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16 January 2012 | Adam Leach
Supplier relations at Travis Perkins have seen a marked improvement since staff from key vendors have been based at its head office.
The ‘supplier colleague programme’, which currently consists of 10 people with plans to increase that number, was launched as part of a four-year plan to improve supply chain at the company. As a result, representatives from key suppliers transferred to work full time in Travis Perkins’ HQ in Milton Keynes to look for efficiencies and ways to improve the working relationship between their companies.
Alastair Charatan, director of supply chain programme, Travis Perkins, told SM: “What we’ve done is to say ‘Look, we want a colleague, someone from you, the supplier, working full time in our head office’. We know that person has got an absolute focus on that supplier’s business and performance with us.”
The programme hasn’t drastically reshaped how the supply chain is managed, it was never intended to, but it has had a marked impact. “It’s not as if they’ve been saying, ‘look here’s a totally different way of doing things’, it’s not one sort of big bang opportunity.” Charatan sees the change as having changed the dynamic between buyer and supplier. “You’re going to respond a lot more to someone you’re literally looking at across the office, than someone who’s a remote figure on e-mail.”
Giving an example of the benefits, he said: “One supplier spotted that there seemed to be very poor availability of stock, so he was trying to work out what was going wrong. He identified that one of the main problems was late receipt, so the stock hadn’t been booked in on the system. If the system doesn’t see it, we don’t know it’s there. That’s the level of detail they get to, it tends to be nitty-gritty sorts of things.”
Charatan said the idea has been used elsewhere but not in the building merchants sector. “I don’t know whether we took the idea from retail or whether we just thought we needed to get closer to our suppliers but it’s something that Tesco and Wal-Mart have done for quite a while. It’s definitely unprecedented in a builders merchant.”