Johnson & Johnson’s Bart Talloen shares his thoughts on meeting and exceeding customer expectations, supply chain as a competitive differentiator, and why manufacturing leaders need to focus on curiosity, continuous learning, and shaping the ecosystem of the future.
Recently named the Manufacturing Leadership Awards’ Manufacturing Leader of the Year, Bart Talloen Vice President, Operational Services and Standards for Johnson & Johnson, has been instrumental in leading an innovation-driven shift in J&J’s supply chain. He has had a significant impact on J&J’s standing as a global leader, as demonstrated by the company’s record 11 lighthouse designations from the World Economic Forum.
In this interview he discusses how technology plays an essential role in exceeding customer expectations, the importance of upskilling and training the leaders of the future, and why it’s necessary for every leader to build and leverage a diverse, far-reaching network of internal and external collaborators.
Q: You have been with Johnson & Johnson for 27 years. How has your role evolved during your career there?
A: For 19 years I had different operational supply chain roles with increasing responsibility in our J&J pharmaceutical, over the counter and consumer businesses. This included engineering, planning, manufacturing operations and general end-to-end supply chain management in Europe, Asia, and North America. I have also acquired and divested business operations, built five and closed three manufacturing facilities and was also responsible for the supply chain during the successful execution of a consent decree for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, J&J’s U.S. over-the-counter business.
For the past eight years I have been responsible for J&J supply chain strategy, driving innovation and overseeing large-scale transformation programs encompassing all three of J&J’s business sectors. The overarching evolution of our supply chain is going from a focus on cost and operational excellence to making supply chain a business enabler and competitive advantage. My role has evolved accordingly, from initially building and deploying supply chain strategies that were centered around foundational improvement capabilities such as lean, Six Sigma, and operating systems to bolder strategies built on major capability transformation programs. This includes technology, go-to-market models and channels for access to care, such as supporting outpatient clinic-based settings and telemedicine, as well as customer centricity and personalization.
In the last couple of years I have also been focused on technology and digital innovation, next-generation customer enablement solutions to drive differentiating experiences and outcomes as well as the whole value chain from suppliers to customers.
Q: What most excites you about the role you are in now?
A: It is really about the difference we make as supply chain for our customers, which is twofold:
One is that we are building and deploying cutting edge customer strategies and solutions that transform the experiences and outcomes for the customers and patients that we serve every day. One example is a solution called Advanced Case Management, which uses case schedules and patient data to manage inventory at the point of consumption – ensuring we have the right orthopedic implants for the right patient at exactly the right time. Another example is an autonomous order fulfilment and inventory management system deployed in hospitals, which is supported by an AI engine that suggests operating room improvement opportunities, simplifies and automates healthcare practitioner work, and helps reduce inventory and logistics costs. Connecting that to our supply chain planning enables real-time alignment of the supply to the demand from hospitals.
Second, risks are no longer an isolated event, they are interconnected. That is why we are moving toward multidimensional and proactive approaches to resilience. We are making significant advancements in supply chain resilience, enabling us to always provide our customers with the products and solutions they need whenever, wherever and however they are needed and expected, through whatever disruptions may happen. It strengthens our ability to consistently deliver products, providing confidence and assurance through times of uncertainty. And that is what our customers expect.
“We are strengthening our ability to consistently deliver products, providing confidence and assurance through times of uncertainty.”
Our proactive resilience capability is centered around a resilience engine that leverages data science and analytics for multi-dimensional risk evaluation. Combined with network and product-specific data, it enables improved velocity and quality of trade-off decisions at supply chain, product and network levels. This results in proactive risk identification and mitigation while ensuring continuity of our product supply.
Q: Beyond innovation, what are some of the other main supply chain initiatives underway at J&J?
A: Currently there is a strategic focus on customer anticipation, resilience, and end-to-end supply chain orchestration. This translates into new supply chain capabilities we’ve been building and deploying such as advanced customer enablement solutions, smart operations with the adoption of advanced I4.0 technology innovation, end-to-end supply chain control towers to give us real-time visibility and tracking across the supply chain, and digital connectivity with our customers and suppliers. There is also a focus on proactive supply chain resilience and how we leverage digital capabilities.
At J&J, we’re also heavily investing in the development of our workforce. Some examples: We are enabling a digitally connected and augmented workforce program, developed with a worker-centric mindset, built around four capability components: worker assistive applications, immersive and wearable solutions, intelligent automation, and hybrid ERP + cloud-based technology platforms.
Also, we’re upskilling our people using a high-touch model of leadership training that includes our Global Operations Leadership Development program, our Compass Executive Quality Leadership Development program, our Plant Leader Development Program, our STAR programs to provide action-learning experiences for emerging supply chain leaders, and an entry-level program for recent graduates. We extended the program to include a well-being component. Last year alone, 600 new participants were enrolled in leadership development programs, with 30 participants in GOLD and more than 25,000 participants in other training programs.
Additionally, we’re partnering across Johnson & Johnson with schools, universities, and external partners through sponsorship of our Women in STEM program, which aims to ignite the power of women inside and outside of our company. By 2025, we want half of our global management positions to be occupied by women; we have already achieved this goal in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America and are on track for the same in other markets.
Q: J&J is the recipient of 11 lighthouse designations from the World Economic Forum for advanced manufacturing, the most of any company in the world. What are the essential components to becoming this type of global leader?
A: First, it is important to have a digital strategy, driven from the top and supported by senior management, with laser-sharp focus on execution and implementation driving tangible business impact. This strategy needs to be driven by the customer and business needs, not based on what I call a “tech push,” meaning you are just pushing deployment of technology solutions and tools into the business vs. pulling tech solutions that help address customer and business needs or pain points.
“It is important to have a digital strategy with a laser-sharp focus on execution and implementation driving tangible business impact.”
Second, data availability and visibility are critical, but for many companies still a challenge given the complexity of operational infrastructure with a lot of legacy systems that don’t talk to each other. We have a thoughtful data strategy, IoT systems and a defined digital stack – a combination of digital products and platforms that help us scale digital solutions faster. We have created a data lake where the data from different operational systems is ingested and made available for the digital stack and ML/AI algorithms and apps to “work their magic.” This infrastructure has been very helpful and a critical component of our digital strategy and its successful implementation.
Third, an important enabler and differentiator is leveraging external partnerships to complement the internal J&J capabilities. Over the past few years, we have established a broad external collaboration ecosystem with academia, consortia, startups, other industry companies, suppliers, etc. We are leveraging these ecosystems to advance capabilities in tech innovation, influence the global Industry 4.0 agenda and drive tech progress across industries. These partnerships were built and came to fruition in our innovation hubs, which are based in global tech hotspots, and technology capability centers that are focused on specific Industry 4.0 technologies such as 3D printing, smart sensors and vision systems, advanced materials, advanced robotics and so on.
Q: Additionally, you were just named the 2023 Manufacturing Leader of the Year at this year’s Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala. What are the leadership skills and attributes you believe to be most important in the era of Manufacturing 4.0?
A: It is of course important that leaders have a good understanding of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies, how they can be applied and the value and impact they can bring for your business. But in my opinion, there are three leadership characteristics, and differentiators, that are the most important:
First, supply chain leaders of the future will be more like “ecosystem orchestrators” vs. “managing a supply chain in a particular company.” To do this, you first need an understanding of the customers and markets you serve – an outside-in perspective that you can use to shape your strategy. Additionally, it’s about realizing that no one person or company can or should do it alone. If I take maintaining business continuity as an example, it takes a network of suppliers, governmental agencies, companies, third-party logistics providers and so on all working together. It’s about building those networks, internally and externally, and doing it with a focus on where the expectations of your customers are evolving.
Second, it is also critical for leaders to be creative and curious. Seek continuous learning and think about new ways to work together across functions and reach out to business partners to learn more about how you can work together.
“Supply chain leaders of the future will be more like “ecosystem orchestrators” vs. “managing a supply chain in a particular company.””
Third, keep seeking connections not just within your organization, but externally as well. We have to be intentional about cultivating professional relationships. This could include attending forums and conferences, joining industry associations and consortia, or creating collaborations with other companies inside or outside of your sector and/or suppliers. All these relationships and connections invite diverse perspectives and encourage thought sharing. For J&J, this offers better insight into what patients and customers want and need from us, but also provides insight into other industries and how they’re enhancing operations, innovating and engaging with their customers and deploying advanced tech solutions and innovation. It is important to approach collaboration broadly and holistically to get the most out of it – and it is dynamic; you are never done.
Q: What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
A: Phenomenal things can be achieved via technology, but in the end it is all about the people. We can have the right process, the right technology and systems, but it is the people that are the differentiator. You need the right leadership – bosses that trust and believe in you. You need the right employees to get the job done, and you need the right peers and collaborators because you cannot do it on your own. I have seen this play out in my career time and time again.
Q: What do you foresee as manufacturing’s greatest challenges and opportunities in the years ahead?
A: I believe there will be three great challenges:
One, making manufacturing an interesting place to work and a magnet for current and future talent will be key. So, we need to continue to enable and develop our workforce with regards to future capabilities and skills, talent acquisition, retention, employee engagement and development, culture, and so on. In the current dynamic environment and competitive labor market this will need strong attention and will be a critical success factor for manufacturers.
Two, having a robust data strategy, data availability and visibility isn’t easy for most companies given their complex system infrastructures and legacy systems. But it is critical to crack this nut to be successful in the digital era.
Three, supply chain resilience. The unpredictable and volatile world of today requires that we evolve from the traditional supply chain risk management and isolated risk approach to a holistic multi-dimensional and pro-active resilience approach.
The greatest opportunity I see is for manufacturing leaders to become end-to-end orchestrators vs. just leading the operations within the four walls. The differentiator to accelerate your value creation and impact is through holistic collaboration and by leveraging an ecosystem of partners. Manufacturing leaders need to own, shape, and drive this ecosystem. M
FACT FILE: Johnson & Johnson
Headquarters: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Industry Sector: Diversified healthcare products
Annual Revenue (2022): $94.9 billion
Employees (2022): 155,800
Production: 97 manufacturing sites worldwide
EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Bart Talloen
Title: Vice President, Operational Services and Standards for Johnson & Johnson Services Inc.
Education: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; B.S. and M.B.A.
– Vice President, Strategy Innovation and Deployment, J&J Supply Chain
– Vice President, Supply Chain North America OTC, J&J Consumer
– Vice President, Supply Chain WW Nutritionals, NA OTC, Franchise Strategic Operations, J&J Consumer
– Vice President Consumer Supply Chain Asia Pacific, J&J Consumer
About the author:
Penelope Brown is Senior Content Director of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.