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Supply chain simplicity, professional education, assortment upheaval

With a revelation in furniture design, the reintroduction of the dreaded 11-plus exam and an emerging trend in food retail, this week’s news has given us plenty to think about. Supply chain bloggers, Sam Phipps and Jessie Cooper, investigate the biggest stories in the news this week and their impact on supply chain management.

A flat-pack approach to supply chain simplicity

This week, leading furniture retailer, Ikea, revealed a major development due to be rolled out across their products range. Snapping together like a jigsaw, the Swedish retailer’s bestselling flat-pack table has already reportedly reduced the average assembly time from 24 minutes to just 3 without the need for any screws. Given the popularity of this innovation, the business has decided to expand the “wedge dowel” joint to other wooden furniture products.

While this clever design will no doubt make life easier for the end user, by removing the need for additional fastening components, the retailer has minimised the complexity and cost of the supply chain. After all, with fewer fittings to include in each pack, this inevitably means the supply chain team have fewer items to worry about!

Ikea’s approach is a great example of how a simple innovation can have a huge impact on the whole supply chain process. With this in mind, what have you done to simplify your operations?

A professional approach to education

With the potential re-emergence of the formidable 11-plus examination coupled with the introduction of a new level of education known as the ‘T-level’, it has been a big week for education.

The 11-plus exam was once given to pupils in their last year of primary school to determine their eligibility for grammar school. However, since the early 1970’s, many areas of the United Kingdom have favoured a non-selective placement system. This announcement has left many questioning the educational, financial and political value of the decision to return to the old system.

Meanwhile, a new level of education known as ‘T-levels’ has been introduced in a bid to improve Britain’s level of productivity – which currently sits around a third behind that of the United States and Germany. The new qualifications will include vocational courses such as catering and hospitality, construction, engineering and manufacturing, amongst others.

Education is always a hot topic in the news, but while there is always lots of discussion about child education up to degree level, advanced professional education is often overlooked. Advancing the knowledge of employees with changing technologies, better ways of working always emerging and by providing employees with the skills and experience required – businesses also stand to benefit.

With this in mind, what steps have you taken to advance the supply chain knowledge within your organisation?

Clothing proves perfect fit for supermarkets

Every year, consumers spend a staggering £3.6bn on clothing from major supermarket retailers alone. What began as a pioneering initiative by Asda back in the early 90s with the launch of their George range has proven a hugely profitable venture. Given that the Grocer reported that £1 in every £10 spent in storestore is now invested in clothing, it is no surprise that even the discounters are giving up precious floor space to get in on the act.

However, fashion is a totally different kettle of fish compared to what these retailers are traditionally experienced in. Thus, for many businesses, making any move away from food and groceries is undoubtedly a bold move. Despite this, it seems to be a risk which is paying off for those brave enough to take the leap of faith.

Virtually every business will go through some form of big assortment development at some point. Whether this strategic change in direction comes as a response to evolving competition or to keep up with the changing demands of customers, few would be willing to take on a challenge as big as moving from food to fashion!

Has your business ever undertaken a major assortment change? If so, what steps did you take to ensure that it was a success?