The United Kingdom has been, for many years, seen as a trading nation. UK companies have had, over the last decade, to look closely at the way they manage the way they receive raw materials and despatch finished goods (and of course services as well!). The pressures of the recession, the effect of globalisation and the need to keep one’s carbon index under control are just some of the issues trading companies be they retailers or manufacturers have had to deal with. The need to manage one’s supply chain effectively and efficiently has become a major concern of management.
The supply chain consists of a series of interrelated processes which are event-driven. The management of this set of processes has evolved from the simple management of the warehouse and maybe 2 levels of suppliers to one that for some organisations involved n-tiers of suppliers and also multiple 3rd party organisations to which some part of the process has been outsourced. This complexity means that management is much more difficult. So whom do you go to find out how good you are and how you can improve? The answer is to go to a consultancy company that has a specialist practice in supply chain management. So I went to Crimson & Co, a UK specialist niche supply chain management consultancy and to talk to their CEO, Richard Powell.
So who is Crimson & Co? The company was founded in 2003 by 3 PwC consultants who broke away when PwC was purchased by IBM. The company is currently based in the UK and employs over 30 consultants, all of whom have had careers within blue chip organisations or major consultancies across the full end-to-end supply chain. Their expertise is focused on the processes involved in the supply chain and what tools can be found, such as certain systems, to support those processes. Much of their work is around helping to formulate successful strategies for organisations. Their customer list very impressive and includes GSK, Tetley (Tata), Waitrose, DHL, Tesco, Merck, Burberry and BAT. Although UK-based, Crimson & Co works across the globe, from the Americas to Asia, Africa and Australasia.
What does Crimson & Co mean by end to end supply chain? Powell told me that it is all about understanding the company strategies through to how they are implemented and used on the shop floor and of course how what actually happens is fed back to the board. Figure 1 shows the Crimson & Co view.
Figure 1: Crimson & Co’s view of end to end supply chain (Source: Crimson & Co)
The company offer the following services:
- Supply Chain Strategy – the development of an optimal supply chain supported by the appropriate planning and control frameworks;
- Process Improvement – here Crimson & Co look at ways that a particular part of the supply chain can be improved through tactical functional improvements;
- Operations Restructuring – the development of business and change management plans based on a detailed review of the current supply chain, accompanied by customer/product profitability analysis;
- Indirect Procurement - The external spend on indirect goods and services are often overlooked, even though it can represent between 25% and 40% of a company’s total revenues. Crimson & Co’s service looks at ways that these costs can be cut;
- scprime is Crimson & Co’s improvement approach, which combines process and people capabilities based on benchmark reviews, thus allowing an organisation to measure how well it is doing compared to an industry best practice.
So where to next for Crimson & Co and also for improving the Supply Chain? Powell explained that there were 2 main areas that Crimson & Co were addressing in the New Year. Firstly, the need to have a better geographic coverage to support the growing international business of the company is being addressed. Secondly, because of the disparate nature of the software portfolios of their customers, Crimson & Co will be looking to increase their ability to help their clients glue all the bits of software together.
In my view this means Crimson & Co should be looking at how Business Process Management software (BPMS) and Business Rules Management software (BRMS) could be used to not only supply the glue in a event-driven process world but also increase the agility and flexibility by removing business rules and process directions from package software code, as well as forms that can handle data from multiple sources.
Powell’s view of what is missing from the current software available is easy to use supply chain analytics and optimisation tools. Watch this space in the New Year for further thoughts on Supply Chain.