Computacenter is a familiar name in the ESCE Awards, their UK operation having reached the finals in previous years. This time, however, it was the company’s German Logistics and Service Centre at Kerpen that was under the microscope. Olaf Konopka, director of the Logistics Centre, says the company has ‘grown into a e1 billion business while preserving a company culture of few and flat hierarchies, entrepreneurship and lean decision paths’. The assessors gained the impression of a very cross-functional approach displaying good governance and with a very clear relationship between the supply chain and corporate profitability. KPIs were impressive – most operations run at 5 sigma levels and 6 sigma is being achieved for inventory control. The repairs and spares operation serves 22 locations across Germany, 365 days a year, offering a four-hour service availability, while ‘same day’ spares fulfilment is running at 99 per cent, and ‘next day’ at 96 per cent. Unsurprisingly, the firm records very high customer satisfaction which is successfully differentiating Computacenter in what could otherwise be a commodity business. Reverse logistics is also important and effective – the company manages recycling and reselling for customers in line with the European WEEE Directive and decisions on repair or disposal are taken against a well thought out cost based decision process.
Processes and workflows are highly standardised and automated, but the company also benefits from flexible working time practices. In all the judges were impressed by a highly adaptive supply chain operation. The entry from Psion Teklogix Europe was based on its European Logistics and Repair facility in Aix en Provence. The centre serves the whole EMEA region for mobile business products. Customer configuration is carried out at Aix, and for projects involving different supply locations deliveries are either co-ordinated at the customer or merged in transit by a Netherlandsbased 3PL. There is a target five-day cycle time for new products, and four different levels of service commitment.
Technology plays an important role in Psion Teklogix. Marketing executive Hannah Jefferys draws attention to Teknet, a customer extranet which allows complete visibility of customer sales orders, repairs and call centre tickets and is integrated with FedEx and Chronopost to facilitate on-line, same-day collections; the use of RFID tags not only to track repair jobs through the system but as ‘repair tokens’ that customers on the 24 hour SLA can attach to their devices ensuring priority; and trials now in progress of voice technology for small orders picking. The assessors said ‘When it comes to a fluid, real time supply chain with full track and trace capability they certainly walk the talk’. Scribona, based in Stockholm, was the third entry in this category. They are the largest supplier of IT and communication solutions in the Nordic area, but suffer from significant pressure on prices and margins, so the substantial improvement in inventory performance and logistics costs that they have achieved has been crucial. Scribona recognises that in a largely commoditised marketplace, (their customers are retailers rather than end-users) supply chain and logistics operations are major differentiators. From 2002 they have implemented a programme that ‘recognises that normal improvement won’t be enough – we must think in new ways’.
The strategy has seen the introduction of techniques such as cross docking and in-transit merging, while many logistics operations have been outsourced to cope with large demand fluctuations. A new IT platform (based on ASW from IBS) has given them a near real time view of inventory, and their KPIs are already in line with Level One in the SCOR system and the firm intention is to go much further. The 3PLs they use are fully integrated into the planning systems, which are nonetheless the target of new investment, and there are serious attempts to build more collaborative partnerships with the main suppliers.
On the downside, the judges felt that the customer relationship side was relatively weak. Apparently, retailers are reluctant to share POS data, and Scribona admits it has yet to develop a model which would convince retailers of the benefit of providing such information. Overall, a well-performing and transforming company, but still with some way to go. Our fourth entrant in this category was the European Distribution Centre, at Venlo, of the American-based Arrow Inc, a global wholesaler of electronic components.
The emphasis here is very much on fulfilment and delivery excellence to customer-specific requirements and the judges rated this ‘quite spectacular’ – a 24 hour services across Europe and the States with a 98- 99 per cent performance level. There are some sophisticated processes and technology deployed, focusing on transparency, not only of available stocks in any location, but also of alternative products with similar specs that might be acceptable to the customer.
As against this stellar performance though, the judges felt that other elements of the total supply chain offering were no better than average for the sector. Overall, the judges felt all four submissions were powerful, but the palm goes to Computacenter AG for ‘a degree of consistency across all areas of supply chain, class leading performance, and KPIs as good as you can probably get’.