Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chain dates to remember: Advanced Planning

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jan 31, 2018

February is here but blink and you will miss it as it is not a leap year. You cannot change January performance and February should be quite firm by now, so you need to be looking further ahead in your S&OP. Much further ahead.

What is coming soon in the wonderful world of FMCG and others?

Valentine’s Day 14th February. Yes, I know it is cheesy, but it is a prime time for chocolates and greetings cards and if your stock is not in place already, don’t bother. I can still see discounted Christmas chocolate on the shelves and I am sure the same will be true after the big red heart day.

Spring. An important period particularly in eastern Europe where a thorough house cleaning is the order of the day. Surfaces and fabrics are thoroughly cleaned and presents an opportunity for homecare producers to get an early boost in sales.

Easter April 1st. A huge confectionery event and fairy early in the year so you get to nibble nice, crisp chocolate rather than warmish stuff – ugh! Take care though because as mentioned above, you will probably be discounting your stock for several weeks after the event. Perfect for chocolate lovers but not great for retailers, your profit or core SKU brand planning.

Orthodox Easter 8th April. Usually a more religious and less chocolatey event but increasingly becoming like the earlier Easter. The dates are very close to each other this year, so this should not cause any significant planning and distribution challenges for global and regional producers. If you are slick enough you could transfer any obvious excess from the April 1st event into Orthodox markets, labelling permitted of course.

Eid al-Fitr. Mid-June. The holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. A huge, huge surge in the demand for food and drink across several work-free days. If food and drink producers in Middle East and North Africa get their planning wrong during Ramadan and the following Eid, then the annual results are immediately in danger.

FMCG_PLANNING_ADVANCED_S&OP_DAVE_JORDAN.jpgSummer. While some events are fixed and in the diary years in advance, the appearance of the sun in the northern hemisphere remains unpredictable. This is an annual nightmare for drinks and ice cream producers as despite all the algorithms and predictive tools demand is difficult to guage, in Europe at least. In the hotter months the key aim must be for your key SKUs to be available 100% of the time. This may lead to future write-offs but if the sun pops out and your products don’t…….. 

Eid al-Adha late August. Another Islamic celebration which is perhaps not as grand as Ramadan Eid but as it is in August this year you can be sure chilled liquids will be in high demand. Unike in Europe, the sun is not shy in shining brightly in the ME and NA regions.

Back to school September. Paper, pens, pencils and Peppa Pig lunch boxes will fly off the shelves in preparation for the new school year. Look at the major retailers and you will see a very wide choice and surely not everything is sold. In fact, I remember seeing a huge stock of Bob the Builder merchandise on sale in rural markets in Uganda one Christmas. You have to get rid of it somewhere!

Thanksgiving 22nd November. A mainly North American food fest but with similar celebrations in Netherlands, surprisingly. Large family feasts and open-house entertaining ensure a peak for foods and drink manufacturers.

Christmas. Not much to say here except sales of everything in FMCG-land and many others reach a crescendo of demand as December progresses.

There are many other important peak seasons which may be global, continent-wide, regional or very local but all of them must be considered in your forward planning. If you don’t get it right someone else will push their products in front of consumer's faces.

If you want to be successful, then all these events and more should already be in your 2019 planning process. No typo there, yes 2019! Rather like driving a car on a long motorway, the further you are able to look ahead the easier it is to deal with unexpected hazards.

Image courtesy of Supertrooper at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Integrated Business Planning

Your FMCG Supply Chain: The end of January is nigh!

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jan 24, 2018

Where has that first post-holiday month gone? Suddenly it’s the 24th of January and there are only 7 calendar days and 5 working days until you close the month. Adopt panic stations despite what Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army would say.

Are you ahead of the required run rate or are you suffering the usual FMCG malaise of looking to push stock into the trade in the last few days? After all, nobody at HQ likes missing the first period target of the year, do they? I’d guess you have about 60% of your turnover complete which leaves you with 40% to plan, make, deliver and most importantly, invoice in those last 5 business days.

The chaos this causes to supply chains is rarely fully understood in other disciplines. This is what month end loading does and this list is not exclusive. Selling stock that is not actually required in the market only because you need to generate turnover and profit…….

  1. Blocks up warehouses AND wallets for the next period.
  2. Overloads capacity in warehouses as high levels of stock try to get in and out at the same time and often through the same doors.
  3. Raises costs as transport availability is stretched and prices are at a premium. (You know who is loading the trade when the truck queue snakes around the warehouse late into the evening!)
  4. Distorts demand signals for sold SKUs not in the plan.
  5. Creates huge pressure and long hours for the supply chain team and 3PLPs.
  6. Disrupts promotional planning due to stock not being available for co-packing.
  7. Causes inevitable errors in picking, packing and invoicing due to excess volume against a ticking clock.

….and then a very, very quiet first week of the succeeding month.

Nobody expects you to achieve 4-6% of monthly sales on each working day; life is not like that. Everyone along the supply chain including customers and consumers have cash flow and space constraints as well as competitive pressures but over loading the last week of the month must stop. Blindly loading stock to meet numbers is an unsustainable practise and against corporate codes of business principles. Add this to the disruptive chaos caused and there is no doubt it is negatively impacting your long-term business aspirations.

FMCG_S&OP_SALES_LOADING_TRADE.jpgIf trade loading is a problem, then you just have to bite the bullet and take a hit in the month and why not in January to continue the rest of the year as you mean to go on? Of course, you will not win the corporate monthly sales award but stopping the routine of heavy loading in the last week of the month will put you on a far more secure and reliable footing both in terms of market performance and reputation.

You need to take steps to erradicte this behaviour but your pain can be minimised by…..

  1. Running a genuine S&OP process, which is visibly led from the top team.
  2. Encouraging staff to pass actionable information throughout the business and avoid data bombing the next functional silo. Stop trying to prove others wrong; prove them right!
  3. Being brutally honest as it’s always the best policy. It’s business, not personal.

We are in the final week of the month, what lengths will you go to in order to reach the monthly target? Think very, very carefully.

Image courtesy of vectorolie at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, Inventory Management & Stock Control

FMCG Supply Chain: What is your 2018 Planning Priority?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018

We already find ourselves at 17th January so not many days left to ensure your monthly top and bottom lines are on target. Good luck with that if your business (& body!) is only just shaking off the holiday excesses. What is top of mind? The sagging month to date sales rate? The slow return to normal of the S&OP meeting schedule? The upcoming corporate audit? No. Top of mind is where to go on your summer holidays and to get this booked as soon as possible.

Get your holiday slot booked at the office and make sure you sync with school holidays and soon you will be surfing the internet checking out all the best deals. Flight only or hotel included? What about airport transfers? Do we go with full service airlines or suffer the middle of the night, cattle-class treatment on a low-cost flyer? Long term car parking at the airport? Oh, look at the kids go free offers – no I don’t believe it either; nobody gets a holiday for free, well except possibly Mrs Queen and free-loading MPs.

You may even create a dreaded Excel spreadsheet listing potential destinations and a matrix of all the travel options and applicable costs. Carefully you will fine tune the list until you really have found the best deal with the most convenient and least expensive travel. After the briefest of discussions with the rest of the family the bookings will be done and dusted well before the end of January. What a personal masterclass in forward planning!

FMCG_ACTIVITY_PLANNING_SALES_WINE.jpgYet you still have no idea on your FMCG acivity plans for the next 6 months let alone a much longer horizon. If you left your holiday plans to the last minute you would probably struggle to find something decent. Yes, if you are single or a couple minus mini debt creators then you can just turn up at the airport and see what seats are available and take it from there. You may well be sleeping on a beach or in a hostel where there are more joints than an orthopaedic ward and the only pillows are inflated wine box bladders but so what, you will cope. However, with small people in tow that last minute gambling option will rarely be entirely appropriate.

Back to your activity planning or lack of it. Some of your major in-market initiatives will be annual events around Spring Cleaning or Easter or a seasonal weather peak so being late with those is unforgiveable as they should be fixtures in your rolling plan. Other promotions will be tactical or at short notice due to market dynamics such as competitor activity or price increases (prices rarely drop do they?). Nevertheless, most of your activity planning for the next 12 months should be firm with a further 12 months of tentative plans which firm up as the S&OP process passes through each month.

Short notice opportunities are ok if you can manage the same without affecting those that have been carefully planned. Marketeers may demand a special promotion to take account of some topical and usually scandalous news or about the latest air-head to emerge from the Big Brother house. If you can, so be it but let these impact on the ones that really matter at your peril. Topical opportunistic activities will probably be sexy and raise a guffaw, but seldom do they contribute much to your top and bottom lines and they don’t impress the suits at HQ.

People outside of supply chain somehow think that promotions and special offers magically appear outside of all the usual planning processes. They don’t. If you stick in a last-minute giggle promotion, then be very sure you are disrupting regular day to day activities about which you will no doubt complain.

You should try inflated wine box bladders; great for camping!

Image courtesy of recyclethis.co.uk

Tags: FMCG, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, promotions

Your FMCG Supply Chain in 2018: 5 Problematic Predictions

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jan 10, 2018

Chris Rea has finally found the correct turn off, a lot of people in Africa still don’t know its Christmas and the novelty Santa toilet seat cover is back in the box. Oh, and chocolate Easter eggs are in the shops 4 months in advance. Christmas and the New Year holidays are well and truly over, and the clock is already ticking down on the month of January.

FMCG_PLANNING_S&OP_INVENTORY.jpgAs I type it is the 10th of January, so you have 15 working days left to get your year off to a flying start. And once January has gone and the short month of February flies by you will be well into the 1st quarter. Time is already running out so do you know your supply chain priorities for 2018?

Here I make 5 predictions on what will happen with your FMCG supply chain this year:

SKU Complexity

The one in/one out policy for new SKU introduction will be overridden by sales and marketing plans that overestimate the benefit of additional SKUs. Despite the usual guarantees and commitments, you will end the year with far more complexity than you started. You will retain the same number of key SKUs that account for 80% of your business but maintaina rat’s tail of SKUswhich contribute little to turnover and profit.

Inventory

Your inventory cover will remain high as demand planners knee-jerk stock build as they do not understand which specific SKUs are driving the excess. You will set stock reduction targets by shaving the number of days cover and while this may allow you to tick a KPI box it does not remove the underlying causes. You belatedly consider some clever supply chain analytics to see past the one-dimensional limitations of ERP functionality.

Spring/Easter/Ramadan Campaigns

Preparations will be last minute as deadlines for receipt of artwork are missed despite the supposed rigours of the NPD and SAP processes. Agreed volumes will be eventually be shipped only to sit on the shelves after the target period causing a knock-on detrimental effect to subsequent promotional schedules and regular demand. Your target for reduction of write-offs and waste will not be achieved and by some distance.

Sales Peaking

All your best efforts to avoid selling huge amounts of product in the final week of the month fall on deaf and dumb ears. The business continues to struggle as insufficient resources are available at month end to manage the sales push. Despite the source of the problem the sales team bleat on about lost sales when they actually mean lost bonuses.

S&OP

This should be the most important process in the business, but it isn’t working and you know it! In companies where all departments fully buy-in to the success of the process, the in-market results are stunning. Despite spending a fortune of the ERP your staff operate the business in a series of silo based, underground Excel spreadsheets which are littered with cell errors and inconsistencies. Business results are reported in the ERP but this is not a true reflection of how processes are applied.

Perhaps that is an imperfect storm on what may happen within your supply chain, but one thing is certain. If you do not do something different to what you did last year, then you are looking at best at flat results rather than a fat bonus.

A happy new year to you and your supply chain!

Image courtesy of Aimee Jordan at AimeeJordan.co.uk

Tags: FMCG, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, Inventory Management & Stock Control