Frederik Spiekermann, Group Director Procurement at Atotech, tells all about his ambitious plan for the business, his team’s success in…

Frederik Spiekermann, Group Director Procurement at Atotech, tells all about his ambitious plan for the business, his team’s success in implementing it, and the major benefits of camaraderie across the organisation.

Atotech: The power of team spirit 
Atotech: The power of team spirit 

With 16 years of procurement experience at his fingertips, Frederik Spiekermann is perfectly poised to lead his team into a modern era with a new-and-improved procurement function in tow. He kicked off his career in 2005, and 14 of his working years have been spent in private equity-backed portfolio firms – undeniably fast-paced environments prone to change and evolution. At Atotech, a speciality chemicals and equipment business, he’s Group Director Procurement heading up a team of around 60 worldwide. At previous organisations he’s held other high-profile roles across several countries, dramatically advanced his career, and thrived in busy, transformative roles. 

The fact that Spiekermann has been a proactive force in every one of his roles is no surprise. At Atotech – a business that was freshly private equity-owned when he joined – he realised right from the beginning that procurement needed a serious overhaul to fit the new circumstances; something he made sure everybody was aware of, not only the function itself. “Within six weeks of starting, I got the entire procurement group together in Berlin for a global meeting,” he explains.  

“That had never been done before, and most of them had never met. I don’t think procurement had been seen as a value driver until then, but under private equity ownership, that changed. A complete transformation was needed.” 

The transformation begins 

This is why it was important for Spiekermann to get everyone on site and address them face-to-face with a clear, concise plan in mind. For him, communication is key when it comes to change. He explained to them what it meant to be a standalone company and how private equity would affect them, shared what he stood for and his vision for the function, and how he saw himself within Atotech. And while some may have been doubtful that what Spiekermann talked about and promised was possible, he made it clear that they were one as a team. This was the beginning of the creation of the team spirit Spiekermann is so proud of today. 

“Instead of working in little kingdoms, everyone needed to come together,” he explains. “Those first few days were a strong kickoff, and we laid the foundation for what today, after three-and-a-half-years, is a very successfully-performing procurement organisation.” It’s understandable that groups which were siloed in this way wouldn’t, at the time, necessarily have had the broader perspective that Spiekermann has, but he attributes that to the fact that under the previous structure, they didn’t have anyone who would represent them towards senior management and celebrate and share their results, their achievements, their contributions. With Spiekermann, they suddenly had a clear roadmap, structure, and guidance. They knew where they stood – an invaluable part of any job. 

“Often, procurement is not filled by the most bullish people in the room, but if they do their job right and strategically, procurement can deliver great value. I let them know that they were not alone – that I would join many of the meetings, I would show them how I wanted things to be done because I know it’s successful, and I would be part of the solution. Either we win together, or we lose together.” 

Frederik Spiekermann, Group Director Procurement at Atotech
Frederik Spiekermann, Group Director Procurement at Atotech

A plan in two parts 

Having gained the confidence of his team and the wider business of Atotech, Spiekermann set to work putting his plan into action. There were two waves to his roadmap: the first few months of wave one were for stabilising the newly formed procurement function and getting the structure in place that was wanted, and needed. That happened very quickly – it needed to – and then the remainder of the initial two years were based around performance, standardising processes so that everybody was on the same page.  

“That was wave one,” Spiekermann explains, “because you need to quickly show how you’re contributing to the business. Atotech had hired new people, allowed me to establish a completely new function – there needs to be payback.” 

The first part of wave one was done and dusted before the end of 2018, around four months after Spiekermann’s plan kicked off, with him rallying the global and regional leadership to help cement the role of the procurement function.  

Then came the creation of a savings pipeline to show how procurement could and would contribute value. Timeline-wise, 2019 was all about performance, and in 2020, the second wave – which is focused on digitalisation and risk mitigation – began. For Spiekermann, as somebody who’s passionate about adding value, watching this transformation bloom into what it is now has been deeply gratifying. 

“Previously, the regions acted on their own,” he says. “Having the global reporting line, a global team, and team spirit added value to the business. I always say helping hands should reach out in both directions, and they did – the regions supported one another far more than previously, and far more willingly, because they felt that we’re all part of the same group. We are one global procurement organisation.” 

Atotech: The power of team spirit 
Atotech: The power of team spirit 

Responding to disaster 

By the time the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, Atotech’s procurement organisation was around 18 months into its transformation. Whilst it’s almost impossible to predict the impact of something like that, the team was at least far more prepared than it would have been without the transformation prompted by Spiekermann. As a global organisation, Atotech faces global supply chain issues for a variety of reasons – the pandemic has just been the most wide-reaching and dramatic so far – and so for Spiekermann and his team, the key has been understanding the supply chains in a more meaningful way. 

“Having a global camaraderie helped us navigate through these storms, whereas a local setup would have made it more complicated,” he explains. “That mutual support, the genuine friendships as well as the really positive professional relationships, helped us prepare. People went the extra mile for their colleagues, whether it was across their own segment, chemistry, equipment, or the global indirect team. With the way we had set things up, we were and are leaner and quicker, with shorter response times to the issues. The new normal is about supporting each other.” 

A better, closer sense of being a team has another upside for Spiekermann, because having the right people in the right place with the right attitude means there’s no need for him to micromanage anybody. Either he’s hired the right person, or he needs to hire the right person. His team operates in a way where processes run like a well-oiled machine – he merely provides the structure, the vision, and guidance when it’s needed, but these people are experts in their field and have full freedom to operate. 

The importance of diversity 

The quality of the people at Atotech is something very dear to Spiekermann’s heart, in fact. Throughout the business is a diverse mixture of people – the procurement leadership team alone has a gender split of 50/50 – and for him, that’s so important to the health and success of any business.  

“My four years working in the United States really shaped my view on diversity,” he explains. “I’m so happy and proud to lead this diverse global team. If I walked into a meeting room to see 50 people of my age, same gender, same race, it would likely be a very boring conversation. You learn so much from being exposed to people’s differences, and to have different perspectives in the room is very fruitful. It drives better results.” 

Spiekermann has also had the pleasure of watching and helping his team to advance on an individual basis. As part of his setting up and restructuring plan, one Category Manager has since become Global Head of Sourcing, and another has gone from Category Manager Equipment to Head of Direct Equipment Procurement. Atotech is dedicated to rewarding hard work with real career advancement, proving that it’s an environment in which people can grow significantly. On one occasion, Spiekermann even temporarily filled the now-Head of Chemistry Procurement Europe role for maternity leave with an industry veteran who was close to retiring. The applicant was still passionate about the sector and wanted to be involved in something exciting at the end of his career, and the leadership role would still be there for the team member on maternity leave when she returned.  

While many of the partner relationships were already well-established before Spiekermann joined the team, the way Atotech operates from a team-centric perspective has certainly improved them even further. There is what Spiekermann refers to as “a momentum of team spirit”, a sense that people enjoy working together, which feeds into this private-equity business being performance and growth-led. At this stage, these things are firmly part of its DNA. 

Atotech, 2022
Atotech, 2022

The road ahead 

The question is: what’s next? Well, predominantly, the continuation of the digitalisation phase of Spiekermann’s transformation. Having begun this year, it will take approximately another two years and will keep the procurement team very busy.  

“At the same time, it is possible that the supply interruptions we saw in 2020 due to COVID-19 and that have spilled into 2021, may also last throughout 2022,” Spiekermann says. “But of course, we need to keep improving our performance, and enabling growth while those supply interruptions continue. You need to keep existing customers and new customers happy and supplied while continuing to drive digitalisation further.  

“The groundwork has been laid, and now we’re ready to build on that. You need to get the bread and butter right, then you can lay the processes on top of it.” 

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