Winner: Dell

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The judging for ‘overall winner’ is not quite as straightforward as might appear. Although by definition the ‘number one’ will be one of the sectoral category winners, the judges like to nominate a Second and Third, and because of the differences in performance between sectors, it is quite possible for a firm that didn’t win its own category to beat all the other sectoral category winners. Similarly, the judges need to consider the performance of finalists in the functional categories.

So the contenders were the sector winners – NHS Logistics, Argos, GlaxoSmithKline, Dell, Coca Cola Enterprises, and Rexam. These accounted also for three of the functional Awards, the fourth being the Marks & Spencer/Gist entry. Additionally, the judges wanted to consider the merits of Procter & Gamble, runner up in the FMCG category, for a place (noting that the ‘cut-off’ score to get onto the shortlist was five per cent higher for FMCG firms than for those in other sectors).

The judges’ ratiocination went something like this (pay attention there!). M&S/Gist was eliminated because the most attractive feature of the entry is still only at pilot stage. Of the others, GSK fans cited the ‘start from scratch’ nature of the post-merger supply chain development; the NHS bid was ‘a very interesting market, doing good things supporting customers and impressive order management’. Rexam had achieved ‘a lot of big supply chain improvements and has created excellent supplier relations’. CCE must impress not least by the number of large, hard to please customers that have voted it ‘number One supplier’. Argos, said one judge ‘I really liked because of its model for selling obsolete stock, and coping with the cost of returns’.

Procter & Gamble also had its adherents, based on all-round solid excellence. However, the judges assessed Rexam and Argos against Coca Cola, preferring Rexam to Argos, and the latter to Coca Cola. The judges felt that Argos deserved credit for achievement in a more complex multi-channel environment than that of Coca Cola (despite Coca Cola’s impressive optimisation capability across multiple sites), while Rexam outpointed Argos because it had been ‘there or thereabouts’ in every one of the functional categories. Since P&G couldn’t really be preferred to their own category winner, they were out.

So that was, in third place, Argos, and in second, Rexam. We haven’t mentioned Dell, just to maintain a spurious air of suspense, but there was never any doubt in the judges’ minds that Dell would come out overall winner – ‘If they’re on the list, they’ll get the prize’, said one.

‘It is very difficult’, they said, ‘not to think of Dell as a fantastic example of supply chain excellence. The entry has everything we are looking for – a holistic viewpoint, exemplary execution and performance, and with the metrics to back it up. They have taken on and rethought the whole business model, not just the supply chain model, and have been prepared to change everything they and their suppliers do. It’s a completely different mindset reflected in the beautiful simplicity of their processes.

‘And they’re not resting on their laurels. We have heard of whole programmes of activity for the next three years: for instance, changing the way they pay suppliers, to improve cashflow and create a reduction in defects. They seem to have a whole pipeline of supply chain initiatives’.

Before the judges get too carried away, a rathermore sober assessment from the Overall Winners themselves. Ethna Kelleher, Director of supply chain re-engineering, says ‘The Dell supply chain bible has three words: quality, velocity, and cost. We focus on creating value for our customers, on constantly improving the customer experience, productivity and velocity, and we share our business process improvements with our key suppliers and partners, as well as engaging with them in waste removal programmes.

‘Our supply chain is a core part of our business model and the business benefit we offer to our customers – ultimately, this is what makes Dell unique not just in Europe but across the globe’.

So there you have it – that’s all you need to become Overall Winner of the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards.

Finally, what did our guest judges think of the whole process, and the unique view they obtained of some of the best in European supply chain practice? Iain Pearson of Shell says ‘It’s given me a lot of targets to improve against, from our own and other sectors. I’ve seen how much there is out there for us to achieve’, while Mark Williamson, from last year’s Overall Winner, Jungheinrich, adds ‘There are some good people out there, and some very good stuff going on. If anything this has made me even more proud of our win last year’. Well done, Dell.

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