Insights from Mike Thomas, Eurasia Regional Manager at P&G Chemicals
By: Mike Thomas, Senior Director - Eurasia Regional Manager
For half a decade, I've been fortunate enough to head P&G Chemicals’ Global Category Management. After five years in this role, I was asked to lead P&G Chemicals’ Eurasia business just this past May 2021. While honored and excited to tackle this new assignment, at first blush, I was a little hesitant. The timing didn’t seem ideal; almost every business article I read talked about increasingly challenging business conditions. Rising commodity costs, constrained logistics, the personal health challenges of COVID-19, the pandemic’s impact on supply and demand, and finally—the inability to travel to see customers, suppliers and other business partners.
For many of us, myself included, the last 12 months proved to be a difficult year—both personally and professionally. Since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve found ourselves navigating an environment fueled by uncertainty. From increased supply/demand imbalances across many industries to almost unbelievable challenges, like the winter vortex, the Suez Canal blockage, cyberattacks, China power curbs, and labor shortages—to name a few. And at the same time, many of us were fighting our own battles, which may have included watching family and friends struggle with illness or experiencing the devastating loss of someone we loved.
I’ll say again, at that moment, it didn’t seem like the right time for this role transition. But now, having been in this position for the past six months, I can confidently say that it was the best time. Though these circumstances haven’t changed over the last 20 months, this has allowed me to witness P&G Chemicals’ resilience firsthand. We’ve risen to every challenge, and our commitment to customers has remained steady. And globally, oleochemicals have demonstrated their significance to the worldwide economy with a surge in demand, despite costs being driven higher by Lauric Oil pricing.
As we prepare to enter our third full year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, these conditions are finally starting to feel like the “new normal” for many of us. But if this is our new normal, what does that mean for our joint business?
• Local production is growing in importance. As sea freight timings and costs increase and still are hard to predict, relying on long supply chains is a higher risk. We all must face this to some degree, but it’s a very different situation when importing oils or intermediates versus finished products. Our global production network allows us to serve our customers in the regions they need.
• Supply assurance is paramount. We continue investing in our network, our capabilities and are engaging with our logistic partners to maintain supply assurance to our customers.
• Contracts provide security. More and more customers are looking for longer-term agreements. These contracts allow customers to secure supply with collaborative approaches to commercial terms, versus quarterly negotiations. This is a direct result of market tightness and the previously discussed industry supply challenges.
• Quality in all that we do. I am proud to say that the European organization has a very successful ISO 9001 certification renewal by BSI—the team approach was even lauded by the auditor. And though the plaudits are much appreciated, we will continue to improve wherever we can.
2021 was quite a year—one I will always look back at with mixed emotions. I am glad it is over, but I am also extremely proud of what we accomplished together. I am optimistic and enthusiastic for 2022 and look forward to working with all our P&G Chemicals customers and partners to succeed in the years ahead.