PC World serves 161 UK stores, and others in Ireland, from a distribution centre in Northampton, where both transport and warehousing are outsourced to NYK.
”Yes,” says Wilkie, ”it”s been a challenging few months and we are anticipating a challenging year. That”s all the more reason to ensure top rate performance in our supply chain. The key lies not only in how we move stuff but also in how we plan and manage stocks. Only the most effective in our business will come through, so this is a focus for us.”
Wilkie says the areas he has been working on include ”highlighting what is already a complex and volatile supply chain. We have a lot of suppliers, and ever shorter product life cycles from which we have to ensure not just good availability at launch but also not too much obsolescence at the end of the cycle. We have to have speed and agility, making it easier for our store colleagues to sell products on shortened life cycles.”
On the ground, says Wilkie, this translates into a number of initiatives.
”We are making 0product more shelf-ready, using reusable equipment, segregating stock and giving stores “little and often” daily deliveries,” he says. ”We are putting a lot of focus on getting stock onto shelves the same day it arrives at the store, with the store staff knowing what to expect in narrow time slots, and so being able to staff accordingly. And in many stores we are using out-of-hours teams to maximise on-shelf availability.”
Upstream activities are also important.
”We are building an open approach with suppliers. Of course, we have supplier management and performance ratings like everyone else, but we are trying to have more open channels around new products and product arrivals so that everyone is in position when suppliers release stock – sometimes at quite short notice,” he says. ”The Nintendo Wii is a typical example, and a supply chain nightmare – a trickle feed of product and never being quite sure when its going to arrive. If we know new products are in the pipeline we have to be able to ensure we have the upstream capacity to absorb them, and move them out to the stores quickly.”
Part of the approach, says Wilkie, is to have supply chain people buddy with stores people.
”We see the reality on the ground and gain an understanding of how we can assist them with out-of-stocks or overstocks,” he says. ”Sophisticated inventory planning is important but there”s nothing like getting feedback on whether a plan translates into improvement on the ground.”
Although agility and store service has dominated the past 12 months, these are not PC World”s only supply chain areas of focus.
Focus on sustainability
”We are focussed on renewables and more generally on sustainability – for example creating ways in which we can share networks and out-bases (locations a long way from the Northampton DC) with our DSGi group colleagues at Curry”s, so we only need one vehicle between us,” he says. ”We”ve managed to achieve a substantial increase in supplier backhaul, which has both reduced empty running and allowed us to take more control of the inbound process.”
Other aspects include using biodiesel initiatives to improve both the aerodynamics and the useable capacity of the road fleet, initiatives on reducing use of cardboard (more roll-cages) and ways of reusing cardboard that comes in from suppliers, pallet return and the WEEE regulations.
The group has chosen to run its own green scheme with an external partner rather than joining local authority-promoted deals.
”Our approach has been particularly successful for the group and even though supplier responsibilities under the rules are very different from those of retailers, we have had a good response and believe we have helped suppliers meet their own responsibilities.”
There may be a high street bloodbath looming but Wilkie is ensuring that PC World keeps its eye on the wider picture.
Role at DSGi
Graham Wilkie joined DSGi in June 2005 as supply chain director both for PC World and for the group, his responsibilities include logistics, inventory management, stock planning and all spares procurement.
Head of global sourcing
Previously, he was with Woolworths as head of global sourcing and supply, and managed a Hong Kong-based sourcing team responsible for procurement, finance and logistics back to the UK.
uk and overseas
Prior to this he held several buying and merchandising roles in the UK and North America with Marks & Spencer before heading its European non-food logistics operations.