers. Each region has a team of Key Account Executives, Key Account Specialists, Business Managers and Key Account Administrators, who focus on our customers.
Out of this group we choose specific Key Account Executives to manage those customers that need and want ‘one face’ for Brenntag. Those ‘Global’ Key Account Executives manage the customer relationship on a worldwide scale, using their colleagues and teammates from each region in support of their activities.
My role is to offer support, guidance, strategic planning and coordination for these colleagues so that we function as a singular and cohesive unit. Our team truly lives our slogan ‘ConnectingChemistry’ across the globe for Brenntag and our customers.
Heymann: In this matrix organization, communication and coordination is very important. We have to ensure that our strategy and value proposition are aligned well. A global account expects an aligned approach. Our Global Account organization enables us to act as a global player. We have very strong and experienced regional key account teams and the global organization coordinates our business across the regions.
Additionally our objective is to gain new global accounts and we are the first point of contact for customers looking for a global approach.
What is the USP of Brenntag’s Global Key Account structure?
Moser: In one word: flexibility. Our Global Key Account structure allows Brenntag to combine the strength and coordination of a uniform decision on issues important to our customers counterbalanced with an appreciation of locally important cultural, governmental, and regulatory issues.
For example, our program allows us to set specific pricing processes for our customers, no matter their location. We bring a uniform approach to safety globally. We can bring a uniform management approach to KPIs important to the customer such as one standard for OTIF (On-time-in-full) scores. But at the same time, our structure allows us to understand and appreciate the local needs, nuances, and uniqueness to a customer’s operations so that we tailor our service and approach to what that customer needs locally.
We appreciate the local cultural aspects of our customer’s employees, we understand local import rules. We understand regulatory issues important to complying with all local laws. No other distributor has this combination of capabilities. Brenntag brings the best flexible approach. This is becoming more evident as we are finding that many customers are proactively coming to Brenntag asking to be made Global Key Accounts.
Heymann: The USP is the organization as such. We are very fast if a customer asks for a global program, because our procedures are implemented and well established. Bob mentioned already the flexibility. Every customer has a different strategy for a global program from extremely decentralize to totally centralize. Our organization can handle of these requests and everything in between. Each customer project is tailor-made.
What are the advantages for global customers in doing business with Brenntag?
Moser: The list is actually quite long, but more importantly, what is important to one customer, may not be important to another in the least. The Global Key Account team believes that insuring that we understand what is important to the customer is what we focus on as we support their business.
Now, clearly certain things are almost universally important to customers such as safety, assurance of supply, competitive and fair pricing, and having a Key Account Executives that understands their business and are available, attentive and responsive. They know they have an amazing resource in their Brenntag Key Account Executive to help them do their business more effectively and efficiently.
But we also appreciate that one customer may, for example, be critically focused on product quality and specifications, while another may be critically focused on recycling of used chemical containers in order to comply with local regulatory laws. We appreciate all of these requirements, and tailor our efforts to align with the customer’s needs and wishes.
But let’s also not forget some of the other things that bring great value to our customers. Brenntag’s membership in Together for Sustainability and in the UN Global Compact is unique among chemical distributors.
Let’s also not forget that financial stability is also a very important aspect for any supplier a customer may have. Brenntag’s financial results are obvious as we report them quarterly. This strength may sound good, but what many do not realize is that it allows us to do many things for our customers. Capital investment to add mixing and blending resources, purchase additional trucks, lease railcars, build or expand new warehouses, acquire additional distribution companies, etc.
Heymann: Our global footprint is a real advantage for our global accounts and of course a differentiator compared to competition. With more than 550 sites across the world we provide an unparalleled logistical service. The global accounts appreciate this – Brenntag is just around. Combined with the geographical strengths our product and service portfolio is the broadest in the market place.
Can you elaborate on a global project Brenntag has with a customer? What is different from local/regional projects?
Moser: One of our Global Key Account customers was quite concerned with assurance of supply for two key materials critical to the manufacture of most of their finished goods. They had been procuring the material in each country in which they operated but had little economies of scale with any producer, and were perpetually frustrated by product outages.
They approached Brenntag and asked if we could coordinate a global program for them on these two materials using our tank infrastructure and delivery capabilities. We developed a specific program to manage these materials, and today ship them to locations in all four global regions in tank trucks, IBCs and drums.
The customer is very pleased, Brenntag is thrilled with the business, and our manufacture/producer partners have a much better defined volume and run rate that they can depend upon by having Brenntag manage the program. This is truly a best in class example of ‘ConnectingChemistry’ along the entire supply chain and bringing value to every part of the connection.
Other examples are multiple customers that simply recognized that they could not adequately manage their entire portfolio of small and mid-sized chemical purchases. In some cases our customers purchase chemical items that number into the thousands of SKUs. This becomes extremely costly and time consuming to manage. Brenntag, with the largest portfolio of chemical items of any distributor globally, can many times step in and take over the management and procurement of all of these items.
Then using our warehouse infrastructure around the globe and providing just-in-time delivery, reduce the inventory on the customer’s floor thus releasing working capital for them, and greatly eliminating issues such as shelf life expirations or old and damaged raw materials.
Heymann: Another example is a project where we provide mixing and blending services across the world for one customer. We guarantee the same service level in multiple countries and locations.
Moser: What makes the above examples quite interesting is that we do this on a global basis. Locally and regionally Brenntag brings very similar service to its customers. Frankly other distributors can do this locally as well. But when a customer wants to have this uniform approach across multiple countries and continents, only Brenntag has the capabilities to do so.
What is the outlook for Global Key Account at Brenntag?
Heymann: Although we are already quite successful, we are working on optimizations all the time asking ourselves “Where are our weaknesses?”, “What can we do better?”, “Is the market changing?”. Our first objective is to create growth.
That means customer retention in order to protect our existing business on the one hand and launching new projects with existing customers on the other hand but at the same time. Of course we are looking for new global accounts as well. We identified some fields for improvement and we working hard on these topics.
Moser: I love the Global Key Account Program at Brenntag. I have been dedicated to it since 2000 when I inherited it as a North American ‘National Account’ program from several very excellent predecessors who had gotten the program running. Since then we have seen the program expand around the world and become truly global.
As mentioned earlier, we are having many, many customers approach us about being managed as a ‘Key Account’. As many industries and companies consolidate, their need to manage their business on a more centralized and coordinated basis increases. These companies need Brenntag as a partner. Thus, I am extremely positive about the Global Key Account program.