Picture the scene in many a brewing boardroom; a terse note has arrived from the suits at HQ telling the boss to urgently reduce costs as the year-end result is not going to look pretty. Why do all the board directors then look silently at their supply chain colleague? Of course, there are significant costs associated with a modern supply chain but you cannot make significant savings from that infrastructure overnight. Supply chain budgets very rarely contain significant discretionary spend unlike the bank busting sums in the pockets of sales and marketing!
As is usually the case, let us assume the SC team is constantly looking at ways to reduce cost in factories, logistics networks, 3PLPs, planning etc. What other costs could be challenged without causing discontinuity and unnecessary stress in the company? The SC usually leads any cost efficiency projects which I think is fair enough as the discipline is most familiar with cost control and challenge.
Here are 5 areas I feel are always worthy of visiting when looking for "low-hanging fruit" bottom line benefits.
- Old promotions, soon to expire stock, old artwork/label stock, slow movers. All companies (particularly FMCG) will have some or all of this and for various reasons - some good, some not so good. If you do not routinely address this you will be hit with an unexpected loss at year end or at the next stock count. Bring the list to the board meeting and hold accountable the actual people responsible for creating the stock in the first place. Sell it out and stop paying for storage too!
- Promotional activity. Is it all really necessary and does it actually pay back? Do you know how much of that original pristine packaging assembled in the factory is destroyed in the name of the latest promotional whim? Plastic film, outer cases and trays litter the floors of repacking operations everywhere. You have paid for that original packaging and now you are paying someone to destroy that and replace it with fresh material. Just think of all those Dollars/Euros that could be spent in a much more customer focussed way or simply saved? When you consider all the extra labour, logistics and packaging material just how much value is really generated for your business?
- How many SKUs do you need? Do you know how many your business has when you include all the promos and specials? Every single SKU costs money to source, transport, plan, store and deliver. Plus, the more you have the more likely you will generate the problem discussed in point 1 above. Analyse your current portfolio and see what is really driving value in your company. Conversely, see what is sucking value out of the business at the other end of the scale. Every extra low value SKU clogs up the wheels of your Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP) process.
- Telephones and internet. Always a difficult area as it can be perceived to be petty but it is usually an uncontrolled drain on cash. If you have provided staff with internet access on laptops or tablets or telephones you can be sure you are funding personal surfing time. Unless free telephone calls are part of the remuneration package why should the employee not pay for them? In my experience, significant cash can be saved through just a little prudence in this area. Do you leave your telephone network open at night with unlimited international dialling access? Also, the next time you see 2 people in the same office talking to each other on company mobile phones.......
- Discretionary spend. Don't make it discretionary! If budgets exist for team building and entertainment you can bet your life those funds will be used. Do you really need to "team build" every year? These occasions tend to be considered as a perk of the job and I am not convinced of their value when they happen so often. If team building sessions are to go then you should ensure this applies to all departments. Letting the marketing team building slip through will simply demotivate the rest of the company.
Achieving visible buy-in at the top table which is cascaded to teams will generate the best initiatives and ensure alignment. Paying consistent attention to these and other cost areas might save you from the ultimate saving of issuing redundancy notices including possibly, your own!
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