The European Supply Chain Excellence Awards 2007, Logistics & Fulfilment Winner: Vodafone Logistics with Unipart

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By definition, almost any finalist in these Awards (with the exception of a few purely procurement-oriented organisations) must be fairly good at ”logistics and fulfilment” – although that is by no means the total supply chain, it is certainly the core in most businesses.

But life is too short to reassess all of our nearly 40 finalists on this narrower set of criteria, and the judges created a shortlist of four – Ford Motor Company, KN Drinks Logistics with Scottish & Newcastle, Tesco Direct, and Vodafone Logistics with Unipart Technology Logistics.

All of these, in very different ways, showed very high degrees of competence in the logistics and fulfilment sphere. Both Ford and KN were interesting in that they have taken very long-established logistics processes and infrastructure, and remoulded it to be fit for 21st century use. On the other hand, both these entries are slightly limited in scope as they are essentially internal to the industry. The judges concentrated therefore on the entries from Tesco Direct, and from Vodafone with UTL.

The Tesco entry, as described above in the ”Retail & Distribution” category, is truly impressive, especially given what has been achieved in the timescale and how service and fulfilment levels have been maintained or improved during an exponential start-up phase. Can these improvements be sustained in the ”consolidation” phase that must surely come? We don’t know yet.

What we do know is the long term success of the partnership between UTL and Vodafone. Unipart Trade Logistics has a relationship with Vodafone going back to 1999. Crudely, this is Vodafone outsourcing the supply chain for mobile phone handsets, but in reality, the relationship is far more symbiotic. ”This is Vodafone – and that is how UTL see themselves”.

UTL themselves say that this partnership is ”a bespoke tailored service developed over the years with one thing driving it – the Vodafone customer experience”.

Over the years the operation has grown from relatively simple roots to a complete set of forward and reverse logistics solutions, including pre-sales logistics; pick, pack and despatch; repair, exchange and refurbishment; car kit installation, customisation, parts purchasing and much more. In a year, UTL reckons to ”touch” Vodafone’s customers more than 12 million times, and making those experiences good ones for the customer through the supply chain is a key differentiator for Vodafone.

This operation has been a long time running, but the focus of this submission was the transformation project which, in a joint investment by UTL and Vodafone, brought three sites together into one warehouse (in Nuneaton) in just four months and ”without any disruption of service or missing a single customer order”.

The site has been ”future proofed” for predicted growth over the next ten years, and among the immediate benefits since the October 2006 move, pre-sales service have improved efficiencies by 12 per cent, repair capabilities, previously outsourced, have been brought in-house, as has car kit installation. This alone involved the integration of 85 engineers and 30 call centre staff to deliver a branded service based on Nuneaton. Distribution has also been enabled to transform service with, for example, options for evening delivery, and for customers to change delivery dates at short notice via SMS.

The judges found good strategy and strategy deployment, comprehensive metrics linked to business goals, a structured process architecture (the ”Unipart Way”, by no means unique to the Vodafone contract but demonstrably successful across a range of clients – and to think Unipart was a fall-out from the British motor car industry!), clear structures and the highest degrees of collaboration with customers and major suppliers.

UTL themselves say the Vodafone supply chain is ”such a success due to both companies sharing the same vision and providing a customer-driven differentiated service, ensuring that customers remain loyal to Vodafone.

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