Winner: Thales Telecommunications Services

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This sector threw up some very curious combinations and parallels, and as Gordon Colborn notes in his general appraisal, the service element of logistics is becoming increasingly important, even for companies who think their main business lies in manufacturing or retail.

Two entries here were, ultimately, from Deutsche Telekom, although one focused on physical supply to their German civil engineering output, while the other, from Magyar Telekom (a serial finalist in these awards, even before it was acquired by Deutsche Telekom) was more oriented to customer service.

Then we had British Gas (Centrica) and Eandis – both in the business of serving gas consumers in the UK and Belgium respectively, and very similar in their customer demands and supply chain responses. Vodafone submitted two separate entries, both majoring on aspects of sourcing and procurement – the judges opted to treat these as a single entry, and for the result see further on. But three pairs were aced by the entry from Thales Telecommunications Services, the winner in this category. Part of the
French-owned international defence, aerospace and services group, TTS operates from 30 sites around the UK providing fully-managed services for telecoms and IT. Call centres in Doncaster and London marshal rapid-response faulting and maintenance services, to meet SLAs as low as two hours, and calls to be answered in 15 seconds. Clients are especially in safety-critical or hazardous environments, for example Network Rail and London Underground.

The supply chain team at TTS has Board level representation, and supports the business through procurement, safety and quality assurance, spares and materials availability management, logistics, supplier management and reverse logistics. Additionally, in the past 18 months the team has ‘spread its wings’ to provide its services to other parts of the group and external customers.

Supply Chain director Nigel Whitaker says ‘The last three years have for us been a journey with the goal of improving the business. We are now over half way through a five year plan which has included rebranding the function into the “Supply Chain team” and moving activities and influence upstream from a previously reactive service into one which is now fully integrated into the business, making and influencing decisions at Board level.

‘Our focus has been on becoming a “leaner” organisation, meeting customer requirements, eliminating waste and getting the right people with the right skills in place to support our drive to becoming “Best in Class”. Headline achievements include reductions in the number of suppliers, rationalisation of properties, championing a range of Business Process Improvement initiatives and playing a key role in the company’s “War on Waste” initiative. The success of the team has been phenomenal: performance is unrecogniseable from what went before, and the measure of our success is the extent to which we are now asked to supply our services to external organisations’.

The judges were particularly impressed by Thales vision of the supply chain as a strategic asset, and the way they have used their supply chain competences to drive a significant business change, from being essentially a spare parts business into being a strategic service partner to companies with critical needs. This is a prime example of an organisation recognising and playing to its core competences, and in the process successfully transforming its business, in this case from a supplier of railway-related services, to a service provider to the wider telecoms industry. They have not just used the supply chain to drive this strategic change, but have also seen the supply chain as being a revenue generator, not just a back-office process – to the point where supply chain actually has its own P&L accounting! This is backed up by very clear, visible and well-documented process architecture, and strong focus, ownership and visibility on metrics. Collaborative network-building is in its early stages but shows a sophisticated approach to building relationships that will open revenue doors – for example, converting suppliers into customers.

‘With strong boardroom commitment, and supply chain metrics that are not only impressive but clearly embedded in the wider corporate culture, the deserving winner in this highly competitive category is Thales’.

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