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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

RTM: IKEA chaos theory and why you must optimise Sales Route Planning

Posted by Dave Jordan on Tue, May 01, 2012

Ok, I know I should not have gone there. It was a Sunday and well before the live football on the TV. The weather was cold and the air was full of drizzle and as I turned off the roundabout the scale of the folly dawned on me; the IKEA car park was bursting at the seams.

There were families pouring out of cars and equal numbers trying to squash brown flat-packs of “destroy it yourself” furniture and fittings called Grunt and Splat and Twong into impossibly small cars. What do these people do when they have loaded up? Do they give Granny and Grandad a few coins to take the bus home? There is no way you can fit all the people and the flat-pack must-haves back into some of these cars.  Maybe that is why they provide rope at the IKEA loading bay; it is to tie Granny and Grandad onto the roof of the car.

Oh well, here now so might as well join the hoards of people unable to control shopping trolleys, with absolutely no sense of direction and with varying levels of short-term memory deficiency. I hooked a yellow bag over my shoulder and I too became an IKEA shopper!

I know there is a science in store layout design whether it is a supermarket or a DIY store or an M&S type outlet. The store wants everyone to see everything they have available and they want it to be just at the right time when for example, the shopper has been sub-luminally convinced that the bright pink Plobo stool would look really nice in the kitchen.

Ikea Shop Floor FlowOh, but the chaos this causes in an IKEA store. Being a Supply Chain chap I would make the whole store strictly one-way with nobody allowed to double back to soft furnishings or for a forgotten low energy light bulb. In fact, if I had my way I would make the floors with a defined downhill gradient and ensure trolley wheels were oiled hourly to help people on their way, through the broken furniture bargain section, past the cheap fast food and out into the car park. What about a small battery pack on each trolley which delivered a persuasive tingle if you tried to push the trolley against the traffic? Too extreme, possibly!

Think of all the wasted hours and wasted effort of moving all the way through the store then insisting on reversing the route and getting in the way of everybody else. Then it struck me. I realised where I had seen this before and why I perversely enjoyed dodging the trolleys in the IKEA maze. This is what many FMCG, Brewing and Pharmaceutical companies suffer in their distribution route planning every single day. Wasted miles, wasted time and in all that time there are customers not being serviced.

RTM Assessment toolIf your sales are struggling along and the stream of excuses for monthly gaps appears endless you might take a close look at how much time your sales people spend selling to and guiding distributors. If they have adopted the IKEA system then you have just spotted a huge opportunity to improve your Route To Market performance.

Go and have a closer look. Get some IKEA rope, tie yourself to the roof a salesman’s car and see where some simple thought and logic can add to your bottom line.

Image credit: A littleSprite


Tags: Route to Market, Dave Jordan, CEE, Traditional Trade, Cost Reduction, Sales, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool

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