Food wholesaler Booker is seeking greater supplier involvement as it forges ahead with plans to expand its "delivered wholesale" services, following the reverse acquisition by Blueheath, a specialist in this field, earlier this year.
According to Booker supply chain director Ian Keilty, closer collaboration with its suppliers is required in this and other areas of future activity, such as reducing packaging and food miles.
Booker will be reviewing its routes to market and opening up a dialogue with suppliers to discover what they want from the relationship, said Keilty, speaking at grocery think tank IGD's supply chain summit last month. "We've got a lot to learn from manufacturers," he said.
Booker will also be looking at more efficient replenishment, such as merchandising solutions to take further costs out of its supply chain and reduce lead times, he added.
Booker has taken the principles of efficient consumer response (ECR) completely on board as part of a recovery plan begun in 2005 to turn around the loss-making company. This has involved a major restructuring of its operations to improve customer service and choice while taking out costs.
Keilty described the wholesaler's transition to "customer-centric supply chains" serving the catering and retail sectors. "We went back to basic ECR principles," said Keilty.
"Going back a few years we weren't doing as well for customers as we should have been," said Keilty. Work began by focusing on reducing costs by better stock management (it has taken out over £30M of surplus so far) and streamlining the organisation, which has been followed by action to improve choice of products, reduce prices and offer better service. Keilty admitted a lot more work was required to reduce prices.
Its latest activities centre on broadening the range of products and services offered to customers, some of which is expected to be completed by March next year.