Supply Chain Blog

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

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