Demand and Fulfillment Blocking & Tackling: Part 2 – Do you hear or listen?

As consumers, we are all driven by a universal force of life—we need certain things, and also want other things, and actively make efforts to buy what we think is best for us. Our modern way of life has brought us a relative abundance of products, to the point that we have to make choices. Retailers all over the world are investing huge amounts in research, time and money in an attempt to deliver a large range of products that we will want to choose from.

In Part 1 of my series on Demand and Fulfillment Blocking and Tackling, I discussed the start of Mega Retail Israel’s year-long journey to redefine our strategy based on customer input and implement a much newer version of JDA’s Demand and Fulfillment solution. As a huge fan, I chose to relate my story in terms of American football, and I will continue that metaphor this time as I discuss our next steps.

American Football is not an exact science, nor is grocery retail. When you prepare your team for a brand new season, you have to ask yourself: what does it take to be a great team and win? Do we need the blunt force of the offensive line, sharp and elusive running backs, fast and evasive receivers, an intelligent and fast quarterback? Or do we concentrate on a strong and ball-hungry defense? Eventually, you adopt an offensive or defensive philosophy that influences your chosen strategy.

As I see it, retailers are trusted representatives of their customers, chosen time and again to deliver goods from manufacturers to our homes and families. And as trust goes, it’s as fragile as it is rewarding. Don’t we all want our customers to be happy and feel good at checkout? So what should be our offensive philosophy in order to fulfill our destiny as retailers? I can tell you what Mega Retail in Israel has chosen to focus on: we listen to our customers, always, every time we meet, because we really care.

You may say customers want everything, how can we possibly have our supply chain support a never-ending scope of demand that is constantly changing? Well, I can put you at ease on this one. All you have to do is focus on and design your supply chain to enable choice and yet have complete control over inventory. It’s not simple, but it’s not that complicated either. Remember that supply chain is a professional calling—deliver the product, make sure it stays available, and wrap up as efficiently as possible at the end of the product’s lifecycle. Do not worry about other things, they will fall into place. It’s just doing our jobs.

As in football, to be good, you have to choose the right philosophy, focus on your goal and always remember to listen. We all hear, but we rarely take the time to take it in and actively listen to our customers. During the NFL preseason, you see coaches and coordinators trying out different plays and putting players in experimental positions.  They do it because they actively listen to their players and then prepare their game plans to provide the best possible show for the fans, just like grocery supermarkets prepare the best possible assortments for their customers.

I’m writing these lines flying high above a cloud-covered Europe as I make my way to Bracknell, UK to participate in a JDA Demand certification course, which was arranged with the great assistance of JDA director of education services, Mr. Tomas Frölander. Later tonight, I will meet JDA services sales director, Mr. Vinay Audipudi, to discuss the future steps that are planned for Mega Retail by the JDA team. Recently we received approval from our CEO, Mr. Motti Keren, to move ahead with the first stage of the upgrade, which is Demand & Fulfillment solution tuning and technical support with the focus on six chosen categories. Also, the JDA team will assess what the next steps should be and devise a plan for reimplementation of the new version.

As we move further into the preseason of our upgrade and reimplementation strategy, we rely on and trust our offensive coordinator, Vinay, and our special teams coach, Tomas, to guide us through the plays and formations to learn how to best support our customer listening objectives, because demand planning is all about listening to your customers, even though you seldom meet them in person. All you have to do is look in the mirror and ask yourself: am I really listening to my customers, or am I only hearing the signals without adapting our strategy to what they are telling me? Our goal for this upgrade is to better react to what our customers are telling us with significantly improved demand planning and replenishment plans. That will be a real win!

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