Yuletide supply – a turkey or a cracker?

21 December 2010
Lindsay Clark, international news editor, Supply ManagementEveryone in procurement seems to want to get hold of the strategic stuff. Only then can you “add value” to your company, to exploit a rather odious business aphorism. But I’m wondering if it’s true. Bog-standard supply management – making sure the right products are in the right place at the right time – can alter your company’s profits, for good or for ill. I was shopping for groceries the other day and my local “express” supermarket had no brown bread. None at all, on the whole bread shelf. This is hardly an epic disaster, but my girlfriend will never eat white bread, as if this dietary preference was some kind of religious decree. Our neighbourhood is only served by “express” supermarkets, so I popped over the road to a rival store to satisfy my shopping needs. Although my defection will hardly have caused the firm’s shareholders to reach for the panic button, at this time of year it illustrates a pertinent point. The papers are full of stories of retailers running low on vital Christmas stock, and some of them may even be true. You may have noticed a surprising amount of snow about, and even been stuck in it. Given that the yuletide period is when shops rake in a large chunk of profit, empty shelves are a problem to say the least. Getting your supply right, and having enough slack in the distribution system, could be the difference between your firm having a turkey or a cracker. It may not be as sexy as the strategic stuff – supplier innovation and the like – but bog-standard supply management is a bit like goal keeping: people will pay most attention when it goes horribly wrong. As I sit shivering in the SM office, I hope I’m not talking about you. Merry Christmas!
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