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Poor communication is costing north-western food processors millions

02-Jul-2010
Last updated on 02-Jul-2010 at 23:46 GMT

Food processors are losing millions of pounds in the north west of England through inadequate communication throughout the supply chain, according to regional trade body Food Northwest.

Mark Parker, supply chain project manager for the group, is heading an initiative that seeks to claw back the cash, focusing on four sectors: dairy, bakery, brewing and bread wheat. "You're talking about millions of pounds of opportunity," said Parker.

Last-minute orders from retailers were rippling up the supply chain, putting everyone from manufacturers and logistics firms to packaging and raw material suppliers under pressure, he explained. In addition, information concerning orders remained deficient. These factors either led to processors playing it safe by over-estimating orders, creating waste, or emergency production runs.

"With regard to demand management, there could be better information flow from the retailers down," said Parker. "Information flow drives product flow and if it's not accurate, costs are not optimised and you need more production runs. High levels of operational inefficiency and waste and high staff levels make for erratic orders."

Food Northwest is seeking to improve communication through demand management and supply chain workshops and supplier forums involving every part of the supply chain. The nine-month pilot stage of the three-year project, which involved three primary processors, has just ended. It will now widen to include 50 firms in the north west.

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