Driving effectiveness through culture

Manufacturers’ Monthly gains insight from Caterina Enters, the IBP process lead for Laminex Australia, on her role within an Australian manufacturing team and what makes the business a great place to work.

When Caterina Enters joined Laminex Australia as an Integrated Business Planning (IBP) process lead in July 2020, she recognised that the manufacturers’ strong leadership team and great workplace culture was responsible for driving the effectiveness of the team. This was highlighted when Laminex was awarded in the Australian Financial Review’s annual Best Places to Work in 2021 in the Manufacturing and Consumer Goods category.

The great leadership team was partly what attracted Enters to join Laminex following a four-year stint at Fonterra, a renowned dairy manufacturer.

“IBP only works when you’ve got a really good leadership team,” she said. “At Laminex, it was evident right from the start when I spoke to a few people in the business that it was something the leadership team recognised they needed, and they were 100 per cent on board with getting it up and running as quickly as possible.”

Established in Melbourne in 1934, Laminex Australia manufactures high-pressure laminate, compact laminate and wet-area panelling, decorated MDF used for cabinetry doors, raw particleboard and MDF in their various plants across Australia. As a subsidiary of Fletcher Building, the business has expanded over more than 85 years to become one of the largest employers in their domain.

Laminex Australia’s Caterina Enters.

As a senior business process improvement leader with over 15 years of experience across FMCG and industrial sectors, Enters is experienced in connecting operational execution to strategy through implementing the IBP process. In employing her, Laminex invested in a better process to help run the business. This involves implementing a forecast to guide the business’ plans.

“As IBP lead, we look 24 to 36 months forward to what our business plans are looking to be,” she said. “This forecast determines if there are any gaps to the financial targets and also highlights if there is any misalignment to strategy. If we look forward and see that our production capacity is insufficient to meet our sales forecasts in 18 to 24 months’ time, do we have the time to do something about it? Probably. Whereas if we were to see those gaps three to four months ahead of time, we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”

Laminex has recently focused on projects improving customer experience, particularly on the digital side.

“One of the things I noticed when I started was that the website really wasn’t easy to navigate,” Enters said. “You could see the sort of products that Laminex worked with but I couldn’t really figure out how, or what, I needed to purchase. Also, you didn’t really get an understanding of how many SKUs existed, because there was no product catalogue. I found it difficult to understand how product X differed from product Y.

“There was a big piece of work that was done over the last couple of years to clean up our SKUs and make it a more manageable range, clearly sorted into an ABC categorisation.

Inventory reduction was huge just out of that project itself.”

There is further work being implemented in the supply chain part of the business around improving movement and the network it operates on for better efficiency in projecting the right timeframes to customers. For this, Enters said Laminex is bringing SAP into the picture within 18 months’ time to enhance and consolidate data analysis.

So far, the feedback from customers has been resoundingly positive.

“Our customers are recognising that the changes we’ve made have made life easier for them,” Enters said. “And we’re working on a number of projects that are focused on making step change improvements to customer experience moving forward.”

Building relationships

A key element of Enters’ role as IBP process lead is working collaboratively across many sections of the business to deliver better results. In an episode of Laminex’s internal podcast, Learning Bites – which celebrates thought leadership within the business – she imparted wisdom on “How to influence others in three steps.”

“An IBP lead doesn’t really sit in a function, so I don’t have direct authority over any of the functions that I need to work very closely with in order to be successful,” Enters said. “I have to do a lot of what I do through influencing the demand team, the sales team, the supply planning team, the rest of the supply chain and finance.

“It’s simple if you understand how it benefits them as well. If you’re very focused only on how it benefits you, then you’re not bound to get where you need to be. But if it’s win-win, it’s easy because you just make that apparent to them and go from there.”

Enters arrived at Laminex at a time when it had just started to implement its “work from anywhere” culture, which meant that she needed to develop relationships with the right people remotely. However, this was not as much of a challenge as it sounds.

“I’d never worked at Laminex in an office environment, but I feel like if I had I would have developed closer relationships with people who only worked in the office,” Enters said. “Whereas starting in a fully ‘work from anywhere’ environment, I found that a large number of people who I developed the closest relationships with were people in Queensland who were critical people in delivering what I needed to deliver. I truly don’t believe that I would have developed the work relationships that I needed to do my job as well as I could. I think you develop more of the right connections this way.”

The people are a huge part of what makes Laminex a great Australian manufacturing business, Enters believes.

“There’s something different about the energy around the people here. It’s not that people work harder, but I feel like people are happier here,” she said. “People feel like they’re being listened to, so even the most junior person at a meeting is happy to speak up and say what they think. And because of the work from anywhere culture, there’s no pressure to work in the head office to advance your career.”

Problem solving

Laminex’s leadership team not only facilitates a better working environment but has a focus on utilising the broader team’s skills where needed. This is exemplified in the way they manage different projects and solve problems.

“Since the launch of IBP, the SLT have been very clear on not setting up parallel meetings or processes to resolve issues. They’ll come and share the issue, and the core Integration Team will either use IBP data already available to resolve, or decide which IBP or Tactical meeting it’s best suited to flow through,” Enters said. “It’s been an incredibly efficient and clear process to follow.”

Such a process has been beneficial in creating more resilience in the business when disaster hits, which has been a core part of Enters’ role during the past year. Events such as the COVID-19 lockdowns, which impacted construction and an influx in resin prices, required Laminex to review all opportunities and work to pivot on each issue as it arose.

This resilience has put Laminex in a good place to excel in the future.

“It really is the best place I’ve worked. People make a place, and the people are just so fantastic here,” Enters said. “It’s so exciting where this company is going, from the spaces its taking our technology to breaking new ground and different ways of reaching different segments of customers.”

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