Henkel - July 2020 - Vegam

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Head of Digital Operations, Dr Nick Miesen discusses digital transformation of operations and the power of data


passion for digital technology, and it’s power to drive business optimisation and operation excellence, underpins much

of Dr Nick Miesen’s career. Miesen, who has more than 12 years’ experience in areas as diverse as aerospace, chemicals, supply chain and manufacturing, and fast-moving consumer goods, brought that experience to Henkel Adhesive Technologies at the start of this year. Since, he has been responsible for driving digital change in the organisation’s operations, supporting Smartfactory capabilities roll-out across the organisation and leading the company’s Global Digital Quality programme. As one would expect, Miesen is well versed in the latest digital technologies. He is also a vocal proponent of the importance of perfecting the operational basics that underpin those technologies. “Looking retrospectively at the concept of digital transformation, particularly four or five years ago when I was working at AkzoNobel, there was a fair amount of hype around digital. That’s over,” he says. “Companies are realising there’s a lot of tough J U LY 2 0 2 0

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work in adopting digital strategies and that there’s no silver bullet. If your

“ The foundation of any digital transformation is the people”

processes aren’t standardised and you don’t have the basics in place then worrying about the ‘sexy’ tech like AI or VR just won’t work - you’ll stay locked into the experimental phase.” Miesen elaborates on the ‘digital

— Dr Nick Miesen, Head of Digital Operations, Henkel Adhesive Technologies

backbone’. This refers to the infrastructure, strategies and processes in place that enable technology adoption to be maximised and bring operational excellence. “It’s really important to not be blinded by new

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Henkel Adhesives: Don’t Let A Little Fastener Become a Big Problem CLICK TO WATCH



innovations,” he states. “From my perspective, the foundation of any digital transformation is the people - I’d rather have 1,000 highly capable individuals trained in the basics than a couple of master coders. That strong foundation across the organisation lets you build out the entire decision making process, to properly analyse and problem solve and achieve the low hanging fruit first. There’s a bigger picture, of course, and a full strategy but only focusing on that just isn’t a sustainable approach to building operational excellence.” w w w.he nkel. com


In January this year Miesen joined

of that digital backbone I mentioned.

Henkel Adhesive Technologies as

We have a major programme finalising

Head of Digital Operations and was

to consolidate all SAP systems and let

tasked to build on the digital work

us house all our data in a single system.

before within operations. Michael

That’s a great starting point for digital,

Merget, currently Head of Operations

and not something I’ve seen in other

and Supply Chain, started a few years

companies I’ve worked with.

ago with the digital quality program.

“But, objectively, I saw very early on

The business, which is a leading solu-

that there was the potential to do much

tions provider for adhesives, sealants

more with the data,” he continues.

and functional coatings globally, was

“For example, there was a lot of data

already in a strong position digitally, he

around introducing new platforms and

says. “I found the business to be really

systems, and some utilisation of that

advanced, and quite visionary in terms

data. That’s really where I saw my role

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Nick Miesen Title: Head of Digital Operations Company: Henkel Industry: Adhesive Technologies Location: Amsterdam Red thread in Miesen’s career is data for business optimisation, from Operational Excellence (L6S) to Digital Transformation. He has over 12 years’ broad industry experience in aerospace, chemical and FMCG. Miesen worked in various roles, mainly in innovation or supply chain, at the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), Deloitte, AkzoNobel and Heineken. In 2016 he cofounded an Advanced Analytics startup, Jugaad. In the beginning of 2020 he started as Head of Digital Operation at Henkel Adhesives Technologies. He holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, a MSc in Physics & Astronomy and is certified (Master) Black Belt. w w w.he nkel. com

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coming in - to take advantage of and

“ The high-level strategy is to build digital operations”

build on the great work that has already been done, to bring in those low hanging fruits and build out the basics in the best way.” Since joining Henkel, Miesen has led the company’s Global Digital Quality programme, which aims to

— Dr Nick Miesen, Head of Digital Operations, Henkel Adhesive Technologies

predict and improve product quality; he has strategised, planned and deployed digital programmes and sought out opportunities to introduce new technologies to the business. “The high-level strategy is to build digital operations,” he says. “But, it’s important to be very clear on what that actually means. “First and foremost, it’s about the seamless flow of data both ways that’s the backbone,” he continues. “But within that are several smaller objectives. You need connectivity, for example. So, data needs to be transferred and centralised and then you need visualisation of all that data. That plays into the global digital quality function I am responsible for, as if you can have a global solution whereby we can track and visualise any variations in quality of material input and finished

goods. Having the whole organisation

using the data collected to model

globally able to visualise all that data

processes, from the simple to the

gives the ability to make better deci-

very complex. “You start with simple

sions and work towards operational

linear regressions, then move along

excellence, and create customer value.”

the level of complexity so that you

With this step in place, Miesen

can gain greater understanding by

explains that the focus shifts first

using statistical analysis,” he says.

towards being more predictive and

“The next step is to add intelligence

then bringing greater intelligence

to those statistics, which enables you

and algorithms into the process. The

to analyse, prove, predict and under-

former, he explains, revolves around

stand anything. w w w.he nkel. com


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“Those, for me, are the key steps in the sequence of building that digital

“ We move from simple data to advanced data analytics, and as we do it the supply chain becomes increasingly digitised for us, our suppliers and our customers”

supply chain. We move from simple data to advanced data analytics, and as we do it the supply chain becomes increasingly digitised for us, our suppliers and our customers. It’s quite conceptual but it’s a very clear and defined process.” While for Miesen the process is clear there are, he concedes, still challenges

— Dr Nick Miesen, Head of Digital Operations, Henkel Adhesive Technologies

to overcome in digitising a supply chain operation. “We still have data in different systems and formats. The biggest hurdle is getting that data into the w w w.he nkel. com


right place and in the right order. To a degree, the analytics and visualising of the data is the easy part. The big challenge is found in knowing which sets of data to address first, in trying to align the different ambitions and functions of the various stakeholders and standardising the operations process. If we do that, it’s really the biggest step to take forward.” Henkel’s size, too, poses challenges to operational excellence. Miesen and the team are responsible for optimising operations across 140 sites. “I don’t need to explain that, to implement a digital journey across so many facilities means you have to work smart. This is why we’re adopting a Smartfactory approach, which includes a manufacturing execution system (MES), a robust ERP layer and a host of other smart tools,” he explains. “It’s a really powerful technology to have available, particularly as we have a long-term strategy to move towards different levels of automation at our sites.” Of course, since Miesen joined the company in January, the world has seen significant disruption as a result J U LY 2 0 2 0


Year founded

€20bn+ Revenue in euros

52,000 Number of employees

w w w.he nkel. com


of the global COVID-19 pandemic. For businesses in every sector, the impact has been enormous, forcing a shift in both how existing operations are carried out and, in a broader context, in the implementation of new technology. Naturally, Henkel prioritised the safety and wellbeing of its employees while ensuring it could continue to operate and supply its customers. “The biggest change, like everyone else, was in facilitating a remote working environment,” says Miesen. “I think, collectively, we are all very proud of Henkel’s response to the crisis, particularly across such a broad and diverse business. It’s definitely brought several new technologies

“ Data is power and to have that database in place will enable the next step”

into the picture too, as well as refocused everyone’s views on using technology. For example, things like augmented reality innovations have come into focus with us deciding to use Microsoft’s HoloLens system, which will facilitate remote work-

— Dr Nick Miesen, Head of Digital Operations, Henkel Adhesive Technologies

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shops, remote audits and more. More broadly, I think this will change some of the more conservative thinking around technology and business.”

Disruption aside, Miesen is resolute

database in place will enable the next

in his commitment to Henkel’s digital

step - to the lab, to the testing facil-

journey. His immediate focus remains

ity and intelligent modelling. That’s

on building an innovative digital sup-

where you’ll see the real benefit of

ply chain while changing the way that

this journey, it will absolutely keep us

Henkel does business to be more

ahead of the curve.”

agile and lean. “If we build our processes to be better and use our data in the most effective way, this will feed into our product development processes and our understanding of exactly what the customer wants. Data is power and to have that w w w.he nkel. com