Supply chain director James Lancaster said that the improvement - which had also delivered a 70% reduction in finished goods waste - had followed a restructuring in which a multi-functional team had been replaced by two teams: A factory supply team and a customer-focused demand team.
Far closer co-operation and communication with key accounts had also helped deliver a “significant improvement in our customers’ perception of us”, added Lancaster, who was speaking at last week's IGD supply chain summit in London.
“We’ve aligned goals with our customers and created joint supply chain business plans with common scorecards. We don’t plan in isolation. We know our customers’ processes, systems and drivers inside out.
“Demand planning is only as good as the inputs, but if you build up better relationships with your customers the quality of those inputs will be better."
He added: “We also bring customers in to visit our factories to help them understand our supply chain and contextualise the issues we face and the constraints under which we operate. What retailers hate most is surprises, so we talk to them about our issues and production constraints upfront.
"It’s much better than begging for forgiveness afterwards."
He also sent his demand planners into stores regularly to see how promotions were performing, what the competition was up to and how this might impact on sales, he said.
But recruiting more commercially-focused people in supply chain teams was also critical, he argued. “Demand planners must understand statistics, but they also need better customer-facing skills so that they can build and develop relationships with customers.”
Lactalis-Nestlé Chilled Dairy UK sells products including Ski, Aero desserts and own-label yogurts and desserts.