Cleaning up in more ways than one

Posted on 10 Jul 2009 by The Manufacturer

JohnsonDiversey, global manufacturer of cleaning and hygiene products, says its corporate ambition is to “protect lives, preserve the earth and transform our industry” – three very commendable yet very challenging objectives. TM looks into whether the company walks the way it talks.

The UK operation of global cleaning and hygiene products manufacturer JohnsonDiversey, one of four separate companies controlled by the Johnson family of Racine in the USA, is proving to be something of a trailblazer in its industry. The company is the largest cleaning and hygiene products supplier in Europe and is one of the leading experts in sustainable and superior performance.

With 700 staff, a UK turnover of around £115m and manufacturing commercial cleaning and hygiene products used by such prestigious customers as InBev, Diageo, GSK, the NHS, Rentokil and Tesco, you might not necessarily expect JohnsonDiversey to be leading the way in environmental transformation. But on the contrary – the company is one of only 17 businesses worldwide signed up to the Worldwide Wildlife Fund Climate Savers programme, which aims to mobilise companies to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But this is no small nod to CSR, or a tickbox exercise to satisfy shareholders – globally, the company has committed an investment of no less than $19m in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by around eight per cent, or 89,000 tonnes, between 2003 and 2013.

Such a firm commitment to the programme is underscored by JohnsonDiversey’s approach to supporting its customers’ environmental awareness. Products such as Aquacheck, for example – where JohnsonDiversey helps its customers to understand their water usage, in addition to making recommendations for improving water efficiency – have been a massive success within the food and beverage industry. Also successful is a product used in a similar way which helps customers optimise their use of caustic soda; as well as Securecheck, which examines hygiene management for plant cleaning.

Supply Chain Director Helen Cooper explains how these initiatives are embedded into the overall company objectives: “There are so many people in the world that haven’t got access to drinking water,” she says. “It’s such a precious resource; so working on programmes such as Aquacheck – not just in the UK but globally – sets us apart. Transforming our industry is very much about doing sustainable things. Yes, you need profitability; but it’s also about working with our community. We have various ventures around the world where we’re working very closely with communities to give back, which is the vision that the Johnson family have always had.”

But JohnsonDiversey is not only about helping its customers strive for environmental excellence. Site Operations Manager Neil Goddard explains how the company applies the same principles to its own sites: “We have an ongoing programme of environmental and sustainability initiatives on-site. We’re a chemical business producing hazardous waste, but currently, all our waste is zero landfill,” he reveals, “which we’re now looking to roll out on a regional basis.”

This is certainly an impressive achievement, especially given the nature of the industry. Goddard explains how other local businesses are able to make use of JohnsonDiversey waste that cannot be recycled: “We’re working with a waste management company which is providing the local expertise in terms of other companies that can use our waste. We do standard cardboard baling, plastic baling and so on; but cement manufacturers, for example, use a lot of energy in their process, so a lot of our waste is now being used to fuel that. “Not everything that we’re sending off-site is being recycled but it is either being recycled or used in somebody else’s process,” he confirms.

“For example there’s a technology called pyrolysis that is being used to clean up soil on brownfields sites, and some of our waste is used in that process. So again, it preserves the planet and transforms our industry – which is a direct fit with our purpose.”

JohnsonDiversey also has other environmental initiatives in the pipeline, including an application in process for a borehole to supply the site’s water and in addition, research into a wind turbine to supply the site’s electricity.

So the company is certainly committed to preserving the earth. But it is also leading the way in protecting life, something of which Cooper is particularly proud: “The products we offer protect against infections such as MRSA and against footand- mouth. These are products that we’ve had tested that we can prove are very effective in stopping the spread of those sort of infections and diseases. We are very much about protecting lives.”

The company focuses on developing services to assist its customers and innovating products that deliver cleaning performance improvement. For example, the company’s award-winning range of TASKI floor cleaning machines has evolved to incorporate water and energy saving technology and has been doing well as a result: “Last year in particular,” confirms Cooper, “we outstripped the sales we’d anticipated.”

Another example is the company’s J-Flex controlled dosing system that allows customers to dilute concentrated products with water accurately and safely – whether in a machine, bucket or spray – for optimum cost control and cleaning efficiency. Although the product is not a new launch, it has been a great success over the past year

“We cover such a broad range of products but we continue to innovate to improve cleaning performance and hygiene standards for our customers,” Cooper explains. “We are focused on the sectors we serve but there are opportunities to increase sales in these and in new markets as well. Our technical teams are working on development all the time, often alongside customers, to identify ways to improve existing products or create new ones for specific applications. We have an R&D department based in Utrecht which is divided into the various sectors we’re serving and the ways we do business.”

“If you talk about product development,” explains Goddard, “we put a lot of focus and effort into systems in terms of how you use the chemicals. We probably do more innovation there, and more R&D in that kind of area, helping our customers to use the products that we sell from a product efficiency and a cost-ofuse perspective.”

JohnsonDiversey’s storming and continuing success in the UK has seen the volume of product being produced at its UK plant triple over a five-year period – even taking into account the closure of two other UK plants and the consolidation of some other volume from plants around Europe. In addition, the company used to have four warehouses in the UK – and now it only has one.

With the UK factory now making triple the output it is designed for – no small feat – it comes as no surprise that lean has a big part to play in JohnsonDiversey’s processes. “We use many of the traditional lean tools that you’d expect to find,” confirms Goddard. “This was introduced back in 2003.

“As a company globally, we’ve run a lean initiative and trained a number of people; fortunately we’ve got someone here who was trained as part of the company’s global roll-out in value stream mapping and so on.” Such a commitment both to excellence and to its customers has seen the company become the proud recipient of many awards. In 2004 it won JohnsonDiversey Factory of the Year [there are 32 factories globally] alongside a commendation for Most Improved Plant in the Best Factories Awards. It also won a commendation for People Management in the Best Factories Awards 2005. It considers its greatest achievement, however, to be winning the Manufacturing Excellence Best Factory Award in 2005; and in fact, it has just been informed that it has been shortlisted for the Best Factory Awards 2009. “We try to use awards as a recognition of the milestones in the journey of improvement, to recognise the step changes that we’ve made,” explains Goddard.

JohnsonDiversey’s own internal manufacturing excellence programme has allowed it to benchmark itself in preparation for entering awards. Involving an internal audit across categories such as facility capacity operations; sourcing and vendor relations; people organisation; quality; environment; health & safety and planning and scheduling, the audit looks at how the site is performing in each area, but equally, how it is improving.

Currently the UK factory is the only site performing and improving across all of the audited areas. “We’ve deliberately not gone for anything for the last three years because we thought we needed a break; we needed to try and move to the next level,” explains Goddard. “But now we feel the time is right to try and pitch our hat in the ring again and try and win some awards.” Clearly, such successes could not be brought about without a dedicated workforce, an area in which JohnsonDiversey is happy to invest.

“We’ve got a leadership and development programme that we run as a site that we’re putting a number of our leadership team through,” confirms Goddard. “And we run mature apprenticeship programmes, so people who were operators are now technicians; and we’ve got people who were operators who are now team leaders. About 70% of our workforce is now up to the level of NVQ 2 standard both in manufacturing operations and business improvement techniques. We’re spending quite a significant amount of money on training this year, in the region of around £80,000 – so that’s quite a significant investment for a site of this size – and that’s to fund our internal and external training programmes.”

An ongoing training plan is compiled on an annual basis covering all areas of the factory. This is not just to enable implementation of the training but to evaluate the effectiveness of training already undertaken. Everyone on site also has an annually-reviewable Personal Development Plan that is linked to skill and competency development.

“We see that as very important to delivering success on site,” confirms Goddard. “We’re doing the most training that we’ve probably ever done and that’s no coincidence to me that we’re getting some of the best results we’ve ever had.” As if to underpin this effort, JohnsonDiversey’s UK site was accredited as an Investor in People in 2004 and re-accredited in February 2007.

“What I see now,” explains Cooper, “is a real focus on the customer. We’ve done a lot of research to understand our customers internally and externally; as a result of that we can now focus our efforts on meeting customer needs because we understand them so much better. We can think about really adding value – about what makes a positive difference to customers and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t add value do we need to do it? If we don’t, let’s cut out the waste. And we’re also about working in partnership with customers, so rather than just relying on the one-to-one salesman’s relationship, it’s more about multi-functional teams involving finance, sales, marketing – everybody. It’s all around getting consistency and becoming more effective and therefore more efficient.”

“We’ve got a really powerful data-driven global strategy,” confirms Goddard, “and now we’ve got the global organisation to deliver it.”

This is certainly a company that is making great strides and breaking boundaries. While some companies are focusing on cost cutting and headcount reduction, JohnsonDiversey is concentrating on the one thing that will help to steer it through the current crisis – its customers. It is clear that the company has the people, skills, vision and products to help it deliver results and drive through its powerful vision into the future.