Once again the Retail & Distribution category drew plenty of entries and brought past contestants back into competition with each other. Homebase and Tesco Direct were both in the finals last year, with Tesco Direct taking the 2007 Retail & Distribution trophy. Would it win again this year?
Driven by the simple philosophy of big labels at small prices, TJX Europe has built a highly successful retail operation. In the UK, Ireland and Germany, the company has over 200 TK Maxx and HomeSense stores, selling a range of designer fashion, accessories, homewares and gifts. For the past two years TJX Europe has been working to take cost out of the supply chain and enhance customer service through more frequent store deliveries. This has led to a combination of centralised processing operations and regional cross-docking facilities, bringing into play sophisticated warehousing technology.
Electrocomponents is a distributor within the technology and industrial sector. It has 11 operating companies in Europe providing next-day delivery. The company has recently completed the re-engineering of its supply chain planning systems to create a single, transparent operation offering business benefits which include: improved service levels to customers through lead-time compression, inventory optimisation, transparency of demand and a capability to rebalance inventory holding and freight to give a reduced carbon footprint.
Then there was Tesco Direct, last year’s category winner. This non-food, multi-channel retailer is a new operation, only trading since September 2006. The company greatly impressed the judges last year with its tremendous growth from a standing start and the way it was able to leverage everything the company could from existing supply chains and people. But this year the race was between two other contestants.
The judges viewed Belron and Homebase as the two closest competitors in this category. Both were very strong in their presentations, both were equally passionate.
Homebase, a close runner for last year’s Retail & Distribution Award, won the 2007 Innovation trophy with its ingenious means of optimising its supply chain despite tough financial constraints. This year the company unveiled an optimised DC structure. Project “Harry and Molly” involved the change of location of two distribution centres simultaneously without causing disruption or disturbance to the customer. It managed this complex task and maintained a 92 per cent service level throughout.
However, it was Belron that came out top. With all the complexity associated with a 10,000 SKU range and a same-day or next-day service offering across every postcode in Europe, the emergency windscreen service company has transformed its operations and now achieves a 98 per cent service level.
They have an extensive range of windscreens – there are issues around transportability, around availability – and they have a need to get to the scene very quickly.The judges say, “no one has done what they have in the industry in managing glass in this way. They have an extensive range of windscreens – there are issues around transportability, around availability – and they have a need to get to the scene very quickly. The way they manage, store and secure glass and offer the product variety that they do, without actually carrying lots of inventory, is pretty clever.”
Prior to the supply chain transformation Belron had concerns over breakages, parts availability, delivery and high SKUs. So it set up its own internal supply chain development team to drive improvements in the business – the judges saw this as “a real commitment” to delivering the strategy.
Availability is key to Belron’s business. The company redesigned its demand-driven networks and its processes, rolling out an indirect purchasing programme over the last 12 months. But what really decided it for the judges was its attitude that, “this is the strategy, this is what we are going to do. We are going to change the way we are operating – we need to hit this level – we need to change the way we work to get cost structures down.”