Orkla Foods: Successful transformation enabled by precise recruitments

Orkla is the leading producer of food and consumer packaged products in the Nordics. Their brands include Abba seafood, BOB, Felix, Kalles Kaviar and OLW.

When Orkla’s executive board set out to improve their supply chain, Senior Vice President Mikael Harder quickly needed a capable and experienced team who could hit the ground running. In order to succeed in finding team members of the right caliber, he decided to partner with a recruitment partner who was specialized in finding strong changer leaders within Operations.

The assignment from the executive board was complex: Orkla needed to improve efficiency across their manufacturing network. Several of their 110 plants were overlapping, producing the same products combined with slight overcapacity. It was time to overlook the full network, improve efficiency and make the change sustainable over time. Getting the right people to drive the change was critical. Mikael Harder, SVP and responsible for business development, and Johan Clarin, EVP supply chain, immediately understood that these skills were hard to find and that they needed a strong partner to succeed.

“It was extremely important to get the right people in the team, and in order to do so we needed a partner who fully understood the complexity of the project and could match that against the candidates”, says Mikael Harder.

The team that was hired were to actively drive change across the company and be willing to travel around half the globe doing so. They needed to work hands-on in Orkla’s plants, no matter if it were located in Malaysia or Eslöv, and at the same time be able to think and act on a strategic level.

Three different type of candidates were identified: The first was strong, driven project managers combined with high analytical skills. The second was experienced leaders, with background as Supply chain directors or plant managers with experience from processes similar to Orkla’s. In addition to these, Orkla added more junior profiles who could join the project and work side by side with the experienced team members. Another success factor was to create a mix of different personalities, who could add different perspectives to the team. Personal characteristics as flexibility, ability to thrive in different settings and inter-personal skills were extra important.

In addition to very specific and tough requirements, there was also a need to act fast. Orkla had already communicated that the changes were going to happen and expectations was high, both internally and externally.

“The best thing about Reach was that they immediately understood what we needed. It was safe to say that they are experts in recruiting manufacturing and supply chain specialists and could add value other recruitment companies couldn’t.”

“We had already done a number of recruitments together with Reach and their candidates had advanced quickly within Orkla which is a very good way of measuring success”, says Johan Clarin.

“Another benefit of working with Reach was using their experience within manufacturing and supply chain as a sounding board in strategic discussions. Their experience in building successful organizations that make change and improve results significantly came in very handy”, says Mikael Harder. Topics such as how to organize the team, methodology and approach were often discussed.

”I discussed ideas around how to drive the digitalization agenda within Operations together with Rebecca Lohk at Reach. We discussed everything from team composition to how to effectively drive change, and it was very good input for us”, says Mikael Harder.

A few years have passed since the change program started and both Mikael Harder and Johan Clarin are very happy about the results. Orkla’s operations have seen a big shift in productivity and the manufacturing network is now in better shape than ever. “However, the most important thing is probably our shift in maturity and knowledge within Operations”, says Johan Clarin.

”We have realized the importance in getting people in with different skills and mindset to continue to develop our joint vision”, adds Johan Clarin.

Today Johan and Mikael are grateful that they made the decision to partner with Reach and they recognize Reach’s skills, responsiveness and deep experience as key success factors.

“Many recruiters claim to be experts in a certain field, but Reach can really deliver on that promise. They helped us get up to speed quickly and found the exact right type of people for our team”, says Mikael Harder.