By Max MacGillivray
Many moons ago, a Supply Chain Director in a Fresh Produce business on the South Coast of the UK had a very smart salesman in a very smart suit in his office pitching him a great new concept in supply chain efficiencies.
“And you see Sir….there is so much profitability held up within your supply chain….that if you allow us….a large yellow branded logistics business…the global supply chain experts….. to run your supply chain, your profits will grow year on year exponentially and we can just guarantee that for you. We are experts. Just sign here….Sir…….and here……and here…….thank you Sir. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure working with you!”.
The Supply Chain Director was ever so pleased. He had struggled to get three differing pack houses with three differing packing and IT systems to work as one, let alone delivering into key retailers highly perishable products. He had been at the end of his tether. The retailers were biting his arse – as was his Board surrounding packing and delivery efficiencies. But it was OK. A Knight in a shiny suit from a big yellow company had saved his bacon. OK….the price was high to outsource this all but it was going to work. The “Suit” has said so.
Move forward a month and picture the scene.
Ring ring….ring ring… “Yes….we need to speak to your Supply Chain Director right away….it’s very very urgent…this is his major retailer customer and he has dropped the ball. We have none of your product and the sun is shining and it’s a Friday and our customers want to buy it…NOW. The weekend is going to hell in a salad bowl if he does not deliver – we cannot short our customers of your product. Where the hell is he….?????”
Meanwhile the Supply Chain Director was in another office getting verbally tarred and feathered by his Directors. Turns out the logistic “experts” that the work had been outsourced to had actually a different way of operating. They treated every product and every clients customer as the same thing….a brown box commodity. It may work if the actual product is a brown box, but perhaps not if it is a highly perishable salad product grown and picked with loving care by some of the best growers in the land. And not if the customer is a highly stroppy and highly efficient top four retailer with a RDC (Regional Distribution Centre) that ran akin to a nuclear power station banging on red alert day after day.
Turned out that the outsourced “experts” did not care for their client or the products they grew or the retailers in question either. A lucrative 2-year deal had been signed up with penalty clauses to leave early. The Board of the Fresh Produce business had no option but to bite the bullet and void the contract early to save their business from being de-listed by multiple retailers. And a lesson had been learnt very quickly in the fresh sectors.
The Salesman in the shiny suit got no more “deals” in fresh. He instead moved on to other areas….and driving around….he went into a KFC drive thru for a spot of lunch….bit into a Colonel Saunders Chicken wing…had a lightbulb moment….and then made a call to his boss….
And the moral of the story? Actions always prove why words may mean nothing in fresh produce.
By Max MacGillivray