Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chain: Chaff innovation, is it worth it?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Feb 07, 2018

By the end of February over 19% of the year will be behind you. Think about that for a minute. If you follow a financial calendar year you probably put your Annual Plan to bed in October and now nearly 20% of the available selling time has already gone. Shocker!

How would you describe progress so far? Pick a phrase:

Steady progress in a challenging environment.

Defending share under concerted competitor pressure.

Starting to deliver anticipated operational improvements.

Bottom line erosion due to conversion rates.

Sales dip on change in consumer behaviour.

Excuses, excuses, excuses!

FMCG_SUPPLY_CHAIN_INNOVATION_GROWTH.jpgCertainly, there are many, many reasons why performance is not up to expectation and not everyone in a particular sector can achieve their objectives. Unless you are creating new demand, there is only 1 pie for you and your competitors to feast upon. What’s up your sleeve could be innovation.

After the mad rush to end last year and kick off 2018 now is a great time to review your innovation programme. In the same way in-market activation planning should reach far into the future, your innovation funnel should be planned on at least a 12-month rolling basis and longer depending on your specific lead times.

So, do you have some big bold innovations on which your annual plan was designed? Something that competitors do not have? Perhaps your boffins in white coats have come up with a new ingredient or chemical combo that really does make colours brighter and whites whiter. Being able to bring something genuinely new to consumers is a marketing and sales dream to drive growth.

Or is your ‘innovation’ simply another round of at best cosmetic refreshment and at worse, not really innovation at all? If your funnel is packed full of chaff you may not understand how this can adversely affect your supply chain. Here are just a few examples of chaff innovation which probably cause more damage to the business than what is generated in return.

  1. A new label for a bottle.
  2. ‘New & Improved’ when the new formulation is a cost saving tweak.
  3. A salami job on your SKU, e.g. the incredible shrinking chocolate bars.
  4. Economy packs which need a degree in mathematics to understand the offering.
  5. X% extra free and BOGOF.

Don’t get me wrong, you do need to do some of this type of stuff but don’t kid yourself you are innovating.

Many companies fill up their innovation funnels with events which are activities rather than growth generating innovation. Don’t do it! Activities rightfully have a place in your business model, but it is important to understand the impact these have on your business. Each activity requires resources to be deployed across all functions to get the SKU in front of consumers. Is the benefit of the activity really paying back when you consider the cost and time expended?

Look at the dictionary definitions and bear these in mind when you are next presented with an innovation funnel update.

Innovation:  the introduction of new things, ideas, or ways of doing something

Activity: a thing that you do for interest or pleasure, or to achieve a particular aim

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles atfreedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, CEO, Supply Chain, INNOVATION

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 Noddy Holder & Slade Implement S&OP

Posted by Dave Jordan on Tue, Dec 19, 2017

Christmas is coming around faster than ever and who better than Noddy Holder and Slade to celebrate Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP). This festive song has been heard at Christmas every year since 1973! If you have been living in a cave on a remote island and don't know the tune you can click here for the original, boring non-S&OP version.

Ok, let's go, 1 2 3 4.......

Are you looking at your sales chart on the wall? Sales and Operational Planning
Is it the time you have to stop the fall?
You’ve tried overpaying salesmen,
You’ve loaded up the trade
Do you need to find a better way?

Chorus:
So here it is S&OP
Everybody should run one
Look to the future; how?
Six months or even one.

Are you guessing how much you’re going to sell?
Are you suffering high out of stock as well?
Does supply chain always tell you, pre-SOP is the best?
So why not work together for a test?

Chorus:
So here it is S&OP
Everybody should run one
Look to the future; how?
Six months or even one.

What will the salesmen do
When they see their targets being met?
Ah ah
They’ll be changing the chart gradient on the wall.
Not for them will sales fall and fall.
When you implement S&OP you make quite a change
Looking back, the old way will feel so strange.

Chorus:
So here it is S&OP
Everybody should run one
Look to the future;  how?
Six months or even one.

Noddy knows best so why not find out about S&OP now and give your business the perfect Christmas gift that will keep on giving.

Image courtesy of Nora Ashbee at Enchange.com

 

Tags: FMCG, Christmas, Dave Jordan, CEO, Humour, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning

CEO FMCG Letter to Santa Claus (aka Father Christmas) 2017

Posted by Dave Jordan on Sun, Dec 17, 2017

FMCG/Brewing/Pharma CEO Letter to Santa ClausDear Father Christmas,,

I have been a very good FMCG CEO this year, I promise. If you want, you can check with my colleagues and shareholders. They know how good I have been this year. Apart from the out of stocks of course, oh and the little mistake when we had to write stock off and waste lots of our money. But that is not so bad is it? Other CEOs were naughty last year and they still got what they wanted from you.

I had better be honest because you will know if I am not telling the truth. We also had a problem starting S&OP and so our planning, forecast accuracy and therefore  sales were not very good. They were not really big problems so I hope you can forget about them this time, please. Next year I promise to do better, I do, honestly.

I forgot about the Route To Market (RTM) mess we had in the peak sales months but that really was not my fault. I also promise to do something about RTM next year and make sure it works properly so people who buy our products are not disappointed. I know it is bad when people come to buy our products and then spend their money on something else. I will talk to our distributors and find out what we need to do.

I know, I know, when the new ERP computer system was switched on we were not really ready for the change but we did make it better as fast as possible. I did not think we needed any outside help for the new IT but I admit I was wrong. Next time I will get it right, hopefully without having any lost sales.

The factory thing was not my fault, I think. The factory man promised me lots of product but his machines kept breaking down at the wrong times and we had to wait for the fixing men to arrive. They took ages to get the machines working and then they broke down again and again. No, it is not a very reliable factory, yet.

Does the warehouse problem count against me as well? We could not find our products when we wanted them and then when we did find them they were old and out of date and of no use. This was very sad but it will not happen again next year, I hope.

I have just read my message again to make sure I did not spell any words wrong and I see I was not as good as I thought. Actually, after reading this I am going to the chimney to take my stocking down and put it away in the Christmas storage box. I will try again next year, Santa.

Bye bye and Happy Christmas.

CEO FMCG

Image credit: HikingArtist.com

Tags: Route to Market, Christmas, Logistics Service Provider, Dave Jordan, CEO, Humour, Performance Improvement, Traditional Trade, S&OP, Sales, Inventory Management & Stock Control

An FMCG Distributor Is For Life & Not Just For Christmas

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Dec 14, 2017

Ok, so you are unlikley to see this on a car bumper sticker but FMCG Distributors will have a significant impact on your sales performance, probably your variable pay bonus and therefore your CEO aspirations! How have you treated your Distributors this year? Were they the usual pain in the proverbial - failing to achieve targets, not paying on time, always moaning about trading terms? Of course, some Distributors do fit this stereotype but others are keenly trying to be treated as and to be, equal partners in your business success. But do you see this?

How are things going in Q4? Have you fallen into the trap of the “sales bonus push”? Year end stock clearance FMCG Breaking all the supply and sales phasing rules you have been trying to drum into Distributors? Did you strictly maintain discipline on Sales & Operational Planning or did the last quarter deteriorate into a “sell whatever we've got in the warehouse” scenario?

Companies that spend time and effort in proactively guiding their Distributors, providing relevant training and support inevitably succeed in the market place. Yes, at the end of the day Distributors have to stand on their own two feet but so many FMCG companies assume an organisation calling itself an “FMCG Distributor” inherently knows how to properly support any specific business.

If you do not pay attention to the Traditional Trade (TT) distribution side of your business then you are asking for trouble and that trouble usually ends in divorce along with all the discontinuity baggage separation brings. You need to avoid your choice of Distributors becoming like the English Premier League where managers get about 5 minutes to make an impact before being shown the door. (Strange though, that all these football managerial failures usually find another highly paid role; the latest being Big Sam Allardyce)

So, as we approach a special time of the year why not think about your Distributors and ask yourself if you have given them a fair crack of the whip?  If not, then you might consider a New Year resolution to develop a strategy for mutual success. This is far better than continually highlighting deficiencies and using backward looking, discipline focussed KPIs to bash them on the head.

Sit down with your RTM Distributors regularly, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and agree to do something about the latter. Simply running through a Route To Market evaluation together can work wonders in establishing trust and cooperation. Do yourself a favour and do this now before Q1 next year also becomes history that you cannot change.

Click on the RTM link below and go!

CTA RTM Free Download resized 600

Image courtesy of stock.xchnge at freeimages.com

Tags: FMCG, Route to Market, Dave Jordan, CEO, Performance Improvement, Supply Chain, S&OP, Distribution

FMCG Year-end 2017: Distributors overstocked?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Nov 30, 2017
How is 2017 going so far? Are you in cruise control or is your business chaos central? Be honest now! The last quarter of the year is always difficult to manage in order to achieve 2017 results without negatively impacting 2018.
Interim_Management_FMCG_Dave_Jordan_SKU_Distributor_Inventory.jpgWhen your business still relies on a healthy traditional trade serviced by distributors the balance of sales in versus sales out is always a challenge. Any major discrepancy will alert the auditors and in particular you do not want be accused of loading the trade to meet the planned numbers. 
 
If you have let your distributor stocks get out of control this can be remedied through discipline and rigour plus top-down leadership ideally through a dynamic S&OP process.
  1. Month, quarter and year-end push - Run your business on one set of numbers agreed at Board level and ensure NOBODY operates an alternative private agenda. If you follow a decent S&OP process such last minute, period-end pushes can be avoided. Let's face it; period-end sales pushes place huge strain on everybody in the organisation yet only the sales people receive a bonus for these efforts!

  2. Failed launches - Be realistic with new product launch volume projections. Brand Managers will always, repeat always overstate how successful their new SKU is going to be. They do not want to appear unambitious and nor do they want to run out of stock. This is what happens when self-interest decisions are taken outside of a healthy S&OP process.

  3. Old label stock - New launches are not a surprise and with half-decent planning you can avoid seeing old label inventory ageing in the distributor warehouse. As soon as you start pumping in a new label SKU the distributor will stop selling the old one. "Well that's his problem" - no it isn't! It blocks his warehouse, his cash and your customer service. If you plan your launch volume ramp-up well you can avoid this. Consider running a sink-market region where all stocks of the old label SKU are sold out, possibly with a discount.

  4. Old and expired promotions - If promotions have failed and do not move then bite the bullet and take rapid and direct action. Dismantle co-packs and put the valuable and original SKUs back into stock and/or re-label special offer packs.

  5. Customer returns - Producer sales forces struggle with this and particularly when it concerns International Key Accounts. You need a cast iron agreement on responsibility AND authority for customer returns. If this is contractually agreed then fine, take the stock back and recycle within your system. If there is no definite agreement then you leave the door open to individual sales people taking unilateral decisions to accept returns to get clients off their backs. Unexpected and unmanaged returns cause havoc in logistics, warehousing and in ERP's.

  6. Producer forecasting errors - No forecast is ever 100% perfect and nor should it be, by definition. However, if you measure your forecast accuracy by SKU and take actions to improve accuracy then this source of overstock can be significantly reduced. Ignore calls to measure accuracy by brand or by category as the data is useless to the people supplying the products.

  7. Damaged and expired. This is really an accumulation of all the items above. Damaged and expired products will be present in any business. To ensure they do not appear in the ERP as good stock it is important to write off and dispose of them as soon as possible.

If you need to destock your distributors before the auditors come sniffing then you should get on with this quickly. No resources available? Look at who is available to help you get these tasks completed. Crush the internal resistance and get the job done now!

Image courtesy of nonicknamephoto at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Tags: Dave Jordan, CEE, Traditional Trade, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Distribution, Inventory Management & Stock Control

FMCG Trade Loading & 4th Quarter Challenges - deja vue all over again!

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Nov 27, 2017

Some things never change and FMCG 4th Quarter challenges certainly do not. The same challenges are clearly present and what is astonishing is that some companies are still making short term, expensive efforts to “make the sales numbers”. I don't think that is very clever; instead of pouring cash into a black hole without guaranteed return why not divert resources to sort out the underlying problems? They will not go away on their own!

There is a little bit of growth in the market but those green shoots are still relatively puny. Assuming growth is to return, those companies that had the vision to be critical of how they do business in difficult times will be the winners. All the others will be achieving the numbers by loading the trade….again and again.

You should have a good feeling for how things have gone in Q3 and what is still needed in Q4 to reach the numbers you committed to over 12 months ago. "Committed" may well be the wrong word as you were probably forced/cajoled/persuaded to accept figures you knew would be difficult if not nigh impossible to achieve. However, for the greater corporate good you took it on the chin and said “yes, we will do it” (no idea how but cést la vie).

Exactly how are you going to achieve those seemingly distant numbers? The corporate world remains in trouble but so are consumers. The two groups are not disconnected; consumers are having a very tough time considering the increasingly clueless government austerity measures that continue to drip out around the globe. Consumers simply do not have the money to prop up your annual plan and what money they do have is likely to be rationed to be sure of a reasonably happy Christmas. Remember, consumers owe you nothing, not a penny!

One thing you may consider if sales are not going well is to fall into the trap of month-end loading. Let us consider this scenario which is far from uncommon even in “blue-chip” companies. Let us assume October sales are poor in the first 2 weeks and then the word is given to “push” stocks into the trade. Discounts are given, favours called in and hey presto, the required target number is achieved and you and your bosses think you are back on tSupply_chain_sales_planning_results.jpgrack.

You have pushed so much stock into the trade that distributors are short of cash and International Key Accounts platforms are overstocked. Consumers do not drink more beer or wash their hair more often or eat extra snacks because you sold at a discount. They have taken advantage of your offers and have filled their own domestic warehouses ready for Christmas and possibly beyond.

Then we get to November. This time sales are poor into the third week and the rallying call of the stock push does not seem to be working. Support  and discretionary spend budgets are raided again and yet more stock is forced into places where it has no demand. Despite this, the motivation of achieving targets and securing a bonus ensure that the right number is flashed to HQ at the end of the month.

Now just December to get through……even if it is really only a 16/17 day month for selling. You are so close that a few more discounts and the promotion of high value SKUs means you close the year on target. It’s that champagne moment, get the fat cigars out!!!!

Sit down and think about what you have just done for the sake of a slap on the back and a bonus. You have turned the operation of the company upside down, contravened numerous policies, abused S&OP (if you use it) and unfairly stretched your staff in all departments. 

If you are brutally honest you will know you have sold January’s demand over the last quarter the year. You will not get away with that for long as it will come back to bite you eventually!

With stretched resources it is difficult for companies to see what is really happening across all departments and how decisions in one area cause a detrimental effect in another. If you insist on chasing the full year numbers/bonus then you might at least take on some professional support and understand the damage you are causing to yourself.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, CEO, Performance Improvement, S&OP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, Distribution, Integrated Business Planning

FMCG Route To Market Challenges; Learn from IKEA

Posted by Dave Jordan on Sun, Nov 19, 2017

There is no excuse in visiting IKEA on a Sunday before watching 22 millionaires with daft hair styles kick a football around on live telly. The weather was cold and the air was full of autumn drizzle and as I turned into the car park the scale of the folly dawned on me; the IKEA car park was bursting at the seams. Cars were on pavements, on grass verges and on the approach road; grim.

There were entire extended families pouring out of cars and into the store. In parallel,   equal numbers were exiting before trying to squash brown flat-packs of “destroy it yourself” furniture and fittings called Grult, Splad and Twong into and onto impossibly small cars.

What do these people do when they have removed all the air from their cars? Do they give granny and granddad a few coins to take the bus home? There is no way you can fit all the people and the flat-pack must-haves into some of these cars.  Maybe that is why IKEA provides free rope on the loading bay; it is to strap the unfortunate grandparents onto the roof of the car.

Oh well, here now so might as well join the hoards of people unable to control a shopping trolley; absolutely no sense of direction and with variable but low levels of short-term memory. I hooked a yellow bag over my shoulder, picked up a pencil and I too became a zombified IKEA shopper!

I know there is a science to store layout design whether it is a Tesco supermarket, a Hornbach DIY store or an M&S type outlet. The store owner wants everyone to see everything at least once and they want exposure to be just at the right time when for example, the shopper has been subliminally convinced that the bright pink Plobo stool would look really nice in their kitchen (believe me it won't).

Ikea Shop Floor FlowOh, but the chaos this causes in an IKEA store! Being a supply chain type I would make the whole store strictly one-way with shoppers not permitted 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 electric tingle if you tried to push the trolley against the traffic? Too extreme, possibly?

Think of all the wasted hours and effort of moving all the way through the store then insisting on reversing the entire route and getting in the way of everybody else. Then came my eureka moment. I realised where I had seen this behaviours before and why I perversely enjoyed dodging the trolleys in the IKEA maze.

This is precisely what many FMCG, Brewing and Pharmaceutical companies suffer in their Route to Market distribution planning every single day. Wasted miles, wasted fuel, wasted hours and in all that time there are customers not being serviced.

RTM Assessment toolIf your sales are struggling along towards the end of the year and the stream of excuses for gaps appears endless, you might take a close look at how much time your sales people spend travelling to, selling to and guiding distributors. If your sales team has adopted the IKEA system logic then you have just spotted a huge opportunity to improve your Route to Market (RTM)performance.

Get out from behind the desk and have a closer look. Get some IKEA rope, tie yourself to the roof a salesman's car and see where some simple experience, thought and logic can significantly add to your bottom line. 

Too busy to ease yourself out of that IKEA chair? Then seek out some professional resource to take a cold hard look at how you operate RtM in the traditional trade.

IKEA image courtesy of A littleSprite 

Tags: Route to Market, Interim Management, Dave Jordan, Supply Chain, Traditional Trade, Sales, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool

FMCG SKU Proliferation: You DON'T need lost sales in Q4

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Nov 13, 2017
Extra SKUs sneak onto price lists when nobody is looking. Sales & Marketing colleagues prefer new launches with lengthy SKU lists different flavours, different sizes, different colours, new packaging etc. How many shelf facings do they want? How do these decisions get through S&OP meetings? (You do run an S&OP process, don't you?)

Do you know this SKU proliferation is likely to affect your customer service? Rather than delighting more and more customers you maybe disappointing them and wasting countless Euros at the same time. Introducing an SKU is a cross business decision, or should be! When considering new SKU introduction at your next Board or S&OP meeting then the supply chain people should ask some testing questions.

Cost per SKU. Have you ever sat down with your Management Accountant and calculated how much it costs to have an SKU on your price list? Sales staff will bemoan the rising listing fees but in reality the cost of an SKU is much, much more. Including, e.g.

  • An employee must spend time buying the different label, dyestuff, cap, box, etc.
  • The new raw material/packaging must be stored in a warehouse.
  • Someone must call it off at the factory.
  • The factory must schedule and make the SKU.
  • The finished product is stored in a warehouse.
  • Someone at the operating company must plan the SKU.
  • Transport into and ex-factory.
  • Transport to Distributor or Retailer etc, etc

All of these activities and many, many more ensure that the cost of having an SKU on the books is significant. In a very rough rule of thumb the cost of having any 1 SKU on the books of a medium-sized company is typically 30,000 Euros per annum.

Factory complexity. Time is money in factories as they try and make their assets sweat and get as much out of the gate as fast and cheaply as possible. Each colour or perfume change or label or pack size adjustment stops the production line and steals valuable time which you cannot recover.

Logistics. Each individual SKU requires a dedicated pallet or rack or bin location. The more SKUs you have the more money you are paying for space. When you have 16 variants of the same shampoo pack size you can understand why picking errors occur, lowering your customer service and causing lost sales.

Interim_Management_FMCG_Dave_Jordan_SKU_Complexity.jpgPlanning. At year-end low value SKUs really drag your business down as resources are applied to plan and deliver SKUs to market which may increase your volume number but not your profit line. Your scarce resource should be focussed on delivering those SKUs that make a real difference to profit rather than spending time on low value/slow moving SKUs which may actually have to be written off in the long term.

SKU rationalisation. Ok, so despite the above you are drowning under SKU complexity. Far too many organisations launch a new SKU and then fail to revisit the data assumptions on which it was first introduced. Firstly, if a new SKU is not even expected to deliver at least 30,000 Euros (or whatever your in-house figure may be) profit then DON'T LAUNCH IT! For all SKUs on your price list you should carry out an SKU Rationalisation exercise preferably quarterly but at least annually. SKUs that do not meet profit/margin/volume/GP criteria should be placed on watch. If they remain below your cut off points then it is time to propose a delisting.

The ideal time to carry out that rationalisation exercise is before you submit Annual Plan 2018 and certainly before the end of 2017. Your staff will be concentrating on the day to day operation so recruitment of an external resource to carry out the segmentation is advisable. The temporary recruit will be dispassionate and unbiased and will deliver a proposal which is right for the business and not just right for some. 

Of course, there will always be special cases like SKUs that constitute a range or a niche local jewel but as long as these are the exceptions then you have a chance of a fast flowing, efficient and reliable supply chain ready for 2018. 

Need more expert advise from readily available talent to address SKU Complexity? Please click here. 

Image courtesy of Supertrooper freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: Customer service, SKU, FMCG, Interim Management, Dave Jordan, S&OP, Sales