Winner: Kimberley Clark

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All supply chian work is necessarily team work. The judges were looking for teamworking and effective collaboration both within the organisation and externally with partners, suppliers and customers and many of our finalists demonstrated these qualities. Kimberley Clark Europe, the entry that most caught the judges’ eye, however, showed remarkable abilities to bring nationalities, languages and business cultures together on a single site, and at the same time to manage these resources so that there is total flexibility with one language or territory group able seamlessly to cover for another when necessary.

Kimberley Clark is of course the global supplier of toilet tissues and other branded hygiene products, such as Andrex, Kleenex and Huggies, to an estimated quarter of the world’s population. Their entry in this year’s Awards focused on a very specific project – the establishment in mid-2005 of a European Supply Chain Services team.

Reg Vandra, European Supply Chain Services manager, explains that the team consists of 115 multi-lingual and multi-skilled personnel across three offices – Brighton, which handles retailers in the UK, Eire, Iberia, Benelux, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark, Klucze (Poland and the Baltic States) and Prague (Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) – providing integrated country-focused support for operations across 16 countries and 14 languages. This replaced two separate departments in Brighton – a customer service team, and a European freight management team – that despite their co-location were working effectively independently, with resulting inefficiencies.

The new, integrated, teams comprise customer service, deployment (finished goods replenishment) and transport planners, all focused on providing the highest levels of customer service for retailers in their countries of responsibility. Supporting these teams is a central group for transport management, import/export services and process development.

Vandra says that establishing ESCS has enabled teams to work more effectively through improved communications and through adopting a forward planning mentality, thinking about inventory and transport requirements, identifying in advance potential issues, finding the most cost effective solutions and forward planning up to four months in advance.

Consistency and standardisation across the integrated country teams has also enabled a number of technological improvements. Outdated IT systems in Prague and Poland were replaced without interruption in day to day business, and standardised procedures have enabled the introduction of Optical Character Recognition (successfully implemented within six weeks of approval) to capture data from the 5,000 per month faxed orders that were previously manually rekeyed. The assessors were particularly struck by the palpable sense of passion for their work evinced by all the team members they met, not just for their own country teams, but for the ‘team of teams’ that is Kinberley Clark’s European Supply Chain Services.

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