Premier Paper is a leading paper merchant in the UK and also a strong example of a Slim4 customer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ilona Smith, Supply Chain Manager at Premier Paper. As someone that injects fun and energy into the company, Ilona places a full focus on enhancing the customer experience at Premier Paper.
In this interview, Ilona reveals what it takes to overcome your inventory hurdles!
Tell me about your history in the supply chain industry
I initially started law school in Poland. However, after the first year, I realised it wasn’t for me. It was so static, therefore I decided to change my subject of study. Despite my family not agreeing with this decision, I pursued a degree in international relationships which felt far more dynamic and exciting.
Having changed subjects, I now had to finance everything myself. In addition to studying full time, I applied for a job as an administrative clerk for a German automotive company. Initially, I started in the systems support team with many translations and typical clerk work. However, given that I am multilingual, I was able to get more involved in the business and take an active role in both productions and logistics systems; areas which I absolutely loved.
Given that my Mum was in banking and my Dad was in engineering, the supply chain field was completely new to my family with no traditions or any forms of understanding. However, considering the dynamic nature of supply chain and the fact one deals with real-life problems, I became very passionate about it all: material fluctuations through the process, financial aspects of the production operations, all planning functions, first stock-takes and results reconciliations, etc. I became one of those supply chain people. This is where it all really began!
How has your career evolved?
My new career in the manufacturing industry saw me move to Germany and then to England. This gave me even wider introduction into the supply chain field. It was here I realised that inventory is the beating heart of the supply chain as everything we do is with or about inventory. The reason why: optimising and strategically planning inventory has a huge impact on the business.
From this, I decided to do a Post Grad degree in supply chain management in the UK. This allowed me to explore the theory behind the practice that I already knew. The course also opened the doors to a new role as Inventory Manager.
The supply chain itself is so dynamic. Wherever you go, under the umbrella of the supply chain, there are so many different functions: from material management, through the forecasting, operations planning, production planning, procurement, new product introduction, logistics etc. Each business I have worked for has taught me different aspects of their supply chain mechanisms.
After several years in the aerospace & automotive sectors, it was time for a change. I took up a new role as purchasing & supply chain manager within the electronic components sector.
Here, I felt like I could really make a difference. This role gave me the ability to see how other businesses and supply chains worked. But more than this, it showed me how you can improve the supply chains as well as the positive and rewarding impact you can make to the business. Having the past-experience, I understood and could implement my knowledge around how teams work. This resulted me into managing team changes better. It always starts and finishes with people as they are the biggest asset each business has.
Tell me about your first position in the paper trade?
My first position in the paper trade is at Premier Paper, where I am currently in the role of supply chain manager. This is a group function as we have our Headquarter in Minworth, but we also have 17 branches around UK. I am responsible for the supply chain mechanisms and everything that comes with it across our network.
The culture in the paper trade is amazing! It is natural to be a little bit reserved when joining a new industry. You don’t really know what to expect and naturally have a tonne of questions to ask. But at Premier Paper, I was very warmly welcomed to the company and the industry. It’s a traditional culture and as a female manager, you don’t see many of us! But they certainly make a spot for you!
The collaboration between customers and suppliers is very good as they work together well and have done for many years. There is a brilliant balance where the boarder is almost non-existent. It is a respectful relationship but one which is open to innovation.
The fantastic relationships remain the same, but innovation allows new processes to be adopted and for the utilisation of tools such as Slim4. I can really see myself in this industry for years to come, continually balancing tradition & innovation.
When you started at Premier Paper, what were your initial priorities?
My initial priorities were to understand the industry, products and their ranges which are not as simple, nor easy as one may think. Understanding ranges and the complexity of the sector is key. I was very keen to understand the capabilities of my team as well what tools were available for us. Ultimately, my focus was to clearly identify the grounds and then plan further improvements on the base of that where we could work smarter.
Before you can strive towards KPIs, you need to empower people to take ownership and work with them to solve the problem. Only then can you start making changes on a daily basis that make a difference to the overall goals, ultimately business goals.
One area I have begun exploring further was our lost sales records. Specifically, how do you recover from lost sales and prevent them reoccurring? As a result of this, we will be now adding a new interface to Slim4 where this data will be transmitted from our ERP system in a consolidated and readable format.
I can see you’re extremely busy at Premier Paper! How do you juggle work and family life?
Lots of red wine! It is a challenge but so is being a stay at home, full-time mum. It’s all down to the decent planning. I have three kids and so there are three very different challenges (particularly as they are all miniatures of me!) but with good planning and a good support circle from friends and family, it’s doable. Unfortunately, you cannot use Slim4 to plan your family affairs!
One question many women often tend to ask me (Women in the Engineering community) is “Family or career?” I honestly believe you can have them both and be happy with it. It is by no means easy, but it is achievable and rewarding.
What are your biggest inventory hurdles and how does Slim4 support you?
As for most businesses, forecasting is a big inventory hurdle for us.
On a day to day basis, you cannot use algorithms in the scale Slim4 does. Slim4 takes into consideration all of the available stock in location, stock in transit, overstock based elsewhere, past trends and what may happen in the future. Order recommendations are calculated taking all those and more factors into consideration.
Stock forecasting in the paper industry is much different from what I have seen in other industries. Firstly, it isn’t as formal with a degree of uncertain seasonality. Seasonality is what Slim4 picks up and highlights accordingly. Forecast exceptions & forecast anomalies review became a regular task each planner does. We couldn’t manually manage every single line the way we now do without having Slim4 alerts. It would be an unbearable task, despite having 8 very knowledgeable and competent people placing regular orders.
Slim4 gives the power of information and plans ahead. The user still has to make the final decision but it’s so much easier with the right tool in hand from the start. I have personally worked on quite a few forecasting tools in the past and I have to admit that Slim4 is perfectly tailored for what Premier Paper needs.
What is your favourite thing about Slim4?
I love the graphs. It is all very visual and clear. As the youngsters say, very much 'in your face'.
The month's demand chart and data tab are by far my favourite feature and are used most frequently because if there are large exceptions between the months, you can easily view the information in more details.
The inventory tab is also very important as on one screen you can see all of the key information, for example, all of the parameters for one SKU.
With expanding ranges of not only traditional paper but also packaging, display graphics and digital sectors, we often add in new product groups and many new SKUs. Slim4 helps us right at the beginning of that journey as the system recognises (through the setup) different stages of the product life. That way it helps with the planning process, enabling smarter ordering decisions.
Changes can be made and carried out by individuals or in case of advance modification to the version we use, with immediate help from the Helpdesk. It’s very user-friendly and logical, that is what I like the most about it. I think we all do!
What is your inventory focuses for the next 12-18 months?
It’s all about getting the right quantity of the right product, in the right place at the right time. We have our HQ plus 17 branches; with a mixture of products which go to every branch. So, for us, supply chain people, it’s all about making sure that each branch has got the right selection of ranges in stock to successfully fulfil customer orders for the next day delivery.
Following the success of 2019 academy events, I am excited to announce the launch of our 2020 academy programme!
To support your business goals, we have put together a complete package of inventory management training programs focused on supply chain optimisation.
Focused on helping you to translate your business strategy into operational actions, these sessions have been specifically designed to help you and your team enhance your knowledge.
Our wide range of academy programs consists of various workshops and master classes which will ultimately enable you to find and maintain the optimal balance between working capital and service level.
You can register for any academy course via - www.slimstock.com/en/academy/
Download your copy of our academy 2020 programme below!
The UK's leading trade only supplier of contract furniture has launched a major initiative focused on optimising their supply chain whilst maintaining the high customer service levels they are known for. To deliver this exciting project, Global Chair Components has joined forces with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
As a business recognised by the London Stock Exchange as one of the Top 1000 companies to inspire Britain, Global Chair Components Ltd is dedicated to making it easy for customers to find the perfect furniture solutions. Through sourcing a wide range of chairs, seating, tables and components from well-established manufacturers around the world, the furniture distributor offers customers unsurpassed quality, innovation, and style.
The decision to partner with Slimstock comes as part of a wider initiative to establish a robust S&OP process. Pete Hundleby, supply chain director at Global Chair Components explains: “To solidify our market-leading position and achieve further growth, we need to continuously optimise our operation. For us, this means taking steps to simplify our processes in order to increase availability while simultaneously cutting supply chain costs. The decision to partner with Slimstock marks a crucial step in our optimisation journey.”
Focused on reducing excess stock and refocusing investment to boost the availability of key items, Global Chair Components will implement Slimstock’s advanced inventory management solution, Slim4.
Highlighting how the forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation capabilities of Slim4 will enable the furniture distributor to make more strategic decisions around inventory, Andy Hirst, planning manager at Global Chair Components explains: “Implementing Slim4 will revolutionise the way the planning team work. Through providing greater insight into areas such as product seasonality and lifecycle, we will be able to improve our forecasting capabilities and gain greater control over supply planning.”
Pete Hundleby: “After exploring a number of potential partners, it was clear that Slimstock offered the knowledge required to help our business progress. I have no doubt that with Slimstock as our trusted partner for inventory management, we will not only realise our objectives for today but set a solid foundation for future optimisation.”
Richard Evans, managing director at Slimstock concludes: “As a business that takes great pride in their reputation and commitment to offering customers great value, quality, and service, I see great parallels between both Slimstock and Global Chair Components. We look forward to supporting Pete and his team as they pursue their ambitions to become the world’s best suppliers of chairs, components & furniture.”
The discount retailer, Rema 1000, has embarked upon a major end to end supply chain optimisation project. Focused on strengthening its competitive advantage, the discounter will join forces with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
As one of the best-known brands in Danish retail, Rema 1000 is recognised for their passion and focus on customer satisfaction. Amidst intensifying competition and rapidly evolving customer behaviour, the retailer has formed a strategic partnership with the inventory experts Slimstock to help optimise inventory across their expansive operation.
Driving efficiency across the entire chain
With a 344-strong network of franchise stores across Denmark, Rema 1000 provides local communities with a refined selection of top-quality products at a great price. Nick Norman Jensen, Flow of Goods Manager explains: “To offer our store owners and end customers the best possible value, we must take every possible step to maximise the efficiency of our operation.”
As an initiative led by the retailer’s distribution company, Reitan Distribution, the initial focus of the project will be on maximising product availability at the central distribution centre. Through professionalising and automating inventory management processes across the entire supply chain, Reitan Distribution and Rema 1000 will set the foundation on which to establish a fully integrated end to end operation.
In addition to Rema 1000, Reitan Distribution also supports the retail distribution operations for several major chains including 7-eleven, Circle K, OK Plus, Q8 and Arctic Imports; distributing goods to over 900 stores every day.
Intelligent purchasing decisions
Explaining how the decision to work with Slimstock will support Rema 1000 in their growth objectives, Jensen adds: “We are constantly looking to improve our business concept. We can create advantages by making more intelligent purchasing decisions. For this reason, we are taking every step to evolve our current reactive processes to establish far more proactive ways of working.”
To help set a new standard in operational excellence, Rema 1000 will implement Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4. “By implementing an advanced inventory management tool, we will gain greater visibility and control over the entire chain. This will help minimise the risk of supplier errors, missed deliveries and above all, instore availability issues. Ultimately, this will help our franchisee partners to attain a stronger stock position: all while eliminating waste.”
The decision to implement Slim4 followed an extensive review of the market. “Throughout the selection process, Slimstock demonstrated a deep understanding of both the food sector and the requirements of our business. This, combined with their proven technology and retail experience outlined Slimstock as the right partner to help us realise our goals.”
Nick goes on to add: “As a business that is similar to ours in terms of communication and approach to decision making, it was clear there is strong chemistry between Slimstock and our people.”
By offering the planning team the complete solution for forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation, Slim4 will complement Rema 1000’s wider IT Infrastructure. “Our ambition was to make it as easy as possible for our people to become ‘good buyers’. With the advanced functionality of Slim4, I have no doubt we will be able to simplify the ordering processes.”
Peter Bocken, Director of retail at Slimstock goes on to conclude: “As a business that has a proven track record for innovation, Rema 1000 is a fantastic example of a business that is constantly striving to improve customer experience. As they set the foundation for a fully integrated supply chain, we are excited to support Rema 1000 on every step of their journey towards operational excellence.”
Global Playground Equipment innovator, Kompan, has recently announced an exciting new partnership with the inventory experts, Slimstock, focused on building a healthier supply chain operation.
Every year, Kompan’s play and sports solutions bring joy to millions of people across the world. From helping customers to visualise their perfect play area to manufacturing and distributing complete playground solutions, Kompan is committed to making their customer’s buying experience as pleasurable as possible. Furthermore, to ensure their products remain safe, the playground specialist also offers a complete range of spare parts and accessories to prolong the life of their customer’s purchase.
To establish a solid foundation for further innovation, Kompan will join forces with the inventory specialists, Slimstock. Through boosting operational efficiency, Slimstock will help the team at Kompan to unlock working capital which, can be reinvested into other areas of the business.
Explaining the strategic move Henning Nør Hansen, supply chain operations director at Kompan adds: “Innovation sits at the heart of our business and we are always looking for ways we can make life better for our customers. For this reason, we are investing in both our people and technology to ultimately improve the performance of our supply chain.”
As part of a wider business review of their existing processes, Kompan will enrich their IT infrastructure with Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4. With an initial focus on optimising inventory at the Kompan’s manufacturing and warehouse facility in the Czech Republic, the team at located at the HQ in Denmark will utilise Slim4 to optimise their approach to inventory management. Henning Nør Hansen goes on to add: “To achieve our customer satisfaction goals, Slim4 will help up to improve product availability while simultaneously reducing overall inventory levels.”
Peter Malling, Commercial Director at Slimstock Denmark concludes: “Given Kompan’s global reputation for both innovation and creativity, we are excited to support the business as they pursue their efficiency improvement objectives. Given that both Kompan and Slimstock, share the same passion for customer satisfaction, I look forward to establishing a long-lasting partnership.”
Offering an extensive range encompassing everything from themed bunting and table wear to balloons and hen party essentials, no celebration is complete without Ginger Ray's party products. To solidify the party’s specialist position as a leading innovator of celebration products, the business has teamed up with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
As the fastest growing wholesaler and retailer of party supplies & decorations, Ginger Ray, has seen exponential growth over the last 10 years. With a customer base including many major high street retailers, department stores and independents across the globe, the party specialist has taken the strategic decision to implement Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4, to support their continued international expansion.
Ben Spence, Managing Director at Ginger Ray explains: “In the past, we could rely on spreadsheets alone to keep our inventory in check. However, as our business grows and evolves, it’s vital that we continuously strive to exceed the high standards our customers have come to expect. For this reason, we have placed real focus upon improving the efficiency of our business.”
This major supply chain project will focus upon equipping the planning team at Ginger Ray with the tools and knowledge to deliver the business’ growth ambitions. “By bringing stability to our supply chain, our people can invest more time and energy into improving the level of service we provide our customers,” adds Ben.
Focused around forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation, the project in partnership with Slimstock will provide the team at Ginger Ray with greater insight allowing more strategic purchasing decisions. Furthermore, by automating a large proportion of the inventory management process, the planning team will be able to work more efficiently and have extra time to focus on what really matters. This, in turn, will enable the party specialist to achieve substantial increases in availability while simultaneously reducing inventory costs.
“After discussing our challenges with a number of different vendors, Slimstock’s consultative approach outlined them as the clear choice for us. Given their experience in the sector coupled with their passion for wholesale and retail, I have no doubt that Slimstock will be the perfect partner to help our business advance,” States Ben.
Richard Evans, Managing Director at Slimstock UK concludes: “Given Ginger Ray’s commitment to innovation, we are thrilled to support Ben and his team through this next phase of growth. With the project already well underway, we look forward to building a lasting relationship.”
How can you optimise your approach to purchasing?
Would you like to optimise your supply chain costs?
In order to realise sales and profit goals, it’s crucial that the right items are available at the right time. However, given the growing complexity of modern organisations, inventory planning has never been more important or more difficult to execute. To maintain consistently high levels of service while keeping supply chain costs under tight control, supply chain teams must strike the right balance between availability and capital invested in the inventory.
In this 10-minute webinar, Martin Montgomery, UBT relationship manager reviewed the basics of MOQs / EOQs, safety stock and supplier performance and unraveled the secrets of optimal order quantities and supplier performance and management to help you achieve the optimal stock levels.
Watch the webinar recording below!
Kruitbosch, the cycling specialist which owns both the growing bicycle brands Cortina and Alpina have recently implemented Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4. "Our goal is to keep our stock availability above 96% throughout the high season," highlights Norbert Went, sales & operations planning manager.
Over the last few years, Kruitbosch has evolved from a wholesaler of bicycles and accessories into a major retail partner for specialist bicycle shops and web shops across both the Netherlands and Belgium. From the business’ warehouse in Zwolle, Kruitbosch delivers over 12,500 items from stock. For this reason, the cycling specialist is able to fulfil their ‘ordered today, delivered tomorrow’ promise.
“Guaranteeing the correct availability, even during the high season, is our biggest challenge is in. This was the main factor when we started looking for an inventory management solution,” explains Norbert. After having a good experience with Slim4 at a previous employer, both Norbert his college Katrin Otten, again outlined Slim4 as their preferred inventory management solution following a short selection process.
With Slim4 now successfully implemented, the team at Kruitbosch is looking forward to kicking off the new cycling season with confidence. Norbert goes on to conclude: “Our main objective is to keep inventory availability above 96%. If we can also reduce the inventory value at the same time, that would be fantastic but that is not an end in itself."
On one of the hottest days of the year, 30 supply chain professionals visited the bicycle manufacturer, Van Raam, as Anjo Lubbers, ICT & Logistics Professional, offered his insightful perspective on the supply chain:
"If the purchasing, confirmation and delivery of an order can be completed in line with the standard price and delivery time, as little human action should be involved as possible "
As a manufacturer of unique custom bicycles, every product offered by Van Raam is developed, produced and assembled (on order) in-house. For years many, the team at Van Raam has relied on Slim4 to maintain consistently high levels of availability.
During the tour, employees of the company showed how innovations such as 3D printing and advanced robotics are being utilised to facilitate the businesses growth ambitions. In just 4 years, the specialist bicycle manufacturer has doubled the sales turnover without increasing the size of the purchasing team. Anjo goes on to add: “everything in our operation has expanded except for the size of the purchasing department.”
Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4, is trusted completely when the team come to placing orders. Furthermore, through integrating the Tradecloud purchasing portal, lead times have been halved. Through centralising communication with suppliers, the ordering process has been streamlined.
This roadshow gave everyone presents an interesting look behind the scenes at Van Raam!
On 24th May 2019, Slimstock UK, a local Redditch based firm, completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to raise money and awareness for The Garden Suite, the specialist chemotherapy unit located at the Alex Hospital.
After the Father of Jessie Cooper, one of Slimstock’s team members, was diagnosed with Bile Duct Cancer in August 2017, The Garden Suite provided the initial care and support. After getting back on to the road to recovery and being in remission, in January 2019, Jessie and her family were given the news that no one wants to hear; the cancer had returned. However, the hardworking team on the specialist chemotherapy ward have continued to provide specialist and on-going care.
Jessie Cooper said: “The staff on the ward have been fantastic, not only in terms of the treatment that’s available, but also the compassion and commitment of their amazing team”.
After hiking over 25 miles and 64,000 steps later, Slimstock UK smashed the original target of £1000 and raised £2,000 for the Garden Suite.
The money Slimstock have raised will be invested to help and support the team to continue their amazing work.