Unilever reaps benefits of global IT simplification push

Unilever said today it was continuing to reap benefits from its ‘One Unilever’ business transformation programme, confirming that the work it completed in 2007 to streamline its supply chain and use of SAP had delivered savings of €1bn globally.

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Unilever said today it was continuing to reap benefits from its ‘One Unilever’ business transformation programme, confirming that the work it completed in 2007 to streamline its supply chain and use of SAP had delivered savings of €1bn globally.

The savings, achieved against underlying sales growth of 5.5%, helped to improve the group's profit margins, said group CEO Patrick Cescau. “The reshaping of the business and the acceleration of our change programme are bringing real benefit,” he said.

The programme, which ultimately aims to simplify and rationalise Unilever's global processes on a single converged IT platform, pushed ahead in all regions were Unilever operates.

In Europe the roll-out of a single SAP enterprise resource management system continued to the extent that two-thirds of Europe is on the platform, with full implementation due to be completed by the end of the year.

In the Americas the programme saw Argentina, Brazil and Mexico consolidate operations into a single head office in 2007 – a move that will be followed this year in the US. The year also saw the US move over to a single SAP platform, just like its Latin American neighbours.

Four of the countries in the Asia/AMET region have also adopted a single country-wide SAP platform.

Overall restructuring costs arising for the group were €875m (£655m) for the year, with ‘One Unilever’ consuming £405m. A further £130m was invested in restructuring the European supply chain. “In 2008 we expect to see a further underlying improvement in operating margin,” Cescau said.

The roll-out of SAP across the group follows the group's signing of a global enterprise agreement with SAP in May last year to give the firm greater access to SAP technology and the opportunity to collaborate on best practices.

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