These are exiting times for Unilever in the supply chain field. We've been able to make a major contribution to lowering costs and generating cash during recession. Meanwhile, we've also been putting much energy into continuing professionalization of the supply management function. The appointment in 2008 of the first CPO in Unilever's history was follwed by the development of a Supply Management Learning Framework comprising both e-learning tools and face-to-face training courses.

Solvint supports us in our Intermediate Supply Management Leadership Course and Advanced Supply Management Leadership Course. The first course is for managers, while the second is for our supply management directors. Among the subjects the Solvint trainers cover in specific sessions are strategy development, business partnering, driving change, value-based sourcing, supplier relationship management and total cost of ownership. The number of supply management professionals who are eligible for the five-day courses, which are held at multiple venues around the world, runs into the hundreds.

As course director, I was pleased with the way Solvint exchanged ideas with us in the development process to ensure that what we produced was exactly right for the objective. Both courses are now running well, thanks to their flexibility. Besides various modifications to the programme to suit the specific target group, the trainers constantly listen to the participants and respond to specific needs during the courses. Their style is more that of facilitators who help in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, rather than teachers who prescribe exactly how things should be done. They also clearly take the time to make informal contact with the participants and create a cordial atmosphere, which pays dividends in ease of discussion and interaction. There is a sensible balance of theory and practice in the courses. And although every one of the participants is an experienced supply management professional, Solvint succeeds in surprising them with new insights and providing food for thought!