By Jenny Yao Harrison, Group Supply Chain Director
The supply chains of today exist in turbulent times amid faster change and greater uncertainty.
Yet according to Gartner, a leading global research and advisory firm: “Top performers defy conventional thinking during disruptions. The most successful take risks in ‘the turns,’ which can be economic, geopolitical, environmental, social or competitive. Supply chain executives must prepare and lead by building agility into systems, processes and decision making.”
Similarly, “it is in the turns that the best athletes take risks and make moves. They brake late and then accelerate out of turns instead of simply pushing the brakes of risk aversion. They trust their abilities to take risks that lead to higher performance. They don’t take speculative risks but, rather, calculated ones by trusting in their core capabilities. They have practised. They are ready. They are uniquely prepared to ‘win in the turns.’” [Gartner, “Winning in the Turns: A Supply Chain Action Guide,” 3 Sept 2019].
In late 2018, we set out to evolve Finlays’ varied and dispersed supply chains to strengthen how we service and deliver to our customers.
Top performers defy conventional thinking during disruptions. The most successful take risks in ‘the turns,’ which can be economic, geopolitical, environmental, social or competitive. Supply chain executives must prepare and lead by building agility into systems, processes and decision making
Strengthening the basics, while building end-to-end supply chain capability, required strategic and operational thinking in areas such as customer service, planning and global logistics. Our strategy is now framed using annual customer surveys and Net Promoter Score (NPS) results. Projects now scoped to deliver value through cost management and optimisation must also answer the question: “For what benefit to our customers?”
We began by exercising our Supply Chain Planning muscle for the marathon ahead. We implemented Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) starting with our tea and coffee extracts business, which spans eight countries and five continents, from tea and coffee fields, to production plants and warehouses.
Today, we have established Demand Planning capability to drive greater focus in understanding and working closer with our customers. Our S&OP monthly cadence captures customer insights to build the forecast, translate it into demand and supply plans, and inform our operations as far out as 18 months. S&OP has enabled disciplined and informed decision making on what we will and won’t do, with greater visibility and alignment on the implications for our customers, operations, and overall business performance.
The result is decreased expedited shipments, improved inventory management, and consistent on-time, in-full delivery. We’ve since embarked on select projects that optimise cost while increasing value through improved service delivery, starting with leveraging scale to tender our global ocean freight.
Our supply chain muscle continues to grow and strengthen. We’re investing in supply chain talent and working closer with our customers’ supply chain leaders to collaborate on S&OP information flows and business continuity challenges. Our global strategy development leverages external expertise from the industry, including Chris Tyas, Nestlé’s former Senior Vice President and Global Supply Chain Head.
In our marathon journey, we’re training through a series of sprints while building our endurance and maintaining line of sight to the finish line. We’re warmed up, focused on core disciplines, and will continue to stretch to keep constant attention on our customers’ needs.