Supply Chain Blog

First-Class FMCG Territory Planning is Crucial in RtM Strategy for Sales Growth

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Nov 15, 2018

Territory Planning for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies is about dividing up a piece of geography into different subsets, based on certain criteria, usually geographic proximity. It allows FMCG companies to effectively and efficiently service their customers, whilst allowing the organisation to target specific resources at each individual territory.

territory-planning-4 (002)Territory planning saves time and money by avoiding overlaps where more than one resource from the same company tries to service or sell to the same client. It also helps to ensure that all outlets within a specific geography get covered, by assigning management of a territory to one resource. It facilitates local knowledge capture, new outlet openings, closures, understanding competitor activity, capturing consumer and other trends, to name a few. Territory Planning also allows the assignment, measurement and management of Route to Market targets (volume, share, brand distribution, display, range, POS material placement, etc.).

One of the key elements of Territory Planning is simplicity. For example, pick a piece of geography, maybe a city in a state, a district in a country, or one small island out of many, and then assign one TM&D rep to manage and be responsible for that Territory and all the outlets in it. If you need to also assign additional resources like Telesales Reps, Merchandisers, Sales Promoters, Channel Managers, Key Account Managers, and Telemarketing Reps, etc., be careful who carries the overall responsibility. Any territory needs overall management.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 8 – Territory Planning:

  1. What is the DIME Approach (Direct, Indirect, Mix & Everything in between) in your Market? What does that mean for territory planning? Which outlets do we cover, and which outlets are covered by indirect channels?
  2. Do you have an influence on the territories of your indirect channel? Can you increase your influence? Are these distributors fully cooperative partners? Are they exclusive?
  3. Based on the RtM approach that we are taking, are we looking to take on new distributors or replace existing ones, and what impact will that have on our territory planning?
  4. Are there any existing sales territories in place? Have they been reviewed as part of Step 1 in the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence? If so, what are the results?
  5. Based on the review of the current territory map, what are the key areas for improvement? How would these improvement areas translate into new or revamped territories?
  6. Are there any specific issues that we need to be aware of when reviewing the territories, whether internal (regional, resources, launches, etc.) or external (competitive actions, distributors, government/political, etc)?
  7. How does the local geography impact on forming territories?
  8. Are there specific infrastructure constraints that we need to be aware of?
  9. Are there any existing external geographical factors that would potentially shape any territory formation? Is the geography split into islands, into counties, into districts, into regions, via postcodes, etc?
  10. Are we reviewing or designing territories for field force members who will call to retail outlets (sales reps, TM&D reps, merchandisers, sales promotion, etc.) and/or will there also be territories for back office support and remote activities (telemarketing, telesales, customer service, etc.) or for a combination of both?
  11. Which resource will be assigned to overall territory management? Who will be accountable? Will Key Account or Channel Managers have some or a joint responsibility for certain outlets across territories?
  12. Are we looking to cover the entire geography or are we looking to target specific cities or population concentrations, or volume levels, or other criteria, or a combination of these?
  13. Based on the results of the outlet and channel classification, what impact is there on my current territory map?
  14. How would a potential new territory map look with the required resources to service the outlets?
  15. What would the call frequencies for each outlet look like across the territories and what are the target calls per day?
  16. Are there different activities that need to be assigned to different call frequencies? If so, what are they?
  17. Given the above, have we accurately defined the size, scope and geography of each of our territories?

My goal here is to get leaders in the Route to Market environment thinking about all the elements involved in RtM strategy, one of my key messages is to keep it simple, but we still need the detail.

This post is part of my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. This post focuses on Step 8 ‘Territory Planning’. You can read about the previous steps here. I hope you find this useful, and I welcome any views and comments below.

Next week I will cover Step 9 ‘RtM Structure’. Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, RTM, Retail, Information, Distribution, Sales, Route to Market, FMCG, Brewing & Beverages

Take Ownership of Channel Classification for a Killer Route to Market Strategy

Posted by Ross Marie on Fri, Nov 09, 2018

Let’s start at the beginning. When we talk about Channels, we are referring to channels of distribution to get products from a manufacturer to a consumer or customer. There are many ways to achieve distribution, e.g. direct to consumers (e.g. online, mail order), through retailers, through wholesalers then retailers, through wholesalers then cash & carry’s and then retailers, through other types of intermediaries/agents, and the list goes on and on.

channel-classificationFor consumer goods, when we discuss Channel Classification, we are talking about identifying all potential and possible routes to the consumer, and dividing them up into homogeneous groupings, often based on physical format. The main benefit of doing this is so that we can effectively manage, resource and measure performance of these channels to achieve our RtM goals.

For example, an FMCG company may service the retail outlets across a country through 3 main channels, Grocery, Convenience and Horeca (Hotels, Restaurants & Cafe's/Catering). The channels may be further split into sub-channels – e.g. Grocery could be split into Discounter, Hypermarket, Supermarket, etc. This is mainly based on the format of the stores and who owns them. Channel Classification does not generally take into account outlet specific criteria such as volume, location, consumer profile, footfall, opening hours, engagement opportunity etc., for this we need to look at Outlet Classification.

Channels of distribution can vary significantly depending on sector. For the soft drinks, confectionery or tobacco industries, the “Vending Channel” could be a significant source of revenue and focus but may not even be on the radar for other sectors.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask when looking at Channel Classification:

  1. What are all the potential and possible channels of distribution that you can use to get product to your consumers or customers?
  2. How do you currently segment your universe and classify channels and sub-channels?
  3. Which channels do you currently focus on?
  4. Which channels and sub-channels do you not focus on or are you not present in? What is the reason for this?
  5. Are you measuring the performance of your current channels and sub-channels?
  6. What is the current channel performance based on volume, share, brand distribution, display, range, TM&D opportunities, etc.?
  7. Which channels have the most growth potential?
  8. How does the previously reviewed Consumer Behaviour & Trends impact on future channels?
  9. To what extent are you using or focusing on the more ‘traditional’ channels in your industry? For Example: Modern Trade, Traditional Trade, General Trade, Online, Digital, Direct Sales, Key Accounts, Wholesale, Cash & Carry, Warehouse, Grocery, Discounter, Convenience, Mom & Pop, Pharmacy, Organised, Independent, Horeca, Nightlife, Hypermarket, Supermarket, Petrol, Kiosks, Open Windows, Street Vendor, Self Service, Counter Stores, Vending, On Trade, Off Trade, etc.
  10. Are there any potential niche or alternative channels you could be targeting?
  11. Are you looking at direct to consumer options, e.g. mail order, telesales, online? Are these relevant in your field?
  12. What approach are you taking to digital and e-Channels?
  13. Will you look to target specific activities or resources at the different potential channels?
  14. How will you resource each channel in future with people and money vs how you currently operate?
  15. Will you have channel managers and how will responsibility be shared if channels cut across regional geography splits?
  16. Which channels offer the best growth potential?
  17. Which channels offer the best access to current and/or potential customers or consumers?
  18. Which channels offer the best TM&D opportunities?
  19. Based on your Competitor Analysis (Step 4 of the 20 Steps Model), how does your current and potential future set up compare?
  20. What are the agreed target channels, resource requirements and training needs?

This post is part of my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. The model is designed to give FMCG managers a step by step guide to building or reviewing their RtM strategy to maximise growth opportunities. This post focuses on Step 7 ‘Channel Classification’. You can read about the previous steps here.

I hope you find this useful, and I welcome any views and comments below. Next week I will cover Step 8 ‘Territory Planning’. Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, RTM, Retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Distribution, Sales, Traditional Trade, Route to Market, FMCG, Brewing & Beverages, Customer service

Retail Outlet Classification in RtM Strategy, an Essential Element or a Complete Waste of Time?

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Nov 01, 2018

Firstly, what is Outlet Classification? It is a process of segmenting every individual outlet, meaning every point of purchase, based on a set of company specific agreed criteria that you will design, e.g. volume, location, consumer profile, footfall, opening hours, engagement opportunity etc. This will then allow you to target specific activities, resources, brands, SKU’s, promotions, metrics, etc., at a specific outlet groupings level. The main benefit of Outlet Classification is the ability to target your product offerings at specific outlet groupings, regardless of who own them or what their retail format is.

fmcg-rtm-outlet-classification

Outlet Classification must not be confused with Channel Classification. Channel Classification, which will be covered in my next post, tends to group outlets together based on format. For example, an FMCG company may service the retail outlets across a country through 4 main channels, Grocery, Convenience, Horeca and Wholesale. These 4 channels may be further split into sub channels, Convenience could be further split into Organised, Mom & Pop, etc. This is mainly based on the format of the stores and who owns them. Outlet classification focuses on specific factors pertinent to your industry and company. It allows you to become much more targeted with your service model. A specific Outlet Classification grouping could contain retail outlets from all channel classifications, but grouped together based on specific consumer profile or location criteria set by you.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 6 – Outlet Classification:

  1. Do we know all of the outlets in our geography – including name, address, etc? If not, do we have plans to reach the total target universe?
  2. Will we call on the points of sale ourselves?
  3. Will our distributors call on them or will the outlets collect the product?
  4. What percentage of outlets will we cover either directly or indirectly?
  5. What are the criteria that we could classify our outlets under?
  6. On which criteria can we classify using existing data we or our distributors have, and what criteria requires an outlet visit?
  7. Should we classify and visit all outlets, or should we focus on a subset based on a certain criteria?
  8. Do we have the skill set, coverage and resource to do this ourselves?
  9. If not, then is the service available in my market and what are the resource requirements?
  10. Are there options to do a phased on the job classification or is a specific focus and resource required?
  11. Will we have a different approach to dealing with the outlets based on size, total volume, our volume, category volume, share, display, location, accessibility, consumer profile, footfall, opening hours, engagement opportunity, owner vs staff operated, shopper entry, time spent in outlet, potential growth, TM&D opportunities, credit risk, etc?
  12. What will those different approaches be?
  13. Do current key account agreements effect how we may classify/treat/service specific outlets?
  14. What is the timing required to finish the classification?
  15. What are the criteria for assigning call frequencies and resources (people, money, time) based on the classifications?
  16. What are the training needs arising out of outlet classification?

Arguments can be made against Outlet Classification. If you are in a market entry scenario, with limited resources, with established distribution channels, you may decide that Outlet Classification at this stage would be a drain on resources. But if you are a national player looking for country wide distribution, effective Outlet Classification as part of an overall Route to Market strategy could be the difference between winning and losing in that market.

This post is part of my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. One of the main goals of this blog series is to demystify RtM strategy and to provide FMCG leaders with a step by step guide to follow when reviewing or building their RtM plans.

The overall 20 Steps are split into 4 phases, Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. This post focuses on Step 6 ‘Outlet Classification’. This is the first step in the Design phase and would be undertaken after a full review of your current RtM (Assessment phase), and the development of your new RtM Strategy (Strategy phase). You can read about the steps under the previous phases here.

I hope you find this useful, and I welcome any views and comments below. Next week I will cover Step 7 ‘Channel Classification’. Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, RTM, Retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Traditional Trade, Route to Market, FMCG, Brewing & Beverages, SKU, Promotions

10 Top Tips To Tip-Top Customer Service in FMCG, Drinks & Pharma

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Aug 06, 2018

Do FMCG, Drinks & Pharma Companies delude themselves on Customer Service? I think some may well be doing this and may or may not know it! Whatever service related KPI you measure, the KPI is designed to asses how you are performing both internally and at a retailer or outlet level, against peers.

Customer service improvementThere are many ways of measuring the performance including OTIF, CSLM, CCF and CCFOT amongst many others. Essentially you are measuring how much of the right stuff you delivered to the right place at the right time. Importantly, it is not value based – you might measure that internally for monthly progress monitoring and sales bonuses but it is irrelevant for service measures.

Common errors in Customer Service measurement and management:

1. Service should be measured per SKU thus avoiding the possibility of hiding poor performance in one area with exceptional performance in another. Measuring by SKU allows you to hold the right people accountable and ensure resources are appropriately applied.

2. Are you measuring against what the customer ordered or what your team said he could order? This is a common error particularly when order capture is in the hands of staff rewarded via value based sales incentives - “We don’t have that but you can have some extra of this”. You need to see the raw, unconstrained demand from your customers to really understand what they asked for and what they actually received. There is no problem with substituting products with customer agreement as this maintains the relationship and should result in sales but this must be a visible process.

3. Yes, of course the customer may ask for unreasonable amounts of a certain standard SKU or promotion pack but hiding the “data blip” is not the answer. Addressing the issue with some collaborative planning would help both parties. For some reason they asked for a huge shipment; find out why and be more ably prepared to service the demand next time.

4. Use an ERP that automatically allows you to allocate reason codes for service failures and get them investigated promptly. Focus on the big wins using the 80/20 principle; don’t spend too much time finding out why you did not deliver 5 boxes of washing powder and do spend time on the failure to deliver large volumes of high value beauty products.

5. Get your service level on the agenda of the top table in the company. Your service level is a function of every single person in the company and is a reflection of how well you are performing in the market. This means the Marketing guy and the HR guy and others must be involved. Celebrate successes widely and noisily.

6. Do you have a Customer Service department led by a talented individual who is graded as highly as peers within the company? CS is a very important function and it should enjoy equality of importance within the business. Also, CS is not just about taking orders and printing invoices as customers deserve the opportunity to talk to a real human being (avoid answer phones!) about their problems and concerns. Small issues in invoice accuracy which can delay payments of thousands of Euros can be sorted out by knowledgeable and concerned staff motivated to help.

7. Make the CS measure highly visible around the company – everyone should be aware of the overall CS their company is offering to customers. Don’t fall into the trap of accepting low or “sand-bagged” targets – you are likely to achieve them and that gets you precisely nowhere. If you deliver to Retailer platforms you might wish to check where your measure is recorded.

8. Make cross functional visits to customers - they need to see people other than sales reps. Not every day, of course but an annual review with all interested parties present can smooth relationships and assist in times of difficulty.

9. Agree Service Level Agreements to ensure both parties know exactly what is expected as providers or receivers of service. The SLA should contain a few KPIs which allow you to understand the current state and drivers of CS.

10. Celebrate successes both internally and when appropriate, with customers. You need to maintain a rigorous approach to business principles but an above the board dinner does no harm.

Customer Service = Satisfied Customers = Sales = Pay/Bonus = Growth = Satisfied & Retained Staff

 

Tags: Customer service, FMCG, Logistics Service Provider, Dave Jordan, Pharma, KPI, Logistics Management, Brewing & Beverages

An FMCG Success Story; Focus on customers and enjoy the consumer benefits

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, May 28, 2018

Once upon a time there was an FMCG company that I will refer to as “Foresight”. “Foresight” had spent many years and many Euros creating a slick inbound Supply Chain.

  • Top class global, regional and collaborative buying
  • Flexible manufacturing network
  • A state of the art ERP
  • Rigorous S&OP as the key business process

Slick inbound Supply ChainWith all those important boxes ticked they must be successful.....but they were not; not even close. In their peer group they were not number 1, top and bottom line growth was getting harder and harder. Throw in difficult economic conditions and the consumption of their product offering plummeted – double digit style. A large FMCG business and quite a few personal reputations were not looking pretty.

The problem was a surprising lack of focus at the customer end of the Supply Chain. Both International Key Accounts(IKA) and the Traditional Trade (TT) were being poorly serviced.

A lot of hard work upstream was being wasted through inefficiency and actually, ignorance. The situation had existed for a number of years but as the same malaise was common in the industry nobody could see the benefit or indeed the need for “getting ones act together”. “Last amongst equals” was hardly a motivating and compelling business proposition for an international big name.

Seeking external expert assistance “Foresight” started out on an adventure that would change the way they approached business at the customer end of the chain.

Customer Service.   This was something “Foresight” thought it was already good at providing but critical aspects were lacking:

  1. Customer Service responsibilities were fragmented and lacked clear and unambiguous leadership.
  2. “Customer Service personnel” had received no training in the subject - nobody really wanted to take responsibility.
  3. “Customer Service” was actually limited to invoice preparation. Proactive interaction with customers and problem solution were not in job descriptions.

This hardly projected an image of a caring “Foresight” and this was a huge risk considering the increasing power of the retailers…. 

Route To Market (RTM). “This is under control for TT and it seems to work”, however RTM was in the Sales black box and that box needed opening and shaking upside down vigorously!

  1. The Distributor RTM network had been in place for several years and was decaying. “Foresight” salesman interaction with Distributors was far from an open win-win relationship.
  2. Several Distributors were simply incapable and/or ill equipped to represent such a major company. Some actually did not wish to be involved.
  3. “Foresight” did not know on whom they could rely in their network or how large and obvious opportunities could be targeted.

In-house Sales bonuses were linked to sell-in and the remaining steps to the consumer were ignored at “Foresight” level and left in the hands of some indifferent distributors.

The cures were not simple or quick but they were effective and the payback was fast and sustained.

Customer Service Centre“Foresight” now operates a centralised Customer Service department looking after customer needs in a standardised and caring manner. Phone calls are answered by someone who wants to help and the customer is not passed from pillar to post trying to find someone interested in their problem. Retailers now see CS staff face to face as they proactively take steps to understand the needs of both sides of the partnership. The Retailer office was once “sales only” and off bounds to other departments but not now and the benefit is clear and significant.

In RTM, “Foresight” carried out a comprehensive assessment of their distributor network making evaluations of all aspects of each distributor’s organisation. The strengths and weaknesses of each partner are now known and understood. “Foresight” now knows where there is receiver capacity to take more responsibility and a leading role in market deployment. Similarly, they also know to tread carefully with a number of distributors who are struggling financially or simply not equipped to meet expectations. “Foresight's” efforts are now focused on those areas providing maximum opportunity and reward. The “one size fits all” approach has gone and distributors are managed as important partners.

In combination these changes have transformed the business and success has been quick to materialise.  “Foresight” enjoys a leading position in its sector while competitors scrap around trying to find growth that is clearly there but they cannot reach.

For “Foresight” at least, they really are able to live happily ever after!

 

Tags: Customer service, FMCG, Route to Market, Dave Jordan, Performance Improvement, Distribution, Brewing & Beverages

Balanced Scorecard KPIs: Keeping Track of Business Performance 

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Mar 29, 2018

How do you keep track of Supply Chain performance within your FMCG, Brewing or Pharmaceutical business? You do, don’t you? If you are not measuring any KPIs then perhaps you should stop here, read this KPI piece and then pop back and carry on.

You can measure and report in many formats as long as you measure appropriate KPIs for your business. One of the most pointless tasks is calculating and reporting a “KPI” which is in fact worthless and of no beneficial interest. Colleagues in Sales & Marketing usually assume they are immune from KPIs as they gleefully sit back and let the Supply Chain guy take the flak at Board meetings. In reality however, the actions of everyone in the company must be reflected in one or more KPIs. If there is anyone in your business who is not impacting a KPI in some way then perhaps you might consider a round of head-count reduction!

The following is a demonstration example of a Balanced Scorecard of business KPIs. While many are indeed Supply Chain related you need only look at Sales Forecast Accuracy to see how other departments can influence that measurement to a far greater extent. KPIs are designed (usually 2 or 3 per discipline) and presented within the company Scorecard.  Target performance threshold levels are agreed (RAG – Red, Amber, Green) and presented monthly within the S&OP process to measure success and target further improvement.

Supply Chain KPIs

There will undoubtedly be more PIs calculated around the business but those in the scorecard really must be the priorities; those that provide actionable information.

The use of simple colour notation allows business managers to see exactly where problems exist allowing them to focus resources. Conversely, you quickly see what is going well and where you might have to raise the bar to maintain and improve further.  (If you are measuring your KPIs at the same level as 5 years ago then that may reflect a business which is stagnating.)

Whatever design you use it does not really matter but:

1. You must measure KPIs relevant to your overall business strategy and performance.

2. You must report them promptly and widely.

3. They must be discussed at the top table, routinely.

4. You must review and delete/insert new KPIs as the business need develops.

5. You must ensure the targets are stretching but achievable as a constant red display is demotivating.

While KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator it could easily be considered as Keep People Interested!

Image courtesy of Enchange.

 

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, Performance Improvement, Pharma, KPI, S&OP, Brewing & Beverages, Supply Chain

FMCG Cost Control: Boosting Brewing Bottom Lines

Posted by Dave Jordan on Tue, Sep 19, 2017

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!

BREWING_COST_SAVINGS_BOTTOM_LINE_FMCG.jpgAs 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.   

  1. 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!
  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.......

  5. 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!

Image courtesy of Pixomar at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Dave Jordan, Cost Reduction, Forecasting & Demand Planning

FMCG Foods: Hugh F-W and UK Retailer & Producer Waste

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Nov 04, 2015

Good to see chefy type and anagramists dream Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall speaking out about the continuing food waste in UK. After the faceless, expenses-hungry suits in Brussels relaxed the laws some years ago retailers have been allowed to vary their acceptance standards for misshapen fruit and vegetables. This has resulted in horrific food waste as shown by the non-pretty parsnip mountain in Hugh’s link above.

I don’t know about you but if I see a potato that looks like a Telly Tubby or a carrot that looks like a pair of knobbly legs with a fake tan or an onion that looks like a light bulb I buy them straight away; no hesitation. My favourite “ugly food” purchase was a spud (aka potato) that looked like Tony Blair. You could tell by the eyes he was lying, again. How I enjoyed making mashed potatoes that day.

Obviously, if your potato or carrot is so misshapen that there is going to be excessive waste involved in peeling the thing then this is far from cost effective. However, the vast majority of misshapen or “ugly” produce is perfectly fit for cooking and eating and surely having a culinary guffaw at the same time is healthy. Cosmetically defect but nutritionally perfect.

In these difficult economic times are we being too rigorous on FMCG/Drinks product quality? Ok, I accept you cannot take any risks with pharma or perishable food quality but in these difficult economic times are companies being unnecessarily rigorous, particularly with packaging defects? There is no debate necessary concerning usage instructions or safety advice but small blemishes would not be noticed by the vast majority of loyal consumers.

I can hear the QA purists angrily stamping their feet and making comments like "over my dead body". They will argue that brand image is paramount and any packaging defects must be wholly funded by the suppling company. Gaining a refund on any particular faulty batch of packaging materials is not really relevant as the supplier will recover the cost from you one way or another. What is worse? Having a product on the shelf with a minor, insignificant defect or no product on the shelf at all?

What about the contents of the packaging; is there any leeway there? Drinks manufacturers cannot possibly QA each unit of sale and in fact wine producers assume a reject rate of 8% due to ‘corking’ – prior to the introduction of plastic corks and screw caps of course. Yes, I questioned that defect rate too but it is correct so your seasonal celebration case of 12 southern hemisphere bottles has an even chance of one with a foul, musty taste.

I just wonder how much money is being unnecessarily wasted at a time when nobody – private or corporate – can afford to lose a penny. No doubt at quarter and year-ends travel restrictions and the freezing of discretionary spend budgets will be rolled again out as FMCG producers try to meet the numbers they “agreed”.

The hot and possibly ugly potato is that they may be missing easier opportunities to achieve their tough targets.

Image courtesy of feelart at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Dave Jordan, Humour, Performance Improvement

FMCG Drinks Route to Market – let’s get fizzical in CEE

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Aug 19, 2015

In a past life I ran the Supply Chain for an FMCG company in the 6 Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) countries plus Yemen in the Middle East. The Distribution model was one different legal entity per territory even for the largest market of Saudi Arabia. Within the smaller markets there tended to be one or two stock holding points which were enough to meet demand in a reasonably short Supply Chain. KSA on the other hand had stock holding points in a majority of the larger population centres.

Moving stock around Saudi Arabia as demand fluctuated was often a simple call between the Supply Chain team and the distributor first point of contact. The distributor owned the stock of course and could do as he pleased but this interaction allowed for optimum internal customer service and timely production and replenishment from the factories. This provided a degree of advance warning outside of the formal forecasting system which was very welcome.

As confidence and cooperation progressed, this flexible replenishment process was expanded to cover cross-border assistance. For example, shortages in Bahrain were quickly erased by stock transfer with appropriate paperwork from the distributor in Dammam. This was not a substitute for good integrated business planning with the distributors but when lost sales became a real possibility all opportunities were considered. Sensible stuff but not exactly rocket science!

Anyone living in or around Romania presently will have “enjoyed” a prolonged spell of very hot, dry weather and uncommonly lacking a few end of day cooling storms. All those drinks producers must be very pleased they can avoid an “it was a poor summer” comment in the annual results. Well, this is true if your products are continually on the shelf! No excuses, they must be continually present in front of consumers’ eyes at the precise time they have a raging thirst to slake.

Driving across the Hungary-Romanian border during the heat wave we discussed where to stop for food and much needed drink and decided to cross into Romania as the Hungarian road side service stations all seemed busy. Busy with many people drinking a certain drink and even as we moved on we saw branded trucks arrive to keep stocks moving.

(Aside: Sadly, you leave the good road infrastructure behind in Hungary and any form of transport moves slower in Romania, even the planes! All FMCG producers and distributors would hugely benefit from a half decent road infrastructure.

We needed drinks and the range was wide with all the big names present bar one. This was one brand you expect to find everywhere and every time. The closest you will get to an omnipresent fizzical form in a can or bottle. Shelf empty. Ah ha, the weather is so hot it will all be in the cooler. No. Not there either. (Strangely, nobody had hijacked the prime cooler space, yet......)

Having been involved with drinks Route to Market (RTM) in CEE for several years I was compelled to ask why my fizzy favourite was not available. The simple response was that the distributor did not have any stock. Ok, so why not get some from somewhere else? We can but it cannot get here until after the weekend. I mentioned that you could probably get stock from just across the border in Hungary. Lots of head shaking and nu, nu, nu.

Yes, you would need some paperwork but we are all in the EU so that cannot be difficult, can it?

FMCG_Drinks_RTM_CEE

Yes, you would need to meet labelling requirements but this type of stuff is bottled by a regional giant so both languages are usually present.

Yes, you would need some agreement on transfer pricing so competitive margin positions are roughly maintained but why ever not?

If producers do not get a serious grip on their Route to Market operations and cross-border opportunities then they will lose sales and/or someone will move in and destabilise the market with legal but “grey” imports.

A little more flexibility, pragmatism and entrepreneurship would pay huge dividends when demand is constantly high.

Image courtesy of Chris Sharp at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Route to Market, Dave Jordan, RTM Assessment Tool

FMCG warehouse capacity in Romania: A Short Story

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

The car bounced over the dirt road of potholes and puddles and approached the expansive, looming warehouse building that was once so full of life and bustling activity. Paper and polystyrene fast–food litter gathered up by the breeze blew across the distribution centre parking area to be fought over by bony, mongrel dogs. A short time ago the yard would not be a place for an idle visitor as liveried juggernaut giants and ant-like fork lift trucks toiled away around the clock. Noise, dust, fumes, shouting, revving, the hiss of pneumatic brakes; no more.

Abandoned_Warehouse_Romania_CEEThe entrance to the office building was beyond the waiting room with its familiar mismatched furniture, faint smell of illicit smoke and the accompanying stale odour of tired drivers and their diesel machines. The constant tip-tap of fingers on keyboards generating loading and transport documents supporting someone’s Route To Market had long gone. No more chattering from the tractor printer feeding on green/white paper from a seemingly endless box below. No camaraderie, no arrangements for the weekend, no flirting, no telephones ringing; the only sound was the noticeably slowing tick-tock of the beer-branded plastic clock which in turn would slowly but surely grind to a halt at one precise second in time. The beige IKEA infrastructure unchanged from the last day of productive work.

The previously secure and “authorised personnel only” door into the storage area was propped open by a tightly rolled newspaper with the dusty headline recording the passage of a few years of hope-filled EU membership. Spitting cats scattered rapidly fearing the entrance of their fast-food chasing canine enemies. Dirty yellow fork-lift trucks sat huddled in one corner like juvenile play-ground gossips, connected to chargers that no longer dispensed energy. The once firm, shiny black seats repaired and renovated with stretch-film, tape and cardboard. Names scratched into the truck paint revealing the identities of the long gone jockeys.

No beeping, no screech of rubber and no ecstatic laughing when a pallet falls and spills its liquid SKU load. Once you could not see from one end of the building to the other as hundreds and thousands of cases, drums, IBCs and big bags filled the mega-Meccano skeleton. Now only the blue painted skeleton with orange boots remains taught and proud with the bumps and bruises of battle visible on the lower levels and a scattering of splintered wooden pallets, also blue.

The loading bays all had their shuttered mouths firmly closed to the outside world. Would they be ever be prised open again to receive and dispatch FMCG goods like foods, detergents, drinks and wine? For now the loading bays only received the attention of endlessly sweeping flocks of pigeons and what they generously leave behind.

The rusty padlock and chain were replaced with a dull clunk and the warehouse was empty again and for how long this time? The dogs chased the litter; the cats produced a litter and the pigeons left their telling statement on a once thriving warehouse in Romania.

 Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, Supply Chain, CEE, Brewing & Beverages