Technology Leaders Share Bright Ideas

Demand sensing, business intelligence solutions use data in a whole new light.

Question: What three things are important for companies to remain competitive in their segments of the industry?

Answer: Technology, technology and technology.

Companies are always testing and deploying new hardware and software solutions as they seek greater efficiency and competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, those on the cutting edge often lead the way for others to follow.

To find out the state of technology today, Food Logistics has assembled a panel of experts who will outline the status and future plans for their respective firms. The panel includes:

  • Catherine Cooper, CIO, Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, a Brentwood, TN-based provider of global supply chain management;
  • Nils Mueller, IDF Initiative Manager, SNS Demand Planning Services at Procter & Gamble, the giant consumer goods company based in Cincinnati.;
  • George Labelle, CIO, IPC (Independent Purchasing Cooperative Inc.), an independent SUBWAY franchisee-owned and operated purchasing cooperative in Miami;
  • Chad Symens, president of the Rainmaker Group, comprised of data warehousing and business intelligence experts based in Akron, OH.

What technology has your company deployed in the last year and what benefits or advantages have you had?

Mueller: Procter & Gamble introduced its Consumer-Driven Supply Network a number of years ago and continues to invest in technology to improve the company's ability to sense and respond to shifts in consumer demand.

In 2007 P&G began a global roll-out of Terra Technology's Demand Sensing software as part of a world-wide initiative to further improve short-term forecasting accuracy to lower safety stock and increase the competitive advantage generated from our supply chain. P&G is focused on winning at the two critical "moments of truth."

The First Moment is when the shopper is in the store and has the opportunity to choose which product to buy. The Second Moment is when the consumer uses that product. We must delight and win at both Moments of Truth. Supply chain excellence is critical to winning at the First Moment of Truth. As of today the software is live in 20 percent of P&G's businesses, and we expect to complete the global rollout in 2010.

What have been the results so far?

Mueller: Forecast error has decreased more than 30 percent and safety stock has decreased more than 10 percent, saving millions of dollars in inventory. The reduction in safety stock has been accomplished without increasing out-of-stocks. In addition to these savings, we anticipate further benefits from increased productivity in the workforce. Demand planners, free from emergency changes due to inaccurate short-term forecasts, are able to focus on the longer term, analyzing long-term trends and business intelligence about the marketplace and consumer behavior.

LaBelle: This year we focused on tying our systems together for total supply chain visibility and collaboration. We had different technology providers for two areas of our supply chain information services and we needed to see the entire picture in order to take advantage of additional savings opportunities.

Through consolidating our supply chain solutions under Instill Corp., we have managed to implement solutions that enable us to track 100 percent of our invoices from the manufacturer to the distributor and from the distributor to the restaurant; monitor contract compliance and landed costs; benchmark food and service quality issues for 25,000 SUBWAY stores and improve our limited time-offer business by providing near real-time monitoring of distributor inventories during these promotions.

Through the integration of our solutions, we have been able to save administrative time and identify new savings opportunities.

Cooper: Among the most exciting technological developments at Ozburn-Hessey Logistics we saw in 2007 where these two: Business Intelligence (BI) and Virtualization.

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