Elane Stock, President, Kimberly-Clark International shares her plan to increase R&D investment in Korea to focus on the development of premium products
"Korea is one of the most innovative markets in Asia. We will increase further investment in R&D based on the Global Innovation Center, which is the core research and development complex in Asia."
Elane B. Stock, the President of Kimberly-Clark International (KCI) Group expressed her will to intensively support R&D in Korea, viewing it as a test bed for the global and Asian markets. In particular, Yuhan-Kimberly is expected to become the outpost for product research and development of KCI.
In her recent visit to Korea, Elane B. Stock explains the management strategy of Kimberly Clark. "Yuhan-Kimberly is showing the best practice within the KCI Group,” and added, “As the leading company in the Group in terms of product development and manufacturing, as well as in online and offline distribution, we will make a sustainable investment for it."
She presides over the overseas market business, except for the operation of Kimberly-Clark in North America. She is responsible for annual sales worth 10 billion USD (about 12.5 trillion KRW) in the global market, including Yuhan-Kimberly’s sales of 1.5 trillion KRW in last year.
President Stock said that Yuhan-Kimberly has exhibited an impressive performance in three sectors, spearheading outstanding innovations within product, manufacturing and supply chain management.
First, in terms of product development, she praised that Yuhan-Kimberly is making the best-quality premium products in the world. She explained, "Among manufacturing facilities in about 40 countries in the world, Yuhan-Kimberly develops and sells the best-quality diapers, which contribute to the no. 1 ranking in the segment of premium diapers in nearby Chinese market," and added, "The leak-proof technology of women sanitary pads or premium diapers which have been developed by Yuhan-Kimberly and have also successfully penetrated all Asian markets. Even Russia and Latin America are regarded as the exemplary cases of product innovation within the KCI."
Indeed, the 'wearable overnight pant-like sanitary pad’ released by Yuhan-Kimberly in the end of 2014 reached the monthly sales of one billion KRW in Korea, achieving a 15-fold growth in sales after launch. ‘Secret Hole’, a sanitary pad created through the collaboration of Yuhan-Kimberly and KCI has led the industry, after it was first released in the domestic market and then in the world markets of Kimberly-Clark, including North America and Europe.
On the other hand, diapers have also had an excellent performance. Diapers including Huggies Nature Made, a premium product exported to the Chinese market as well as sold in domestic market, and is now currently ranked first place in China.
Diapers, baby wipes, sanitary pads, senior underwear, etc. produced in Korea are exported to more than 30 countries through a global network of K-C. From 56.1 billion KRW in 2005 to 295 billion KRW last year, export volume has already grown almost six-fold.
Manufacturing facilities in Korea have not only provided excellent quality products, but they also served as a solid production base of innovating new products. President Stock said, "In Taejon mill where I visited this time, the production process was reflected as real-time data. The production volume was adjusted according to online sales, which was an excellent example of manufacturing innovation."
She also added, “Recently, new plants in China and Australia are benchmarking those mills in Korea, and also invited experts from Korea to have consultation. Based on the outstanding technology of its manufacturing facilities, Korea is home to the largest number of new projects being implemented.”
In the light of Korea’s nature on high-level IT development, distribution also serves as the target of benchmarking. President Stock said, "More than half of Yuhan-Kimberly’s diapers are sold online and through mobile devices, which is the highest rate in the world,” and added, “We should refer to the Korean case, which embraces all distribution channels, including offline, online and mobile."
The driving force behind the growth of Kimberly-Clark lies in the strength of its Yuhan-Kimberly’s Innovation Center and KCI’s Global Innovation Center. If the former has its strengths in product development, the latter is making synergy efforts by focusing more of its innovations towards the development of more eco-friendly materials.
President Stock said, “As South Korea has outstanding manufacturing and development capabilities, we are planning to concentrate investment in Korea for global innovation.”
Currently, out of the total sales equivalent to annual 20 billion USD (approximately 25 trillion KRW), North America and KCI divide the sales by about half. The growth rate of KCI is at the level of 8-10% annually, which is actually more than twice the level of the North American market. Kimberly-Clark that was founded in 1872 in USA currently has 43,000 employees around the world.
Nearly 20% of executive officers are female, the 'woman power' is the competitiveness of Kimberly-Clark
President Stock said that she felt the value and success of her company when she visited South Africa on a business trip. There, she met a woman journalist in Cape Town, who expressed her gratitude saying, “Without the disposable diapers of Huggies, my career as a journalist after my marriage would have come to an end.”
It was this moment when President Stock got reminded of the impressive value of K-C products. She said, “It is the most impressive occasion since I joined Kimberly-Clark five years ago. We feel rewarded when the household goods we produce make a better life for consumers and a better life for women.”
This made her recount another experience while she was visiting Korea, she shares. “A woman employee I met told me that she and her mother were very proud of the company’s excellent quality products, good reputation and social contribution.” She explains, “It’s the secret behind the success of Yuhan-Kimberly and Kimberly-Clark.”
The success of the Kimberly-Clark and Yuhan-Kimberly can also be found in its corporate culture of respecting women, apart from upholding quality in its excellent products. K-C is often considered as the only company who is willing to take a step further to become a full gender equality company—beyond just being women-friendly company.
According to Yuhan-Kimberly, the ratio of new women employees exceeds 50%, and half of office work positions are taken by women. In particular, women executive officers account for 19.4%. In fact, it is even 10 times higher than the usual proportion of female executive officers in top 30 domestic listed companies, which is actually accounted for less than 2%. Female staff ratio of K-C in the United States also exceeds 30%.
President Stock said, "We only hire the best staff rather than hiring a larger number of women than others, and never take genders, races, etc. into consideration,” and added, “what is more important is to create an environment where every employee as well as women workers can reach their potential and take advantage of their strengths."
Empowerment for the employees is also regarded as the secret behind success. "In Kimberly-Clark, leaders around the regions deployed in each country rather than the head office has the full authority regarding development, manufacturing, operations, etc." said, President Stock.