Awards Overall Winner: British Gas

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Winning a category at the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards is quite an achievement in itself. But what does it take to win the Overall Award? In effect, what we are asking here is: what are the characteristics of a world-leading supply chain?

Over the past eighteen years of the Awards the judges have been pretty consistent in what they look for in the Overall Winner. This year was no different.

It is a combination of factors: innovative strategies, dedicated and inspirational leadership, active team engagement, exemplary change management skills, evidence of applied metrics and results, passion and enthusiasm, operational excellence and above all else a recognition of the strategic importance of the supply chain to the performance of the business.

The process for determining the Overall Winner involves the assessment and comparison of each of the six Industry Sector winners.

The British Gas team fills the stage to accept the overall winner’s Award. Johnathon Marshall of PwC, left, presented the award. Host Martin Bayfield is at the back on the right. This was British Gas’s third win of the night – it won the Public Sector & Utilities category, along with the Supply Chain Strategy & Design category.


So shortlisted for the trophy this year were – British Gas, Infineon Technologies, Kimberley Clark with Unipart Logistics, Sky Deutschland, John Lewis plc with KNAPP AG, and World Food Programme.

By winning their Industry Sectors all were candidates for the Overall Award and consequently the judges debated their attributes at length and compared their scores across the core disciplines. However, the battle for this year’s top prize was clearly between two front-runners.

The judges were impressed by the fact that with John Lewis’ entry all initiatives focused on the customer proposition and the cost to serve. Service levels were accounted for in minutes, not days, and the sophisticated warehouse automation deployed provided operational efficiencies with a high level of agility.

The development of the two adjacent Magna Park distribution centres has been a major investment for the omni-channel retailer, a commitment to its rapidly expanding base of online and bricks & mortar customers.

Over the past 18 months John Lewis has focused on increasing the capacity and capability of direct to customer operations, including automation of packing and pick to carton technology. The Magna Park facilities handle the small, ‘binnable’ stock that account for the majority share of the product range and unit throughput for both the shop and online offer.

“Here’s an organisation that step, by step, by step has grown and succeeded – leading the way in its sector. It has brought on-board some highly technical supply chain solutions, which has enabled them to steal a march on competitors.

“This is an impressive commercial story driven by supply chain effectiveness, in a very dynamic environment,” say the judges. Undoubtedly, the initiative had great merit and strong strategic credentials, but there is yet more development to come.

British Gas has embarked on an enormous logistical and technical challenge. Under a UK government requirement for smart meters to be made available to the British consumer, the utilities company is to install over 50 million meters by 2020. Collaborating closely with key suppliers – DHL, Royal Mail and Tata Consultancy Services – British Gas has re-engineered its supply chain to support a dramatic up-scaling of their capabilities, from 1200 to 3000 engineers over the next three years.

The project has driven significant cost avoidance by automating manual processes, which reduces the need to recruit significant warehouse resource to support the scale up plans, and manual processing for engineers has been reduced by providing them with a simple ordering catalogue.



The judges were deeply impressed by the way the utility company had embraced the challenge, created a strategy capable of meeting that challenge, and then managed change in the business to produce the operational requirements needed to deliver on the strategy.

This was a ground breaking project, fully supported and driven by the board. The KPIs presented to the judges were impressive, inventory turns on consumables carried by installation engineers were “exceptionally good”, and the strategy implemented produced the results.

They also liked the clarity of the presentation and conviction and passion of the team. But in particular, the judges liked the fact that supply chain was now recognised and embraced at board level and was clearly influencing business strategy.

Announcing the Overall Winner at the Awards Night, Johnathon Marshall, partner at PWC, said: “There was one organisation that stood out. This organisation showed how their supply chain was used to create a genuine competitive advantage and an ability to shape their market.

“They responded to regulatory change, showed resilience to step-back and reassess how to respond, built a platform with the potential to collaborate with others, embraced new technologies to allow them to help their people be successful and serve their customers, and where now, they have a genuine seat at the top table… The Overall Winner of the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards 2014 is… British Gas.”


▶          British Gas

▶          John Lewis plc with KNAPP AG

▶          Infineon Technologies

▶          Kimberley Clark with Unipart Logistics

▶          Sky Deutschland

▶          World Food Programme


First published in Supply Chain Standard, December 2014

You can download a PDF of the Awards by clicking here.

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