When it comes to building a strong supply chain, communication between each link is key – and building these connections is bread and butter for Rappor Metrics and its director Duncan Curtis.
“We provide an insight service to help build relationships,” he explains. “We are focusing on the brands – the Coca-Colas and the Warburtons of the world – looking down their supply base to give feedback on their relationship dynamics.”
The idea is that, by offering feedback both ways through that relationship, Rappor can help create more efficient and streamlined supply chains. By comparing each food and drink firm with their peer groups on both sides of that equation, the service can identify their strengths and weaknesses across a range of key performance indicators.
Having gone live at the end of 2017, Rappor is a variation on a similar system used by the Advantage Group, whom Curtis had worked with in the UK as commercial director.
Where Advantage benchmarked the interactions between suppliers and retailers, Rappor is solely focused on the relationship between manufacturers and their supply base.
“At Advantage, I’d present companies like Coca-Cola with the results of the surveys we conducted of what the retailers thought,” Curtis recalls. “It evaluated what Tesco thought of them compared to what the likes of Morrisons and Sainsbury’s thought. Similarly, they could see what the retailers thought of other brands, their direct competition.”
Benchmarking relationships (Back to top)
The service Rappor provides benchmarks the relationships between brands and suppliers using 35 different metrics, split between six categories. These can range from how a company strategically aligns itself, to how its people interact with each other.
Making even small improvements across these metrics in comparison to a company’s peer group can significantly develop the relationship it has with its suppliers – which in turn can result in business gains, claims Curtis.
“The more aligned you are as a pair of businesses working in the supply chain, the easier it is to look at competitive advantages – cost savings and development opportunities,” says Curtis. “It’s very important that the further down the supply chain you go you understand what the end consumer and what the customers’ requirements are.
“Therefore, as a supplier in that chain, you’re one step removed from what’s going on at the sharp end, so it’s very important to have that consistency of communication coming through. So, the better the channels are and the more channels you have, the better and more accurate the communications are going to be.”
Rappor was developed in conjunction with William Reed – publisher of Food Manufacture. This, says Duncan, enables the firm to establish a foothold in key markets all over the world.
Roll out in the UK (Back to top)
Before extending its reach globally, the company first needs to roll out its business model category by category in the UK.
Job title: Executive director, Rappor Metrics
Domestics: Married with four children.
Away from work: An avid sportsman, Curtis likes playing and watching tennis, cricket and football. However, he claims Everton, his favourite football team, is “a point of contention” within his family. Other pursuits include skiing and travelling the world, as it enables him to meet a variety of new people.
“It’s part of the reason I like this job as well – I get to go out and meet some really interesting people in the businesses that we are working with,” says Curtis. He also encourages his kids to follow in his footsteps and be entrepreneurial.
“We are in the early stages, but we are talking to large and small food manufacturers across many categories, and many suppliers, and have received very positive feedback from 90% of them,” Curtis says.
“In the bakery category we are talking to people like Warburtons, Allied Bakeries and Hovis on the branded side – and some of the smaller players as well – so we need to get them on board first and then their supply base.”
Rappor will then be able to move from category to category and upscale its model throughout the UK before going global, Curtis suggests.
“We can then help those big companies to compare their relationships with their subsidiaries,” he adds.
As with any new service, Curtis’ challenge is selling Rappor to customers that have yet to fully grasp its benefits, especially when it comes to sharing data. And it’s the suppliers that are initially hesitant to get on board.
“Inevitably, when you talk about sharing some insight and data, there are always worried-looking faces around the room, thinking ‘I don’t want to share data that doesn’t need to be shared’,” he says.
“However, once people have used the service and understood the benefits of benchmarking relatively non-sensitive information with Rappor’s simple points system, they can see what areas can improve.”
The challenges (Back to top)
Another challenge lies in talking to brands that have a really good understanding of how benchmarking benefits their business, but only in certain areas.
“They are benchmarking the engagement they have with the teams in their own business compared with their peer group, but not within their supply chains,” adds Curtis. “They have limited measures to evaluate their suppliers’ performance and how to challenge them on improving things.
“Using a benchmarking service like Rappor Metrics, they will not only be able to challenge their supply chain team on aspects of their own business, but in the context of the category or their global peers. We’re providing a level of visibility not seen before by some of these global leaders.”
While the sudden evaluation of their relationships within the supply chain may come as a shock to the system for many companies, Curtis feels that, once they give it a try, the service will prove invaluable to many firms.
Less challenging for the company is Brexit. In fact, for Curtis and his team, the UK’s exit from the EU is just as much an opportunity as it is a disadvantage.
“The food and drink supply chain is such a global business sector that I don’t think it’s going to be an advantage or a disadvantage,” he says. “It’s swings and roundabouts – we might be slightly less aligned to our potential European customers, but we might be more aligned with global customers outside the EU. I’m always looking at the positive side of things.”