Versatility is key. Operating with an agile approach provides companies with the opportunity to switch up operations in a bid to drive efficiency. As a leading global manufacturer and supplier of natural and synthetic colour solutions for a range of different markets, within Sensient Colors, Sensient Colors Latin America certainly understands the value in what it means to be versatile.
A unit of Sensient Technologies Corporation, Sensient Colors revolves around the following segments: Food and Beverage Colors , Industrial Colors , Pharmaceutical excipients, Digital Inks and Cosmetic Colors. Gian Carlo Leocata, Supply Chain Director at Sensient Food Colors Latin America, affirms his company’s diverse selection of solutions sets the organisation apart. “We pride ourselves on being number one because we cover a vast array of market segments,” explains Leocata. “We stand alone — none of our competitors cater to as many segments as we do. We also don’t compromise on quality because if anything happens that means we have to reduce the quality of a sale, then we will happily lose that transaction. I would describe Sensient as a company that is everywhere but no one knows about it. Our colours are present in almost every other product that you find in the beauty store or supermarket. We’re everywhere.”
Sensient Colors Latin America operates in 20 different countries all over Latin America, with the exception of Brazil that has its own business unit. This brings the challenge of diversifying its services to tailor to the needs of each specific country. However, it is something that Leocata believes his firm manages effectively. “Each country has its own regulations and standards,” he says. “Everything we ship must meet customer specifications, cost and country regulations. Juggling these three components isn’t always a simple task because there’s a lot of regulatory movement that has to happen.” Leocata believes in the value of being “emotionally intelligent” to the demands of each individual country. “If you want to be successful in a global world, you have to know how to handle different cultures. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve worked and lived in four different countries. It has enabled me an understanding of the subtleties of managing culturally different people.”
With change management sometimes considered a challenging hurdle to overcome, Leocata has transformed the way Sensient Colors Latin America conducts business by introducing new systems. “Process, process, process. It was a relentless push for processes because we had an ERP system that was grossly underutilised. Ever since I joined, I pushed for all our processes to become standardised as we set about undergoing change management.” As part of that strategy, Leocata believes establishing a clear goal ensures every employee is aligned to a common objective. “It’s important to have an ambition and stick to it,” he affirms. “In order to achieve the level of success we envision, it’s vital that every employee embraces change and wants to be a part of it. Fortunately for us, the majority of them do.”
Leocata stresses the importance of mitigating risks and thinking strategically in order to get the best out of his company’s procurement approach. “It’s crucial to have a plan in place because there’s so many factors to consider. For example, I might have three suppliers all in the same geographic space,” he explains. “What does it mean to our business when Syria and Turkey are under trade embargo? In terms of our vendor base, how are they located geopolitically and what is their status? How big of a company are they? Because these days, everyone is trying to push for longer payment terms and if I try for 120 days, am I taking my vendor out of business? It’s a massive balancing act.” With customer-centricity considered the key to most companies’ success, Leocata sees similarities between his business and the transactional customer relationship of a supermarket. “When you buy food, you go to the cashier and pay and the chances are you’ll visit the same supermarket every time. It’s not necessarily because it’s the closest, but because you’ve established a relationship,” he explains. “It’s the exact same thing in the B2B space. You need to throw yourself into the organisation you’re conducting business with and make them not want to go anywhere else.”
Sensient Colors Latin America has established two strategic relationships in a bid to drive operations. Having formed partnerships with CFS and PIM Mexico, Leocata believes in the true value of a mutually beneficial collaboration. “Both partnerships are very different, however, strategic in their own way. CFS is a global producer and supports us in every market. If we have a need in Europe, they have a plant that can help us. It’s the same in Asia and Latin America. They, like us, have that global footprint and are able to work with us all over the globe regardless of where we are,” he explains. “We also have a very local partnership with PIM Mexico. During the chemical crisis last year in China, they were instrumental. They worked with us and have the people on the ground in China and India to help us through the sourcing process, validation and approval of new vendors. After such a crisis, you have to reshape and remodel a very complex, intricate supply chain. PIM Mexico was the partner we needed to help us through that.”
Leocata believes that partnerships with companies such as CFS and PIM Mexico require cooperation and common values to sustain. “In order to have a reliable, secure supply chain, you have to maintain good partnerships with organisations you can trust and work with,” affirms Leocata. “Take PIM for example, we started with one product and now our portfolio with them has grown significantly. We’ve started to use some of their other products that we traditionally wouldn’t buy but because they proved their worth, we’ve switched a lot of our procurement through them too.”
Looking to the future, Leocata believes the industry is set to become more reliant on new technology and recognises the importance of being lean and agile in order to succeed in the space. “In the next five years, I believe the so-called ‘Amazon effect’ will start to reach us,” he summarises. “B2B commerce is becoming more and more centered around service from an app or a chat box because of the way technology is developing. It’s up to us to adapt and be versatile.”