Profile: Jacquie Cahill

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It’s not often you get a second chance to make your mark, but when Jacquie Cahill was given the opportunity to return to Allied Bakeries as supply chain director, after a two year stint at the company four years earlier, it was an opportunity she couldn’t refuse.

“The challenges and opportunities ahead of us are huge, but in comparison to the business I left four years ago we have a very clear direction. A simple readily understood business strategy.”

Allied Bakeries, which is part of Associated British Foods – owner of Primark, makes brands Kingsmill, Allinson, Burgen and Sunblest.

First time round, Cahill held the position of head of supply chain – planning and customer logistics, and since her departure in 2007 the company has a new chief executive in Mark Fairweather.

And it seems that Fairweather’s business ethos and emphasis on supply chain improvement was one of the deciding factors in Cahill’s return.

“A huge reason to believe in Allied Bakeries at the moment is the fact we have an owner who understands bakery, understands us and is prepared to invest in us in the long term.”

Cahill will be responsible for all logistics operations, including Project Athena, an investment initiative launched in August last year, which has been set up to look at route to market and in particular to improve service for smaller customers.

“A vital part of the project was to work more closely with our convenience customers to drive business and to incentivise them to drive business for themselves and Allied Bakeries while maintaining the direct-to-store model,” she says.

The company decided that to make that possible it had to present a broader range of products and move away from being “just a bread company” which brought about the launch of a number of bakery favourites including deli subs and pita pockets.

Allied Bakeries now has more territory managers out there working with customers on in-store category management and overall presentation, in addition to rolling out rate card prices as an incentive.

The company then looked at developing an integrated supply chain that delivered to both large and small customers from the same vehicle. “We previously ran two separate models delivering direct to store and then van sales operations. We effected a culture change [for drivers and territory sales staff]while at the same time an absolutely fundamental change in our supply chain platform in terms of delivery.”

Looking forward, the shift in consumer buying behaviour is going to play a major role in changing deliveries. According to Cahill, 45 per cent of purchases in the bakery category now take place after 3pm. “Yet traditionally the industry delivers in a very narrow time window in the morning, typically 3am – 9am, so one of the major challenges for us is to extend those time windows,” she says.

“Part of my focus will be to drive that continuous improvement ethos and lean logistics concept towards delivering an agile, flexible, responsive supply chain that will address the needs of the market place in the future.”

Cahill has spent much of her career in the FMCG sector, but jokes that she now operates in the V-FMCG sector. “The V can stand for very,” she says, “or valiant in terms of what we’re trying to achieve in the supply chain.”

For the past 20 years she has worked at various stages of the supply chain at blue chip companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Sara Lee, Johnson & Johnson, and most recently AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.

Despite pharmaceutical and bakery goods being worlds apart in terms of product, Cahill reckons parallels can be made between the two as the ultimate goal is to serve customers. The biggest difference, on the other hand, is quite simply that consumers in bakery get to test the bread before they make a purchase.

“Over two thirds of consumers squeeze bread before they buy to test for freshness – you obviously don’t get the same luxury with medicine. But it reinforces that my job is to get our bread out there as quickly and efficiently as possible because, quite frankly, fresh bread tastes better.”

Sustainability and carbon reduction is also high on the agenda and in 2009 Kingsmill became the first bread brand, according to Cahill, to carry the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction Label on its packaging.

In total, Allied Bakeries has reduced its carbon footprint by 28 per cent over the past six years through a number of initiatives, including the introduction of teardrop trailers. So far about ten per cent of the fleet features the design, which includes all replacements or upgrades since 2010. Plus all new vehicles are purchased to Euro 5 standards.

Since Cahill’s departure from Allied Bakeries in 2007 and her return this year, supply chain has been granted a place on the board.

She says: “It’s very significant because there is so much competitive edge that can be derived from the supply chain and it’s important to not risk the voice of the customer and the brand vision getting diluted through translation through the different areas of the organisation. As a board member I can already sense a very collaborative team.”

Curriculum Vitae

2007 – 2011 Global supply director at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, UK. Cahill was accountable for end-to-end supply chain performance and strategy planning for all sterile products.

2005 – 2007 Head of supply chain – planning & customer logistics at Allied Bakeries (Associated British Foods) UK. First time round, Cahill had a hands-on operations management role with planning and customer service responsibility, with influence over 2,500 staff and 1,000 vehicle road fleet – serving 12,000 retail delivery points daily.

2002 – 2005 General manager/European operations director at Sara Lee Corporation (direct selling division, B2C), UK & South Africa. She had full P&L accountability for skincare affiliate Nutrimetics, working across independent sales forces to develop strategic return on sales, with tactical bottom-line focus. This included a year based in Johannesburg.

1994 – 2002 Johnson & Johnson (consumer division) Cahill held progressive roles across component functions of the supply chain, culminating in supply chain leadership of major brands across Europe, Middle East & Africa.

1990 – 1994 Wellcome Foundation (now part  of GSK).

Logistics Manager, December 2011

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