Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chains: Searching for the next “big thing” – it’s here!

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jul 27, 2016

I had an informal discussion with a small group of FMCG Supply Chain VP/Directors last week. I well remember the occasion as it was the day UK had its annual summer but the discussion was memorable for more than that fact. After rushing back to base in the inevitable evening rain with my briefcase as the only shelter I wrote out some notes from the session and they worried me.

Supply chains have moved on a long way from the early days when bits and pieces from other usually incongruous functions were glued together to form a nascent coherent function. I cannot list the huge number of initiatives that have taken place in the intervening years but some global supply chains are so slick that even sales people are almost impressed! Not all new ideas resulted in sustainable changes but some of the more obvious candidates like S&OP, corporate buying, ERP deployment and 3PLP partnerships have more than earned a return on the investment.

Unfortunately, you cannot stand still and supply chains everywhere are continuing to eke out incremental improvements in some of the more mature cases or substantial step changes in those less developed. Some companies clearly have plenty of scope for improvement but what about those who are at the top end of the Gartner Oscars list?

Is there anything left for Supply Chain VPs and Directors to achieve? Has all the cutting edge, innovative stuff happened? Are there really no more storming, monster initiatives coming over the hill? Is this as good as supply chain is going to get?

Talking of monsters, let me go back to the senior group discussion I mentioned at the top of the page.  S&OP and its younger sibling Integrated Business Planning have stabilised virtually all of the major multinational supply chains. Bringing a degree of discipline across all functions and a smaller improvement in sales forecast credibility has helped companies squeeze positives in top and bottom line performance.

Heavy investment inFMCG_Supply_chain_analytics_inventory_stock.jpg ERP upgrades have added a degree of financial rigour and reliability to businesses although the underlying thought is that even now, nobody really gets value for money from those slick and shiny IT packages.

I can imagine all these hungry supply chain executives searching for something that can make a lasting difference. You know what? They are standing there while it’s raining soup but they’ve all got forks!

The one area which has been largely untouched by the various supply chain initiatives and IT tools is inventory. Boring, boring stock levels; the planning manager’s crutch, the sales manager’s obsession, the working capital bane of management finance managers lives.

You may argue your stock is under control. The level is the right number of weeks cover. The value is at or below the annual plan targets. Even the number of pallet spaces is on track at the 3PLP warehouse. All highly likely but are those stock levels really supporting the business or simply just propping it up? 

Look carefully and I think you will find it is the latter. Inventory will not be aligned with precise market activation and selling out plans and is therefore stifling rather than facilitating growth. All the numbers may apparently support the business objectives but look closely and you are likely to find very little science in how forward stock cover is defined and specifically by SKU.

There is a solution. A sensible low cost solution that works and tellingly, it has been designed by supply chain experts for supply chain people!

Put your forks away and read about SupplyVue supply chain analytics. This works!

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: FMCG, S&OP, Inventory Management & Stock Control, Supply Chain Analytics, Integrated Business Planning

Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat & his Supply Chain hat

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jul 06, 2016

I recently peeped outside of the FMCG and Pharmaceutical world and took a look at the amount of empty beds in the National Health Service in UK and how a little alternative thinking plus basic demand and supply planning expertise could improve bed utilisation. Today it is the turn of the Royal Mail and all those “black and white cat” postie types to be in line for my critique. 

Before you say that the Royal Mail is not a proper supply chain, it is a supply chain and a very complicated one at that. Apart from the reducing but still significant Christmas card peak, this is a business that cannot really forecast how many letters and parcels will be dropped into Post Offices and Post Boxes for delivery on a daily basis. Or perhaps they can or should? Is it any different from the daunting, daily, dynamic demand volatility experienced in Tesco, Asda and Aldi etc.?

Anyway, that is not the issue on this occasion but it is about the Royal Mail redirection service which should be a very straightforward formality. You move to a new address and pay the Royal Mail to keep an eye on your letters and parcels and forward them to your new abode. This is not as simple as it sounds as finding that gas bill in a plain brown envelope must be very close to searching for a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, they have been doing this for ages and in large numbers so should be very proficient.

FMCG_MAIL_POSTAL_SUPPLY_CHAIN_SERVICE.jpgNot this time. They got it horribly wrong from day one and continued to do so as even “signed for” mail which must be capable of automatic sorting was sent to the old address. Luckily we are still in the locality and in contact with the remaining Neanderthal student residents who in their few conscious periods send vowel-free texts letting us know Postman Pat has left something in the heiress’s name. Before they have the chance to eat or smoke what has arrived we quickly pop down and rescue items that slipped through the redirect net. That net must have holes the size of Ronaldo’s ego.

After repeated telephone calls and emails and the release of only a minor amount of my pent up frustration from afar, Postman Pat has refunded all costs and is now carrying out the service – very efficiently now, incidentally – free of charge. What a waste of time, energy and other resources!

I have no idea what the inside of a sorting office looks like or what processes and procedures are in place or their daily challenges but failure to carry out core advertised service is very disappointing. Delivering enveloped and packaged mail is what they do best; if they cannot get that right then what chance do they have with other value added services?

Walk into a pub on a scorching day (ok, so that is not going to be in UK) to be told sorry, no beer. Step into a supermarket to find no bread, milk, tea or cheese! Pull up at the McDonalds drive-in to be told no fries today - actually no bad thing!

You have to get the basics right or your credibility with existing and potential new clients is severely limited. Some organisations bend over backwards to gain new business and rightly so but why don’t they bend further backwards to keep that business? In FMCG and Pharma I find business retention is far harder than finding it in the first place.

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

Tags: Customer service, FMCG, Performance Improvement, Pharma, Forecasting & Demand Planning