Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chain Insights - In trust we trust!

Posted by Stefan Cucu on Fri, Sep 05, 2014

No, I’m not suggesting we should start printing Supply Chain bank notes but if these were ever introduced, they would certainly need to contain the phrase above. Or just imagine introducing a new KPI: the trust level inside your Supply Chain, a (key) common indicator for all players: departments, suppliers and clients. This would not be so new: the stock markets are using it as we speak.

Seriously, some years ago, I was asked to define the most predominant feeling when working in Supply Chain. This happened during a training session in Leadership. Initially, I did not understand what they wanted from me and in addition, the question came from a former SAS trainer, with iron muscles and a metallic look. He told incredible stories and recommended us to sleep no more than 4 hours per day. ..... I was confused about this questions coming from Mr. Terminator.

After that incident, I kept searching for an answer for many years. Feelings? When you deal with numbers all day long? Yes, perhaps I should cry, particularly when the expenses are way above budget?  Anyway, it so happened that the answer should be given by a waiter.

If you are familiar with the city of Hamburg, you may have had the chance to eat at Friesenkeller, a local restaurant near Alster. Nothing sophisticated (at the time), just good food and good service.

I was a young Supply Chain Manager celebrating together with his team and the German suppliers of raw materials. What were we celebrating? A Service Level Agreement (SLA), finally signed after two years of struggle: articles, paragraphs, wrapped up in a document which weighed about two kilos and was most likely impossible to be read by any normal human being.

Supply_Chain_SLA_supplier_qualityCheering, smiling, laughing. We had finally done it! I had a plate of shrimps. Exceptionally cooked, with olive oil, rosemary and a vague scent of garlic... “You have some excellent shrimps in Germany. I guess you must have an SLA with your shrimp supplier”, I said jokingly. Everybody at the table enjoyed my joke, but not the waiter, who after placing the fork at the correct distance from the plate, said “I don’t know, sir, but I’ll ask”. The German colleagues tried to explain to the waiter what was an SLA.  Nevertheless, we did not expect the waiter to take the matter seriously.

But in the end, after we had finished the delicious meal, the waiter came with a most elaborate answer: “Our shrimps are not German, sir. They are French because our supplier is French. We did not change the supplier in the last 40 years because of the exceptional quality and freshness but we don`t have a SLA, we just trust them.”

Wow! Here is my answer: trust, we need trust in Supply Chain.  We speak about Supply Chain transparency, but you feel trust when you have it. All the magnificent apps you use to interface the ERP`s, capable to generate reports that others apps will read, all these are generating trust.

Yes, indeed, trust is expensive: 40 years of shrimp trade or lots of money in IT systems, SLAs, etc…

I know, you will say trust is needed in any job, and this is true, but in Supply Chain it is certainly a must-have.

Perhaps you should introduce this inside your Supply Chain: a new KPI - level of trust...  Just think about it.

Image courtesy of tor00722 at

Tagss: Customer service, FMCG, Humour, Stefan Cucu, Supply Chain