The consumer manufacturing sector (FMCG/CPG) has a curious history over the decade of the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards – we tend to receive a core of good, solid entries, but very often lacking, perhaps, that ”sparkle” that sets them apart. Perhaps the FMCG/CPG people, global giants though they may be, are tied hand and foot to the supply chain practices of their major retail customers, and creativity and innovation have to take a back seat when the customer is behind the driving wheel. Will this year’s entrants disprove the thesis?
Well, we had four finalists, about as diverse as you could imagine in a sector that is essentially about mass production.
World Design & Trade won’t mean anything to readers, until it is explained they are the operation behind the Firetrap, Sonneti and Full Circle fashion labels. They have spent some years failing to find supply chain systems products that fully realise their ideas of how complex supply chains with originators in, for example, Hong Kong, mainland China, Turkey, Morocco, should integrate with sales organisations across much of Europe. It’s a bold step to create your own systems from scratch – on the evidence we saw it is working well, with more development still to come, but not the winner, at least, not this year.
KN Drinks Logistics is a newly formed partnership between Kuehne + Nagel, and Scottish & Newcastle, managing branded drinks distribution for S&N and third parties, and from what the assessors saw is already a highly effective operation. However, it has been in existence barely a year, and the assessors felt some reticence in awarding a prize on that length of performance, especially in a notoriously seasonal and unpredictable trade. One for the future?
Harman Technology was a very welcome finalist being, in comparison with most of the rest, a small company, albeit, in their own words ”with blue chip standards and practices”. The brand, in fact, is very familiar – they manufacture and distribute black & white film products under the ”Ilford” name, and have also just launched into specialist inkjet media. Harman reported some very nice metrics for their supply chain, and clearly have a good idea of where they are going, but in the assessors” view there was ”nothing special enough” to merit an Award. That shouldn’t be taken as a criticism – it is an unfortunate reality that however we tweak the rules small firms will struggle to display the broadband excellence that larger supply chains demonstrate (or try to – many fail). But getting shortlisted in this category is a recognition in itself – Harman were up against some much bigger players.
The ultimate winner in this category was Novozymes. They make and distribute ”enzymes and micro-organisms” which sounds a bit obscure until you realise that this isn’t just pharmaceuticals; it’s the blue bits in your detergent and many other bases for household goods – 600 products sold to 40 different industries in 130 countries. Their entry centred on an 18 month change programme, both internally and (what the judges like) customer-facing. Changes have been directed to creating a lean organisation and a culture that supports lean thinking, and very much directed towards corporate growth goals. The changes have involved relocation of plants, fundamental supply chain restructuring and implementing state of the art management control systems, not least in ensuring operational equipment efficiency on the largest filling lines.
Our assessors found ”a very enthusiastic company with some good, solid supply chain improvements, strategic links to the business, and some fantastic real time metrics (32 per cent cost reduction, 24 per cent inventory reduction, 30 per cent lead time reduction and so on). There is an emphasis on working, very “open book”, with customers and on developing customer relationships. Manual handling has been effectively eliminated [enzymes can be an allergen problem], while collaborative planning and forecasting is impressive”.
For Novozymes, Karl Poulsen, senior director, supply chain EMEA in Denmark, comments ”This Award will boost the lean supply chain mindset in the entire organisation, and is also a big acknowledgement of all the hard work done by all our supply chain staff”