Meet a supply chain ‘guru’ who handled a pandemic supply chain crisis and intends to pass the torch



When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit Bangladesh, the supply of personal hygiene products like hand sanitizers, soaps, disinfectants, etc. suffered severe shock.

Employees at Reckitt-Benckiser – one of the leading suppliers of personal hygiene products in Bangladesh – have started rushing to meet the sudden increase in demand. No one could foresee such drastic changes in market conditions and they were struggling to provide enough product to meet market demand.

Fast forward to the end of 2020, Reckitt-Benckiser not only successfully responded to consumer inquiries, but also paid 1,400% dividends to its shareholders, an increase of 150% over the previous year. . So what has changed?

Mohammed Zia Uddin is the Procurement Manager at Reckitt Benckiser Ltd. He is responsible for looking after their sourcing operations in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. When the pandemic hit last year, it took some timely initiatives to meet the sudden surge in demand.

“Under normal circumstances, we used to check the planning of material requirements [a term used in supply chain to estimate quantities of raw materials and schedule their deliveries] once a month. During Covid-19, we accelerated this process and did it once a week.

There were times when we had to deliver a month of product in one day. We were faced with an unmanageable demand, ”Mohammad Zia Uddin told The Business Standard.

In addition to this, there were also many external problems – the working hours of banks were reduced, ports were closed due to mobility restriction measures imposed nationally or internationally, disrupting the supply chain. supply.

“We had to be responsive. When the port of Benapole closed, we tried to re-route our materials to the seaport of Chittagong. We also researched air transportation options. We were always ready to meet new and recurring challenges that showed up during the pandemic, “Zia added.

And all their efforts finally paid off as Reckitt Benckiser Ltd. (Bangladesh) received the 2020 Supply Chain Excellence Award for Logistics and Transportation Management.

At the same event, Mohammed Zia Uddin also received a Special Mention as Supply Chain Professional of the Year for his initiative to increase growth by excelling in supply chain management and for having contributed to the development of supply chain professionals.

The Business Standard team had the opportunity to learn about their vision for supply chain development in Bangladesh.

The pandemic supply chain

Zia believed that the supply chain was crucial in generating value for any business.

“Supply chain professionals always compromise between cost and service. They can contribute to both outcomes and outcomes.

They are the gatekeepers of the S&OP (Sales and Operation Planning) process where they guide businesses by showing sales trends / aging analyzes to ensure the right product in the right quantity is available at the right time.

The supply chain can optimize the production process with relative ease and a simple adjustment of the SKU (stock-keeping unit) process, ”explained Zia.

The biggest challenge Zia has faced in her career has been during the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with the disruption of the supply chain and the unpredictable increase in demand, Zia also needed to focus on maintaining employee morale.

“Employees were overworked due to increased demand and feared being infected. We have provided transport facilities to come to work and return home. We have also set up Covid-19 insurance to protect our employees from the risks of Covid-19 and provide them with security, ”Zia recalls.

Zia believed there were certain lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic that should be continued in the post-Covid world.

“First, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us how to deal with a supply chain crisis, increasing demand with limited resources. The pandemic has also shown that inventory management will be crucial for the supply chain in the post-Covid world, ”Zia said.

Zia believed the Covid-19 pandemic had fundamentally changed the way we think about the workplace, saying, “Before the pandemic, we couldn’t imagine an office that was fully managed from the edges of our homes. But now we have our meetings online more often and the traditional rigid work structure is becoming more flexible. “

He also urged companies to focus on developing a business continuity plan.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the global supply chain collapsed as most raw materials, intermediate and finished products came from one country – China, the source of the pandemic itself.

“We need to develop multiple sources from which we source our raw materials as well as our finished products. These sources can be several different countries or different manufacturing bases. This would make our supply chain more agile against future shocks,” he said. added Zia.

The career and success story of this supply chain professional

Zia obtained his BS in Chemical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2003. He then started his career with Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., then known as Lever Brothers Bangladesh Ltd.

“At first, I was in the manufacturing department as a production agent. I was in the pot room (soap processing) department and my responsibility was to supervise the soap processing, the processing of the oil, the production of glycerin as well as the overall optimization of man, machine and method, “he recalls.

After spending two years in production, Zia moved on to soap projects at Unilever where he worked on the transformation from traditional soap making (mold processing) to the automated centrifuge operation, to the commissioning of ‘a new evaporator.

A year later, he became responsible for soap processing at Unilever. So why has it moved from manufacturing to supply chain management?

“After working for five and a half years I wondered whether I should continue working in manufacturing or looking for something else. At some point I decided to move on to supply chain management,” Zia explained.

Unfortunately, Unilever asked him to stay put for the time being and wait for an opening in the supply chain department in Dhaka. Eventually Zia left Unilever and joined Shah Cement as Supply Chain Development Manager and he also had some brilliant ideas there.

“At Shah Cement, I implemented ideas such as route optimization (increase in river transport operations) to make customer services more efficient. Again, we have put in place mechanisms for tracking vehicles on our vehicles for visibility of the transit, ”Zia said.

At the same time, he followed the CSCM (Certified Supply Chain Manager) program of ISCEA Bangladesh.

So when the Abul Khair Group – the parent company of Shah Cement launched a new ceramic industry, they asked Zia to work as a factory manager and take care of all of their operations account. given its experience in manufacturing, planning and logistics.

He implemented many things – automated casting, robotic spraying, continuous furnace for capacity expansion with minimum investment, etc.

“Although I accepted the job offer, I was also worried that I would not be able to fulfill my dreams of becoming a Supply Chain Director. So I enrolled in the IBA Executive MBA program. Those years of EMBA were extremely hectic as I had to travel to Dhaka from the factory and then come back to the factory every day, ”Zia said.

But it would soon be worth it.

From Abul Khair Group, Zia joined Holcim Cement Bangladesh Limited as GM of Purchasing. It streamlined the P2P (Purchase to Pay) process.

After spending around two years at Holcim, he eventually landed a full-fledged Procurement Services Manager position at Reckitt-Benckiser Bangladesh and was promoted to Procurement Services Manager for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. just after 11 months.

Pass the torch

Finally, Zia mentioned her visions for the future. He believes that developing young supply chain professionals is crucial for Bangladesh and he wanted to work in this field.

“I have never studied supply chain management before I found a job. But I want our young people to have the opportunity to learn supply chain management during their college years and the opportunities to ‘learning supply chain management are increasing day by day.

Leading universities such as DU, NSU, CUET, KUET, BUET, etc., organize seminars on supply chain management, ”Zia explained.

Zia is involved in several of these projects. He has been a guest lecturer at IBA-DU and East Delta University Chittagong. He has also led the practitioner sessions at the Institute of Management Technology, Hyderabad.

He has lectured at many other universities to educate and encourage young people in supply chains. He also participates in supply chain case competitions as a jury for the ISCEA PTAK Prize and the Hult Bangladesh Prize.

As part of the lifelong learning process, Zia is currently pursuing a DBA-Doctorate in Business Administration at IBA-DU. He studies the challenges and competitiveness of supply chain management.


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