Milestone for Co-op

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Susan Fernley, head of supply chain for the Co-operative Group gave a frank account of the challenges that the company had faced in getting its new Coventry NDC up and running. Speaking at the IGD Retail Logistics Summit, she said the site opened in May 2005 and is primarily a depot for slow-moving ambient SKUs. “On the surface it was a routine event but in fact it was a milestone,” she said.
Fernley moved into the supply chain as supplies controller for CRS in 1997. At the CRS/CWS merger in April 2000, she was given the role of integrating and heading the new inbound logistics function for the food retail division of the newly formed Co-operative Group. The Co-op is made up of thirty independent businesses and the food retail section. Co-op retail accounts for 60 per cent of the group’s total income. In January of this year the Co-op had 19 ambient warehouses around the UK, which created a complex system for suppliers. The situation now is that 500 suppliers regularly deliver to the NDC has made the system more efficient.
The challenges that the group faced were many and “our two month ramp-up plan did not run as smoothly as anticipated”. Although they are about to implement Manhattan software, they used to use the legacy system which she regarded as being inflexible.
Talking about the position of the Co-op Fernley said: “Instead of just one irate CEO demanding higher performance, we had 32.”
Challenges with its former systems included; false spikes in demand, reserve capacity issues. She also went as far to admit that “single bottle pick nearly brought the warehouse to its knees”.
By October 2005, the depot was running smoothly after some “heroic efforts”. Product availability held at 95 per cent while wine promotion availability went up from the low 90s to 97 per cent and the depot stabilised. She said of the experience that the Co-op “had embarked on a lengthy journey of improving our supply chain.”

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