Jul 17, 2019
Diversity and Collaboration Fuel Additive Manufacturing at Henkel
As a Henkel employee, I am part of a large, multinational company that operates worldwide with leading innovations, brands, and technologies in three businesses: Adhesive Technologies, Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care. Headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, we have around 53,000 employees, representing 120 nationalities in nearly 80 countries.
From a gender perspective, the chemical industry is definitely not what one would generally consider diverse. But this is beginning to change. In a Chemical & Engineering News survey taken a decade or so ago, only 8.7 percent of 413 different management positions were held by women. By 2017, when the same study was conducted again, the numbers had shifted dramatically with women holding 32 percent of positions that have “business responsibility.” Women have also made gains in nearly every other area, including human resources, finance, legal and administration.
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Over the past ten years, Henkel has become increasingly interested in the additive manufacturing industry. Three years ago, we made a commitment to enter the space and began exploring various go-to-market strategies. In 2018, we announced the first formal step in our journey. Since then, we’ve made several more announcements including the acquisition of Molecule Corp.
From a strategic perspective, Molecule was a great fit for Henkel. Molecule provide advanced solutions for 3D printing, impacting many different markets, including medical device, aerospace, automotive and a wide variety of consumer goods. They also supply industrial inkjet solutions.
While that’s important, there has to be a certain amount of chemistry (pardon the pun) between the teams. It’s here that Henkel’s culture proved to be a significant asset.
Molecule has two founders, one of whom is female, Karla Witte, and she has an impressive resume. Her career spans nearly 20 years in the industrial inkjet business, where she worked in executive roles in both product and business development. Karla is the very definition of an intrapreneur and exactly the type of person we wanted to help grow Henkel’s 3D Printing business.
With Henkel’s strong commitment to diversity, evidenced by the number of women in key positions, the team at Molecule felt secure, knowing that everyone on their team would benefit from the acquisition. “There’s so much opportunity at Henkel,” Karla says. “At Molecule, culture was embedded into everything we did. Henkel has a similar philosophy, and from the number of women in key positions, it’s obvious female experience and talent is highly valued. I’m excited to see where we go from here.”
We share that excitement at Henkel. Since the acquisition, we revealed our new open materials platform and previously announced collaborations with several manufacturers of 3D printers, including EnvisionTEC, Origin and NewPro3D.
For 3D printing industry to fully scale, it must expand beyond prototyping and into production. To do that, it has to make the leap from model shops and into large organizations across many different vertical markets. Some like automotive and aerospace were also historically male, but others like medical and consumer products are much more diverse.
At Henkel in general, and in the 3D Printing business unit specifically, many women are in leadership positions. I manage global marketing and strategy, for instance, and I’m certainly not alone.
Having worked in many different functions, including sales, operations and supply chain I can say with some authority that best-of-breed companies seek diversity both from themselves and their business partners. Over my career, the contributions of women have been valued and appreciated by my suppliers and customers alike.
As additive manufacturing continues its evolution from cottage industry to manufacturing game-changer, women need to be on the front lines. As one of those women at Henkel, I’m excited to be part of the diverse team committed to delivering on 3D printing’s promise of sparking the next industrial revolution.