Kim Cartledge

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Kim Cartledge is responsible for planning, distribution and customer service for such global Danone brands as Evian as well as many successful local brands. In the year she has been with the company, her key observation has been just how fast-moving and fast-growing the business is.

‘The whole area of flexibility and responsiveness is important at Danone – building supply chains that are able to adapt quickly to market conditions. Consumer trends move fast – for example the rush to healthier drinks such as flavoured waters – and we have to support this with supply chains that can respond adaptively but at a reasonable cost. More and more, the successful companies are those that are able to differentiate their supply chains: lean, low cost high volume chains for some brands and more flexible and agile chains for others.

‘Any large corporation can have trouble reacting to change but an impressive feature at Danone is the way people adapt quickly. If an idea is sound and is in line with the goals of the business there is plenty of scope for execution. Although supply chain is a fairly young discipline here, the corporate principles are healthy in terms of speed of reaction. This is a real “just do it” environment’.

But that environment also presents a more specific challenge to Cartledge. ‘Water is heavy. Our source waters like Evian and Volvic, which together make up a significant percentage of the worldwide business, by definition have to be bottled at source and transported to a global market. To do that in an environmentally friendly way is a big challenge. As companies rationalise and concentrate their production facilities, this is becoming true for other major CPG manufacturers as well.

‘I’d love to be able to say “everything will go by train”, and we do try to use environment-friendly transport modes but in reality road transport is here to stay. The way forward is through greatly increased collaboration between shippers. We are now seeing a number of groupings around the logistics world demonstrating a greater willingness to collaborate. I don’t mean we would be prepared to collaborate with just anyone but certainly the range of companies we would be prepared to collaborate with is now much bigger. The opportunity to save cost and be positive for environmental sustainability is a powerful double whammy and it goes with our products – if we are promoting healthy foods and drinks, the last thing we want to do is use transport irresponsibly’.

As with all the major CPG manufacturers, the advent of RFID is going to be huge. Cartledge says ‘As manufacturers, we have two choices if we want to do business. We can either be compliant with the mandate that comes down from Walmart, Tesco, Metro etc, or we can say “here’s an opportunity – since we have to be compliant, how can we use that to drive efficiency in our supply chain?” That’s about using RFID intelligently for ever better tracking and tracing of products and assets and it’s also about using RFID in the whole area of global data synchronisation – using RFID as a platform to drive the management of data transactions with customers and eventually suppliers.

‘A lot of companies are just swallowing hard but the ones which will be successful will be those that ask “what’s in it for me – how do I use this positively?”

‘The killer at the moment is the cost of the tags – it is easy to see RFID as all cost for the manufacturer and all benefit for the retailer but there are potential benefits for manufacturers too. You have to look at the application areas that are most attractive.

‘At Danone, the yoghurts business, for example, is characterised by high numbers of SKUs, considerable complexity in individual loads and the use of expensive refrigerated trucking. RFID provides an opportunity to speed offloading considerably, with the potential for increasing useable shelflife and lowering trucking costs. Water is a more homogenous product, transported at ambient temperature, so the benefits are not as great but we can still target the efficient use of transport.’


  • Kim Cartledge graduated in 1978 with a degree in chemistry from the University of London.
  • She worked for Unilever from 1978 to 2001 in a variety of supply chain posts. From 1997 she was European customer services director for the food & beverage Europe business group, responsible for physical distribution and customer service in Western Europe.
  • Kim spent the last six months of her Unilever career on secondment to Transora, the B2B exchange supported by Unilever and other leading FMCG manufacturers.
  • In 2001 Kim joined i2 Technologies as business development director in the CPG area.
  • In 2003 she moved to Danone, initially as supply chain director for the global biscuits business, then to her current role as supply chain director for water worldwide.
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