by Henk-Jan van Donkelaar, Sales Director
Contact: | +31 30 69 97 022

February 2014 – Last week I attended Logicon 2014 in the Krasnapolsky hotel in Amsterdam. This Supply Chain Management conference specific to the Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail industry attracted a lot of international attendees. Both from a speaker, attendee and venue point of view, this was an interesting few days. Each day had a new focus. Tuesday’s focus was forecasting and demand planning, Wednesday’s was end-to-end supply planning and Thursday centered on supply chain optimization. Evident of course why I, as a representative of Eyefreight, was in attendance: we are driving value in the supply chain through optimization.

I have attended quite a few of these conferences during my career. The funny thing with the speakers at these conferences is that you can always place them into two groups: the ones who really have a story to tell, and the ones who really like to hear themselves talking to a larger audience, mostly on generic SCM topics we all know (not that it’s not okay to hear these topics presented again). Obviously, the first group of speakers can count on my support.

Being a supply chain professional is not good enough!

At the ISMC2013, Pier Luigi Sigismundi, Chief Supply Chain Officer of Unilever, presented. At that time he had a very good sustainability story, and I was therefore thrilled to hear David Beauchamp, VP Global Logistics of Unilever, at Logicon 2014. At ISMC2013 I understood that Unilever had a very strong sustainability agenda that included an emphasis on the interdependence of responsible business practices and brand equity. Whereas Sigismundi presented the high level overview, I was happy to learn from Beauchamp how he specifically drilled down what this meant for his responsibilities within the supply chain.

Beauchamp told his audience that the Unilever supply chain clearly has to reach consumers in all channels at every price point. They have to deliver both at a premium and at a low cost level with strong quality, recognizing the cost profile of getting the product to the customer. (Ok, who’s not…?) But interestingly enough (and this is what I like about the category “Speakers who Have a Story to Tell”), Beauchamp stated he does not want to be seen as a “supply chain professional” but rather as a supply chain “business leader.” Why? According to Beauchamp, a “business leader” has responsibility to deliver according to customers’ needs and delights.

To the Sun?

Beauchamp gave an example on waste, since as a real supply chain business leader you have to eliminate waste. In terms of transport, Unilever travels the equivalent of three times to the sun and back per year. He shared the truck fill rate of Unilever with the audience: 63%. As a real business leader, Beauchamp concluded that of the three round trips to the sun, there is one trip Unilever does for nothing, since the truck is empty. Unilever has billions of dollars of overdue debt, so here is the potential: if you can optimize this and get the fill rate up and put the best practice processes in standardized operations, then money is released from the supply chain to the business. Translation: available capital for overdue debt.

Happy to help!

So I walked away with two conclusions at the end of this presentation. The first one is that Unilever really takes the lead in doing responsible business and is truly a forward-thinker. Even better – unlike most of its competitors, Unilever doesn’t only use responsible business practices as a marketing instrument, but instead definitely seeks opportunities to be better and more responsible in their supply chain operations. Beauchamp stated that supply chain management is the heart of success in the CPG business!

My second conclusion is that Unilever lacks good solutions to help them in this supply chain business challenge. Guess what? Who do you think Unilever should call? Mr. Beauchamp, I am sure you are open to some constructive discussion on the transport optimization topic! Welcome to Eyefreight…