Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chain Challenges: International Rugby Union.......

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Mar 15, 2012

Sacred blue, mon petite pois, bonjour as Del Boy would say. Against all odds, a very young and experimental England rugby team defeated France in the 2012 6 Nations. Add in the fact that this match was in France and the home team had not lost there for several years then this reflects the size of the achievement.

Rugby Supply Chain Analogue copyStrange sport in some ways. The forwards are the incredibly big blokes who seldom score and the backs are the more nimble bodied (but still relatively huge) who carry out most of the scoring. In a majority of sports you score goals or points but in rugby you get rewarded for a “try” which sounds a bit wishy-washy and indecisive if you are not a follower of the game. You also have to pass the ball backwards in order to make progress and go forwards so that presents a challenge in rugby ball supply chain terms. In supply chains you are generally pushing everything forward towards the consumer shelf, continually honing your route to market. Anything coming in the reverse direction is usually unwanted, expired or damaged goods and that easily sticks a spanner in an otherwise slick supply chain.

The rugby ball is not round; nowhere near a perfect sphere and when kicked it reminds me of an FMCG sales forecast – no, please bear with me! Have you ever seen a rugby ball bounce after being kicked forwards and into the sky? If the ball is not caught cleanly the shape means it could actually bounce in any direction at any speed and change both at any time without any warning. Impossible to predict. Sounds familiar?

You could also imagine the scrum being the supply chain team grunting and groaning and expending mammoth sweat and effort to prevent the competition from getting to the target, i.e. the ball. You then watch as the backs (a.k.a. salesmen) stride on and take all the credit and kudos for the entre process! In rugby it is not quite like that as team spirit is very real and paramount but in FMCG/brewing/pharma life that is far too often the reality. In rugby your department or position does not matter and the whole team is focused on scoring points.

The latest 6 Nations championship ends shortly with the last round of matches. The likely overall winners will be Wales but there is just a small chance, a very teeny-weeny chance that England could win. Such a result would mean the English supply chain was slick and fast with almost 100% customer service and the Wales backs went on strike!

I will have a think about how cricket can be used to illustrate supply chain excellence but I fear that might take some time……….

Image credit: RBS 6 Nations

Tagss: Customer service, FMCG, Route to Market, Dave Jordan, Supply Chain, Forecasting & Demand Planning