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Gartner says supply chain leaders must find new ways to drive consumer products revenue growth

Editorial

Gartner reports that revenue growth for the consumer products (CP) industry continues to be challenging as CP supply chain leaders see a decline in revenue growth over the last two years. The need to find revenue growth is driving CP organisations to rethink how they can deliver value within their trading networks.

According to Steve Steutermann, research vice president at Gartner, consumer products companies continue to face an uncertain global economy, with an expectation that demand volatility will continue to increase and revenue growth will continue to be challenging. In this scenario, increasing revenue growth means finding new markets, increasing market share and improving on-shelf availability (OSA) of products sold. Supply chain leaders that can measure OSA and collaborate with retailers to improve shelf availability and manage inventories have an advantage versus CP manufacturers that cannot use customer data to improve OSA.

Effectively using customer data requires making an investment in a demand signal repository (DSR) to harmonise and cleanse retailer data so that it is usable for data analytics. Data analytics using retailer consumption and inventory data today are examples of using ‘structured’ data. While the term ‘downstream data’ is most often connected to consumption and inventory data, unstructured data, like loyalty data, social sentiment, consumer perception attitudinal data, is starting to be used for targeting consumers, shaping demand and improving new product launch effectiveness.

The next-generation data analytics solutions will integrate both structured and unstructured data for real-time decision making and become more prescriptive rather than today’s pattern-based technologies that address what’s happening or has happened. Prescriptive analytics will address and model what can happen under a set of conditions. 

Mr Steutermann emphasises it is important that organisations mature their downstream data capabilities to collaborate with customers. 

Manufacturers and retailers alike are placing focus on direct-to-consumer initiatives as a means to find revenue growth. For manufacturers, this means designing supply networks to fulfil direct-to-consumer demand, reaching the digital-mobile consumer and making transactions seamless, while personalising the experience for the consumer. To support these initiatives, CP manufacturers will need to improve their demand management capabilities, their ability to respond to variable demand, and their order management and route-to-market capabilities in a cost structure that does not erode margins.

Gartner says continued demand volatility is increasing pressure to fulfil demand and causing companies to leverage integrated end-to-end network approaches.

In Gartner's 2014 Trends in Manufacturing survey of 258 companies, 87 percent of respondents cited demand volatility as a medium to very large impediment to supply chain planning (SCP), outranking all other leading impediments cited, including demand and supply visibility, systems to convert data into insights and lack of talent.

Mr Steutermann explains critical to a consumer product company's future success is the ability to use customer data to improve the demand forecast, lower inventories, reduce cost and improve service. Supply chain leaders that are ‘downstream data capable’ and can demonstrate their use of customer data to produce joint business outcomes are the same companies that are best positioned to collaborate with customers and benefit from collaborative platforms of engagement. He adds collaborative platforms are initiatives that manufacturers and retailers work on together to achieve joint outcomes, including on-shelf availability improvements, shrink and waste reduction programs, inventory management and cost reduction initiatives.

Providing suppliers the visibility to demand and collaborating with them to orchestrate demand fulfilment play an increasingly important role in order management and perfect order performance with retailers. The CP industry should continue to mature and transform its supplier management capabilities from supplier segmentation initiatives and risk management to capabilities that include supplier collaboration to fulfil demand as well as scorecard supplier performance for continuous improvement.

Supply chain leaders are increasingly asked to deliver against business objectives requiring both improved capability and increased efficiency. In the 2014 Trends in Manufacturing survey, it was found that 55 percent of CP companies are currently in the process of a redesign of their networks, and 23 percent plan a redesign in the next 24 months. The three most cited reasons for transformation are cost reduction, improved agility and market acceptance of new products.

Transformation requires leadership, a strategic vision, a road map of priorities and the ability to execute against the organisation's strategy. Mr Steutermann comments leaders make conscious trade-offs, with an understanding that it may be appropriate to have benchmarks that are at par with industry averages while, at the same time, having other measures that reflect best-in-class outcomes.

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