Chris Poole has only been in his current role since the summer. Poole explains: “I was logistics director for the UK & Ireland and now I’m director of outbound logistics, which is basically distribution centres and transportation for western Europe. It’s a typical P&G career progression – you get a country and then you get European experience. I’m doing a bit of travelling these days.”
And it was as logistics director for the UK & Ireland, a post he had held since 1999, that Poole changed P&G’s UK distribution operations, resulting in inventory being stripped out of the supply chain and taking millions of truck miles off the road.
At P&G, the work ethos is about two moments of truth: the first moment of truth is for the product to be on the shelf – looking good and at the right price – when the consumer wants to buy it; the second moment of truth is when the consumer gets the product home, uses it and decides whether it does do what it says on the label.
Poole comments: “Logistics is all about winning at the first moment of truth. In the mid-90s I came to realise that in order for us to really win at the first moment of truth, you have to have great supply capacity. It’s not just about creating demand which is what I was doing when I was in sales. Until that time, logistics had really been a kind of backroom function and as time went on we came to realise that it could be a way of really accelerating our business goals.”
He admits that the group’s basic service bck then “wasn’t as good as it might be”. Also, a monumental amount of change was needed to get the logistics network in a place where the right service levels could be achieved. “I led some change both in terms of the actual physical logistics structure we had and in terms of the business processes to improve communication through the supply chain.”
These changes included moving more product categories together into big service centres so that customers could order them together, rather than just getting them by chance from wher they were made. As customers could order the products together, they could order full truck loads but get the right quantities to meet demand. “That was one change. That was a big investment – a $60M investment – for the UK.”
Poole adds: “We extended two big facilities, one at our London place near the Dartford Crossing and one in the North-west. That was a big change and it was the first time P&G had considered logistics as a competitive advantage. The other area was improving the communication systems through the supply chain, and this isn’t rocket science but it is really important – 90% of the issues that you have in the supply chain are to do with mis-matched expectations or mis-matched communication. I think my background in sales helped me to create stronger links between the various parts of the supply chain.
“We’ve improved service levels from 96% when I came which is not very good – for the last two and a half years the service level to UK customers has been over 99.5%.”
By putting the full product portfolio in both distribution centres in order to create demand-driven logistics has resulted in inventory being stripped out of the supply chain while improving service at the same time. “We also took millions of truck miles off the road because we weren’t delivering from three or four manufacturing sites – we consolidate a product and it goes out in one truck.”
Poole believes that his commercial background comes in handy when tackling challenges within P&G’s supply chain. “It’s been a real a benefit, a real advantage for me and as I’ve moved forward, certainly in collaboration which I think is a key enabler. Collaboration is one of the things that we have to do with customers in order to deliver great service at the lowest cost and win at the first moment of truth. If you’ve got someone who has worked with customers you’ve obviously got an advantage in that whole area.”
His current role does not involve dealing with customers direct. Instead, it is all of the customer-facing DCs and the outbound logistics operations who manage the haulage in each of the countries reporting to him. “It’s a more operational and a less customer-facing role than I had before but it gives me experience of essentially how to run the operation.”
And to give the scale of that, there are 2,000 people, 13 distribution centre and a budget of US $500M.
2005 Promoted to director, Outbound Logistics, Western Europe.
1999 Appointed logistics director, UK and Eire.
1997 Was logistics director, Nordic Region.
1995 Became customer logistics division manager.
1993 Appointed sales merchandising department manager.
1991 Was sales marketing department manager.
1989 Boots and J Sainsbury national accounts manager, health and beauty products.
1987 Became sales technology manager.
1985 Promoted to area sales manager, North-east England.
1983 Joined Procter & Gamble as sales representative, Teesside.