Lotta Kellinghusen, member of the board of directors of Behn Meyer

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Lotta Kellinghusen, member of the board of directors of Behn Meyer

As a 182-year-old family business, few other companies can match Behn Meyer’s history.

The company, which develops, manufactures and distributes specialty chemicals, was founded in Singapore by two German businessmen from Hamburg. Surviving and thriving for so long hasn’t been smooth sailing, with the latest challenges just some of a long line of major upheavals for the firm.

“We have a history of persistence,” says Lotta Kellinghusen, a member of Behn Meyer’s board of directors. “The company lost almost all assets twice during the two world wars, but was able to build its business again.”

Even during the extremely difficult last few years, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the company has shown that it can cope well with external challenges and changing markets.

There is no single reason why Ben Mayer has successfully navigated the global business ecosystem for so long, a number of factors have accumulated to create the diversified business he runs today.

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Behn Meyer is a family company, which is why we do not aim for short-term profits, but seek long-term and sustainable growth.

The matrix structure adopted by the business helps to maintain strong teams where teamwork between local and regional management is encouraged. Thanks to these solid relationships, suppliers, expertise and success stories are regularly shared. As a result of the welcoming environment fostered from the top down, employees often stay with the business for many years due to the family atmosphere.

“In our industries and countries, personal relationships are still very important. Behn Meyer is a family company, so we are not looking for short-term profits, but long-term and sustainable growth,” says Kellinghusen.

Branching out

While Southeast Asia remains Behn Meyer’s core market, the company has evolved from mere trading and distribution to a world-leading integrated life sciences group.

Co-innovation is a key concept for Behn Meyer, with all of its core businesses supported by dedicated application labs around the world where co-innovation happens alongside customers.

“Industries are very different and there are so many opportunities to develop and offer innovative products and services to our customers,” she says.

Disruption has unfortunately become the norm in many industries due to recent supply chain issues, price volatility and product unavailability. As a large multinational firm, Behn Meyer was not immune to the challenges facing the global business ecosystem.

“We faced high price volatility and often long lead times and even product shortages. So good planning and careful inventory monitoring was very important,” says Kellinghusen.

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Behn Meyer Board of Directors. Top: Teo Tee Seng, Dirk Lorenz-Meyer, Prasonk Aramwittaya, Oliver Meyer Bottom: Lotta Kellinghusen, Rohaya Binti Muhammad

In our industries and countries, personal relationships are still very important.

During the COVID-19 restrictions, a number of Behn Meyer’s customers were forced to close their manufacturing facilities because their products were not considered essential. The so-called three-in-one rule that the Vietnamese government implemented – people had to sleep, eat and work in the same place – caused many challenges.

“Some of our colleagues from Behn Meyer Vietnam moved into the warehouse to comply. We are very grateful for the sacrifice and loyalty of our employees during this time,” she says.

Normal business operations are also affected, with even team meetings having to change format. As a direct result of the travel restrictions, leadership and other meetings were not permitted for two years.

“Nevertheless, frequent online meetings were held to closely monitor developments and discuss challenges and strategies,” she explains. “From mid-2022 we are already happy to be able to meet again in person, but hybrid meetings have become very important in our regional teamwork.”

Future focus

Since many of Behn Meyer’s customers are located throughout Asia, the company works hard to offer them exactly what they want while incorporating the latest technology. Traditional sales methods, usually involving personal visits, are still popular with Behn Meyer’s customers, especially since their products often require a lot of technical advice and R&D support.

The rise of digital marketing and e-commerce makes customers expect more technology tools that support their operations.

“We developed an agribusiness app that helps farmers with crop issues, like a user-friendly mobile crop doctor that helps identify the right products,” says Kellinghusen.

Technological innovation and investment is commonplace at Behn Meyer, with the business using drone technology to improve precision agriculture in Malaysia. Not only does this allow the company to count the exact number of trees, but this data can be analyzed to ensure the exact dosage of fertilizer needed.

In the food ingredients division, Behn Meyer acquired a manufacturing facility in Australia in 2021 where meat processing additives are produced.

“We manufacture in Thailand our own meat alternative products such as vegetable fiber and vegetable protein, mainly used in vegan bites and vegetable-based burger patties with improved taste and texture,” she says.

Durable DNA

Since Behn Meyer’s founding, sustainability has been a key driver of strategy and plays an essential role in guiding operations. Although it is already a member of the UN Global Compact and has achieved an Ecovadis Gold rating, the company is constantly looking for ways to improve its sustainability factors.

“For the short-term target of 2025, we will focus on energy conservation and emissions reduction, water management and waste disposal plans to ensure a positive impact on local communities and the environment,” she says.

Many large multinationals are working towards the goal of carbon neutrality, but few have committed to achieving this goal by 2040. Behn Meyer has set out its ambition to achieve the boldest carbon commitment in its industry and become fully carbon neutral by 2040, the same year that marks the company’s 200th anniversary.

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Giving back to the communities around us is important to us and always has been.

A comprehensive plan based on the four pillars of environment, labor and human rights, ethics and sustainable sourcing has been created to ensure the business is ready to embark on a transformational journey with long and short term goals to achieve carbon neutrality.

In 2021, the company launched the Behn Meyer Sustainability Campaign, where employees from around the world presented innovative ideas that aim to improve sustainability. One idea from a team of Malaysian farmers, which focuses on organic solutions to achieve soil health, was selected from among 38 submissions.

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Leadership styles

Any successful and effective leader will need to adopt a style that suits their company. With several different business units in many countries under Behn Meyer’s leadership, leaders at the firm are empowered to work independently and nurture future leaders.

“We encourage local talent and give them the opportunity to take responsibility and take leadership positions in their company,” Kellinghusen explains. “In general, leaders must have an entrepreneurial spirit and motivate and empower people while keeping the company’s vision in mind. In addition, they must build future leaders.”

Regular feedback and training courses are provided to employees to develop their careers. In an effort to support the next generation of business leaders, Behn Meyer is preparing to launch a company-wide talent management program in the near future to share best practices.

“We have many CSR projects with local communities such as financial donations, charitable activities, as well as long-term partnerships with higher education institutions,” says Kellinghusen. “To name a few, we have offered scholarships to underprivileged students in Vietnam, charity programs for students in Indonesia and financial assistance to flood victims in Malaysia.

“Giving back to the communities around us is important to us and always has been.”

Sponsored by: Arab Potash Company

A mining company focused on sustainable progress.

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Proudly supported by:

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“Behn Meyer and SILOX have shared a taste for innovation and a loyal relationship for more than 30 years. We are now focusing our efforts on a new stage of sustainable development for the benefit of the rubber industry.” – Jean-Pierre Evers, Chief Commercial Officer, SILOX

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