Embedding Quality in a Changing Environment

Embedding Quality in a Changing Environment

We chat with Valerie Sieurin, the Senior Vice President Global Head of Quality at Reckitt, about how she has transformed the company’s Quality systems and

It is quite a task to implement systemic cultural change in a multi-billion company, but that is precisely what Valerie Sieurin undertook when she accepted the role of SVP Global Head of Quality at Reckitt.

Based in Slough, Reckitt is one of the world leaders in developing hygiene, health and nutrition products. Its list of world famous brands is endless including; Air Wick, Calgon, Cillit Bang, Clearasil, Dettol, Durex, Enfamil, Finish, Gaviscon, Harpic, Lysol, Mortein, Mucinex, Nurofen, Nutramigen, Strepsils, Vanish, Veet, Woolite and more. The company has a 200-year legacy and currently generates revenues of more than £14 billion, from its operations in 60 countries, where it employs over 43,000 people.

Valerie Sieurin was tasked with embedding a new culture of Quality across Reckitt, leading a global team and building strong internal partnerships to ensure Quality standards are embedded throughout the product life cycle, from marketing to procurement to manufacturing, and distribution to sales.

“Every day we sell more than 20 million products across the world,” explains Valerie. “My role is to design and implement a Quality strategy to ensure we are providing everywhere and at every moment products that are safe , trusted and preferred by our consumers, ” she said.

Valerie, who has a master’s degree in food science and food processes from her native France, has previously worked for major companies such as Danone and Cadbury Schweppes. She has worked in a variety of roles at local, regional and global levels, as well as having lived in three different countries. She has undertaken global roles for close to 15 years, placing her in an ideal position to implement a Quality transformation within Reckitt.

“This gives me quite a wide view of organisations and different markets,” she says.

Valerie explains how the journey to the new culture was driven in parallel with a digital transformation in Quality which includes implementing a new AI system for planning and scheduling quality control testing in manufacturing, a new cloud solution for consumer relations, and most recently the launch of an enterprise Quality Management system.  All of these transformation projects were made possible thanks to strategic partnerships such as with partners, SmartQC and Veeva Systems.

For Valerie however, digitalisation is not the end game per se, but a means to drive forward Reckitt’s purpose. “We see digital transformation as a way to achieve this relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world,” she explains.

Initially Valerie with her team identified those areas where Reckitt could improve its performance in pursuance of its overriding goals, the technology that could help them accomplish this, and the partners that could help drive this technology transformation. “As a Quality professional, you are always looking at what you can improve and combine with the strengths which you want to maintain. Continuous improvement is part of the DNA of the Quality leader.” she explains.  “But, with my team, we did not want small incremental improvement, with the new technologies available we had the ambition to leapfrog.

“We focused on two areas. The first was consumer relations to move from answering complaints to driving advocacy and win consumer preference. The second was eliminating repeated failures.  Our vision was to make the organisation more predictive in order to avoid such errors, and to support this cultural transformation through technology.” 

To enable this transformation, Valerie and her team have built a very strong partnership with the Reckitt IT department. In order to transform its consumer relations, Reckitt worked closely with its project partners to design a cloud-based system to enable them to connect everywhere with consumers, using all media from emails to social media.

“Now our consumers can contact us from any place and at any time,” she explains. “We can bring insights to the business to improve our products and service and delight our consumers, which ultimately will drive consumer advocacy and increase love for our brands”. 

The second cultural transformation concerned Reckitt’s Quality processes and systems. The aim was to connect all the company’s Quality processes to increase efficiency and, as a consequence, revenue.  Valerie believes that Quality transformations can directly impact a company’s business success: reduce time to market and improve first time right as two examples.

Previously Reckitt had Quality systems which were not connected with other systems within the organisation and therefore inefficient. This is why Valerie and her team decided to partner with Veeva Systems to develop a solution using the latter’s Quality management platform QualityOne, which Reckitt is now implementing. “This will enable us to connect all of our Quality management processes and be more efficient,” she explains.

The transformation began with improving efficiency in Reckitt’s Quality Control laboratories, which she refers to as a  ‘Lean lab Programme and lately renamed as LabEx for Laboratory Excellence’. “We quickly identified that implementing lean methodology wasn't enough, it was a good step to start improving a laboratory, but it wasn't enough,” Valerie says. We needed to enhance our programme with technology and that is when the relationship with SmartQC commenced. The end game is to have paperless laboratories that will be fully integrated to the overall business systems. When systems are connected, this will improve product release times and get products to customers faster.

Streamlining processes within laboratories leads to greater efficiency, while improving business, and maintaining standards to ensure customer confidence in their brands. Valerie believes that the introduction of these new technologies and systems will provide the Reckitt teams the access to the data in a digital format that they need to enhance their decision making within a more agile supply chain 

“Now there are a lot of different technologies that are available to us that we have started piloting and deploying. SmartQC for example, is a digital twin that enables us to plan and schedule our testing more efficiently. We are also looking at piloting and implementing SmartQA, which will digitise quality assurance activities and ultimately improve product release times further. In our pharma factories we have hundreds of test methods for our products, so it is complex to manage the lab operation. These new technologies really enable our people to focus on what is important, adding value.”

The transformative process is not one Reckitt could have undertaken on its own. Valerie places great importance on the role played by their partners.

When working out which companies Reckitt should work with, Valerie always initially asks the question, “what don't we know?”. Then she identifies where Reckitt can collaborate with potential partners and those companies which could join them on their journey of transformation.

For Valerie the transformative process is continuous. As she observes “the technology of today will be obsolete soon,” which she finds “fascinating.”

Consequently, it is vital that companies such as Reckitt are choosing the partners who are innovative, invest in research and could evolve with them in order to improve the quality of both their processes and also their products in order to maintain both efficiency and customer confidence in their brands. “This is why we have partnered with Veeva Systems. This is also why we work with SmartQC,” she says.

However, for Valerie improving efficiency and maintaining brand confidence is only part of a bigger picture. She believes that Reckitt serves a far greater purpose than would appear on any financial balance sheet. This is what motivates her.

“The reason why we exist is our purpose,” she says. “We are here to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world. This is what drives me every day in the decisions I take.  We are always looking at better solutions to fulfill our purpose.”

As such, Valerie is energised by Reckitt’s sustainability initiatives which lie at the heart of both the company’s ethos and its global impact. To achieve these the company works closely with local communities to forge a brighter future.

“We are engaging together with our partners with 22 million people through programmes, partnerships and campaigns,” she explains. “Our objective is to have a lasting impact on people and communities, and also to deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in which we are engaged.”

These initiatives are also designed to reduce Reckitt’s own carbon footprint. “We have huge objectives and we are all working together on achieving them by 2030,” she says.

Reckitt has targeted reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its operations by 65% by 2030, as well as using 100% renewable energy and reducing its overall energy usage by 25%. This should lead to a 50% reduction in its product carbon footprint in the same timescale, with the ultimate goal of being carbon neutral by 2040.

The company has partnered with the WWF to preserve and restore 2,100 kilometres of freshwater across two major river basins in the Amazon and Ganges. In addition, one of its brands, Air Wick, is also working with WWF to raise awareness of the importance of nature and how we can all do more to protect and restore it.

Valerie believes that neither Reckitt’s culture of Quality transformation nor its sustainability drive would be possible without the strong and clear leadership provided by the CEO, Laxman Narasimhan and company’s senior management. 

“This transformation in Quality is only possible because of the leaders across the world that are engaged in this transformation,” she says. “We are driving innovation in the areas of hygiene, health and nutrition, continuing, improving and working on our sustainability goals in order to have a positive impact in the world.”

The aim behind the current transformation of the company’s Quality processes is to ensure that all of the disparate parts of Reckitt’s global family are connected and working together to achieve its purpose to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world. This requires a state of constant evolution.

“This is for the good of the people, the consumers, but as well for the planet,” Valerie says.

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