Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Year-end 2017: Distributors overstocked?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Nov 30, 2017
How is 2017 going so far? Are you in cruise control or is your business chaos central? Be honest now! The last quarter of the year is always difficult to manage in order to achieve 2017 results without negatively impacting 2018.
Interim_Management_FMCG_Dave_Jordan_SKU_Distributor_Inventory.jpgWhen your business still relies on a healthy traditional trade serviced by distributors the balance of sales in versus sales out is always a challenge. Any major discrepancy will alert the auditors and in particular you do not want be accused of loading the trade to meet the planned numbers. 
 
If you have let your distributor stocks get out of control this can be remedied through discipline and rigour plus top-down leadership ideally through a dynamic S&OP process.
  1. Month, quarter and year-end push - Run your business on one set of numbers agreed at Board level and ensure NOBODY operates an alternative private agenda. If you follow a decent S&OP process such last minute, period-end pushes can be avoided. Let's face it; period-end sales pushes place huge strain on everybody in the organisation yet only the sales people receive a bonus for these efforts!

  2. Failed launches - Be realistic with new product launch volume projections. Brand Managers will always, repeat always overstate how successful their new SKU is going to be. They do not want to appear unambitious and nor do they want to run out of stock. This is what happens when self-interest decisions are taken outside of a healthy S&OP process.

  3. Old label stock - New launches are not a surprise and with half-decent planning you can avoid seeing old label inventory ageing in the distributor warehouse. As soon as you start pumping in a new label SKU the distributor will stop selling the old one. "Well that's his problem" - no it isn't! It blocks his warehouse, his cash and your customer service. If you plan your launch volume ramp-up well you can avoid this. Consider running a sink-market region where all stocks of the old label SKU are sold out, possibly with a discount.

  4. Old and expired promotions - If promotions have failed and do not move then bite the bullet and take rapid and direct action. Dismantle co-packs and put the valuable and original SKUs back into stock and/or re-label special offer packs.

  5. Customer returns - Producer sales forces struggle with this and particularly when it concerns International Key Accounts. You need a cast iron agreement on responsibility AND authority for customer returns. If this is contractually agreed then fine, take the stock back and recycle within your system. If there is no definite agreement then you leave the door open to individual sales people taking unilateral decisions to accept returns to get clients off their backs. Unexpected and unmanaged returns cause havoc in logistics, warehousing and in ERP's.

  6. Producer forecasting errors - No forecast is ever 100% perfect and nor should it be, by definition. However, if you measure your forecast accuracy by SKU and take actions to improve accuracy then this source of overstock can be significantly reduced. Ignore calls to measure accuracy by brand or by category as the data is useless to the people supplying the products.

  7. Damaged and expired. This is really an accumulation of all the items above. Damaged and expired products will be present in any business. To ensure they do not appear in the ERP as good stock it is important to write off and dispose of them as soon as possible.

If you need to destock your distributors before the auditors come sniffing then you should get on with this quickly. No resources available? Look at who is available to help you get these tasks completed. Crush the internal resistance and get the job done now!

Image courtesy of nonicknamephoto at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Tags: Dave Jordan, CEE, Traditional Trade, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Distribution, Inventory Management & Stock Control

FMCG Trade Loading & 4th Quarter Challenges - deja vue all over again!

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Nov 27, 2017

Some things never change and FMCG 4th Quarter challenges certainly do not. The same challenges are clearly present and what is astonishing is that some companies are still making short term, expensive efforts to “make the sales numbers”. I don't think that is very clever; instead of pouring cash into a black hole without guaranteed return why not divert resources to sort out the underlying problems? They will not go away on their own!

There is a little bit of growth in the market but those green shoots are still relatively puny. Assuming growth is to return, those companies that had the vision to be critical of how they do business in difficult times will be the winners. All the others will be achieving the numbers by loading the trade….again and again.

You should have a good feeling for how things have gone in Q3 and what is still needed in Q4 to reach the numbers you committed to over 12 months ago. "Committed" may well be the wrong word as you were probably forced/cajoled/persuaded to accept figures you knew would be difficult if not nigh impossible to achieve. However, for the greater corporate good you took it on the chin and said “yes, we will do it” (no idea how but cést la vie).

Exactly how are you going to achieve those seemingly distant numbers? The corporate world remains in trouble but so are consumers. The two groups are not disconnected; consumers are having a very tough time considering the increasingly clueless government austerity measures that continue to drip out around the globe. Consumers simply do not have the money to prop up your annual plan and what money they do have is likely to be rationed to be sure of a reasonably happy Christmas. Remember, consumers owe you nothing, not a penny!

One thing you may consider if sales are not going well is to fall into the trap of month-end loading. Let us consider this scenario which is far from uncommon even in “blue-chip” companies. Let us assume October sales are poor in the first 2 weeks and then the word is given to “push” stocks into the trade. Discounts are given, favours called in and hey presto, the required target number is achieved and you and your bosses think you are back on tSupply_chain_sales_planning_results.jpgrack.

You have pushed so much stock into the trade that distributors are short of cash and International Key Accounts platforms are overstocked. Consumers do not drink more beer or wash their hair more often or eat extra snacks because you sold at a discount. They have taken advantage of your offers and have filled their own domestic warehouses ready for Christmas and possibly beyond.

Then we get to November. This time sales are poor into the third week and the rallying call of the stock push does not seem to be working. Support  and discretionary spend budgets are raided again and yet more stock is forced into places where it has no demand. Despite this, the motivation of achieving targets and securing a bonus ensure that the right number is flashed to HQ at the end of the month.

Now just December to get through……even if it is really only a 16/17 day month for selling. You are so close that a few more discounts and the promotion of high value SKUs means you close the year on target. It’s that champagne moment, get the fat cigars out!!!!

Sit down and think about what you have just done for the sake of a slap on the back and a bonus. You have turned the operation of the company upside down, contravened numerous policies, abused S&OP (if you use it) and unfairly stretched your staff in all departments. 

If you are brutally honest you will know you have sold January’s demand over the last quarter the year. You will not get away with that for long as it will come back to bite you eventually!

With stretched resources it is difficult for companies to see what is really happening across all departments and how decisions in one area cause a detrimental effect in another. If you insist on chasing the full year numbers/bonus then you might at least take on some professional support and understand the damage you are causing to yourself.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, CEO, Performance Improvement, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, Distribution, Integrated Business Planning

FMCG Route To Market Challenges; Learn from IKEA

Posted by Dave Jordan on Sun, Nov 19, 2017

There is no excuse in visiting IKEA on a Sunday before watching 22 millionaires with daft hair styles kick a football around on live telly. The weather was cold and the air was full of autumn drizzle and as I turned into the car park the scale of the folly dawned on me; the IKEA car park was bursting at the seams. Cars were on pavements, on grass verges and on the approach road; grim.

There were entire extended families pouring out of cars and into the store. In parallel,   equal numbers were exiting before trying to squash brown flat-packs of “destroy it yourself” furniture and fittings called Grult, Splad and Twong into and onto impossibly small cars.

What do these people do when they have removed all the air from their cars? Do they give granny and granddad a few coins to take the bus home? There is no way you can fit all the people and the flat-pack must-haves into some of these cars.  Maybe that is why IKEA provides free rope on the loading bay; it is to strap the unfortunate grandparents onto the roof of the car.

Oh well, here now so might as well join the hoards of people unable to control a shopping trolley; absolutely no sense of direction and with variable but low levels of short-term memory. I hooked a yellow bag over my shoulder, picked up a pencil and I too became a zombified IKEA shopper!

I know there is a science to store layout design whether it is a Tesco supermarket, a Hornbach DIY store or an M&S type outlet. The store owner wants everyone to see everything at least once and they want exposure to be just at the right time when for example, the shopper has been subliminally convinced that the bright pink Plobo stool would look really nice in their kitchen (believe me it won't).

Ikea Shop Floor FlowOh, but the chaos this causes in an IKEA store! Being a supply chain type I would make the whole store strictly one-way with shoppers not permitted to double-back to soft furnishings or for a forgotten low energy light bulb. In fact, if I had my way I would make the floors with a defined downhill gradient and ensure trolley wheels were oiled hourly to help people on their way, through the broken furniture bargain section, past the cheap fast food and out into the car park. What about a small battery pack on each trolley which delivered a persuasive electric tingle if you tried to push the trolley against the traffic? Too extreme, possibly?

Think of all the wasted hours and effort of moving all the way through the store then insisting on reversing the entire route and getting in the way of everybody else. Then came my eureka moment. I realised where I had seen this behaviours before and why I perversely enjoyed dodging the trolleys in the IKEA maze.

This is precisely what many FMCG, Brewing and Pharmaceutical companies suffer in their Route to Market distribution planning every single day. Wasted miles, wasted fuel, wasted hours and in all that time there are customers not being serviced.

RTM Assessment toolIf your sales are struggling along towards the end of the year and the stream of excuses for gaps appears endless, you might take a close look at how much time your sales people spend travelling to, selling to and guiding distributors. If your sales team has adopted the IKEA system logic then you have just spotted a huge opportunity to improve your Route to Market (RTM)performance.

Get out from behind the desk and have a closer look. Get some IKEA rope, tie yourself to the roof a salesman's car and see where some simple experience, thought and logic can significantly add to your bottom line. 

Too busy to ease yourself out of that IKEA chair? Then seek out some professional resource to take a cold hard look at how you operate RtM in the traditional trade.

IKEA image courtesy of A littleSprite 

Tags: Route to Market, Interim Management, Dave Jordan, Supply Chain, Traditional Trade, Sales, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool

FMCG SKU Proliferation: You DON'T need lost sales in Q4

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Nov 13, 2017
Extra SKUs sneak onto price lists when nobody is looking. Sales & Marketing colleagues prefer new launches with lengthy SKU lists different flavours, different sizes, different colours, new packaging etc. How many shelf facings do they want? How do these decisions get through S&OP meetings? (You do run an S&OP process, don't you?)

Do you know this SKU proliferation is likely to affect your customer service? Rather than delighting more and more customers you maybe disappointing them and wasting countless Euros at the same time. Introducing an SKU is a cross business decision, or should be! When considering new SKU introduction at your next Board or S&OP meeting then the supply chain people should ask some testing questions.

Cost per SKU. Have you ever sat down with your Management Accountant and calculated how much it costs to have an SKU on your price list? Sales staff will bemoan the rising listing fees but in reality the cost of an SKU is much, much more. Including, e.g.

  • An employee must spend time buying the different label, dyestuff, cap, box, etc.
  • The new raw material/packaging must be stored in a warehouse.
  • Someone must call it off at the factory.
  • The factory must schedule and make the SKU.
  • The finished product is stored in a warehouse.
  • Someone at the operating company must plan the SKU.
  • Transport into and ex-factory.
  • Transport to Distributor or Retailer etc, etc

All of these activities and many, many more ensure that the cost of having an SKU on the books is significant. In a very rough rule of thumb the cost of having any 1 SKU on the books of a medium-sized company is typically 30,000 Euros per annum.

Factory complexity. Time is money in factories as they try and make their assets sweat and get as much out of the gate as fast and cheaply as possible. Each colour or perfume change or label or pack size adjustment stops the production line and steals valuable time which you cannot recover.

Logistics. Each individual SKU requires a dedicated pallet or rack or bin location. The more SKUs you have the more money you are paying for space. When you have 16 variants of the same shampoo pack size you can understand why picking errors occur, lowering your customer service and causing lost sales.

Interim_Management_FMCG_Dave_Jordan_SKU_Complexity.jpgPlanning. At year-end low value SKUs really drag your business down as resources are applied to plan and deliver SKUs to market which may increase your volume number but not your profit line. Your scarce resource should be focussed on delivering those SKUs that make a real difference to profit rather than spending time on low value/slow moving SKUs which may actually have to be written off in the long term.

SKU rationalisation. Ok, so despite the above you are drowning under SKU complexity. Far too many organisations launch a new SKU and then fail to revisit the data assumptions on which it was first introduced. Firstly, if a new SKU is not even expected to deliver at least 30,000 Euros (or whatever your in-house figure may be) profit then DON'T LAUNCH IT! For all SKUs on your price list you should carry out an SKU Rationalisation exercise preferably quarterly but at least annually. SKUs that do not meet profit/margin/volume/GP criteria should be placed on watch. If they remain below your cut off points then it is time to propose a delisting.

The ideal time to carry out that rationalisation exercise is before you submit Annual Plan 2018 and certainly before the end of 2017. Your staff will be concentrating on the day to day operation so recruitment of an external resource to carry out the segmentation is advisable. The temporary recruit will be dispassionate and unbiased and will deliver a proposal which is right for the business and not just right for some. 

Of course, there will always be special cases like SKUs that constitute a range or a niche local jewel but as long as these are the exceptions then you have a chance of a fast flowing, efficient and reliable supply chain ready for 2018. 

Need more expert advise from readily available talent to address SKU Complexity? Please click here. 

Image courtesy of Supertrooper freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: Customer service, SKU, FMCG, Interim Management, Dave Jordan, S&OP, Sales