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Introduction: The business strategy of Unilever is to achieve the highest profitability, growth, and return-on-assets. It has sold many plants and has had to put in place processes to coordinate with the third parties that own them, complicating its processes to meet its asset goals. Unilever's operating model has three components: quality, service, and cost. While keeping its global branding, the company's strategy is to have local supply chain for local demand to minimize complexity.
Non Production Items (NPI) Organizational Model:
Unilever has recognised the importance of implementing a global supply management programme focused on reducing Non Production Items (NPI).
The NPI organisation model being implemented in both Europe and North America (which will be extended to the rest of the world) is founded on clear cross-business governance and effective executive buying. Strategic sourcing is being supported by the global rollout of e-procurement and participation in some key Exchanges, particularly in Transora, where an equity stake is held. Regional and a few global NPI cluster teams have been formed which are undertaking a rigorous methodology to deliver the strategic sourcing strategies and implementation plans required to achieve the targeted savings.
The supply-chain model's primary function within Unilever is to provide the Group's business with shared understanding of the scope of the supply-chain and its sub-processes. The model provides the common language for the different Business Groups and thereby enables the identification and implementation of synergies. Some of Unilever's most important supply-chain model applications are assessing supply-chain performance and KPI development and alignment.
Distribution and Selling
Unilever's products are generally sold through its sales force and through independent brokers, agents and distributors to chain, wholesale, co-operative and independent grocery accounts, food service distributors and institutions. Products are distributed through distribution centres, satellite warehouses, company operated and public storage facilities, depots and other facilities.
Home and Personal Care in North America (HPCNA) has also developed distribution centres for third-party manufacturers where products are collected to create heavier more efficient loads to re-supply customer distribution centres.
Home & Personal Care business in Europe (HPCE) selects hauliers on cost, performance and environmental impact.
Aggregation of demand and access to new suppliers through real time partnership has enabled Unilever to improve efficiencies of the extended supply chain. Workflow automation has helped in simplification of the internal processes, which has created scale for Unilever to leverage. For Unilever e-procurement represents the opportunity for sustaining the benefits gained from strategic sourcing through information, compliance and business process simplification.
There are four ways of defining the benefits of e-procurement:
A structural enabler for re-engineering the NPI procurement process enabling further benefits to be gained through strategic sourcing, business simplification, visibility of total spend and effective integration routes both internally, e.g. ERP, and externally.
# The means for conducting electronic business upstream using lowest cost links, i.e. cXML.
A business model prompting re-evaluation of the mechanisms for connecting customers, enterprises ansd suppliers (incl. Exchanges and Marketplaces.
A single front-end interface both externally to suppliers and internally for ERP and other areas of integration
Strategically e-procurement complements Unilever's overall e-initiatives. Learning from these and the strategic sourcing expertise gained during implementation, has improved business ability for the future e-procurement of both NPI and direct materials. Workflow automation and simplification to global sourcing processes has resulted in increased productivity and reduction of transaction costs. Data made available can then be applied to harmonise items purchased, rationalise needs with suppliers and monitor and reduce usage, thus further increasing Unilever's buying opportunities.
Unilever sells its products in nearly all countries throughout the world and manufacture in many of them. The company exports a wide range of products to countries where it does not makes them. For example, inside the European Union, Unilever makes many of its products in only a few member countries, for sale in all of them. The chosen manufacturing conï¬guration is generally determined by an optimized regional sourcing strategy, which takes account of requirements for innovation, quality, service, cost and flexibility.
Global Supply Chain Management Solutions Providers:
In an effort to streamline its daily operations, Unilever has partnered with several technology and logistics providers on a worldwide basis. Some of the major providers are:
Technology Providers : Some other technology providers are: -
Manugistics Group Inc.
Syncra Systems Inc.
SCM Technologies in Unilever's Business Model:
Unilever's overall technology vision includes a strong push from client-server to thin-client architecture, Web technologies that bring the company closer to its customers, and business analytics to make management information easier to access.
With a market capitalization of $28 billion, the consumer-products giant reported that its recent IT achievements include the rollout of business-intelligence software from Hyperion, and "SAP ERP wall-to-wall" as a global standard. Unilever also has seen significant cost savings from its investment in Ariba's sourcing technology, which has resulted in a reduction of the office-supply purchasing budget by millions of dollars, and a consolidation of data centers from 18 to five; eventually, the number will fall to three.
Unilever collaborates on statistical and market promotion forecasts for key products with a few large customers, using a collaborative system from Waltham, Mass.-based Syncra Systems Inc.
The organization as whole had multiple ERP and CRM systems from several vendors, and 34 custom-built data warehouses. Unilever currently runs 100 separate, complete SAP enterprise resource-planning systems.
Some of the major SCM technologies and IT solutions implemented in the business model of The Unilever Group are discussed below: -
ISIS Supply Management Information System: ISIS is Unilever's integrated supply management information system. It helps its local, regional and global supply managers make appropriate sourcing decisions, allowing them to collate and analyse information quickly and easily. The system enables its managers to negotiate with suppliers in a transparent and efficient way, benefiting both parties.
E-procurement Solutions from Ariba: Unilever selected the Ariba Buyer software for e-procurement following a rigorous selection process and initial pilot in North America. Although initial success has been achieved Unilever believes that these are still early days and that the return of investment has still to be proven. While e-procurement is an inevitability for future supply chain optimisation the supply market, particularly in Europe, is still suffering from under-development. There is an emerging recognition that e-Procurement can affect total supply chain operation rather than just transactional activity. Until recently few have taken action to implement or sponsor the necessary changes. Encouragingly though, Unilever believes that this position is changing and unquestionably e-Procurement provides a catalyst for positive improvement in supply management profile.
Enterprise-Scale Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Solutions in Latin America:
In order to gain a clear view of business performance across its 34 companies in 19 countries, Unilever Latin America has embarked upon an enterprise-scale data warehouse and business intelligence project called Sinfonia.
At the heart of Sinfonia, KALIDOÂ® enterprise data warehouse creation and management software (KALIDO) provides a solution that will grow to encompass one of the largest databases in the world by 2007. KALIDO delivers an aggregated view of data across Unilever Latin America at high speed throughout constant business change such as acquisitions and market consolidation. KALIDO is now making it possible for Unilever Latin America (Unilever LA) to build and manage a fully functional, adaptive data warehouse throughout its lifecycle while simultaneously rolling out an underlying regional SAP system in a 4 to 5 year sister project called Harmonia.
The flexibility of KALIDO is enabling Unilever LA to maintain business continuity as the Sinfonia and Harmonia projects continue to roll out. The KALIDO data warehouse will grow both in geographic coverage and in scope, and is expected to reach 12 TB in size. Throughout this period of growth it will deliver consistent business information, taking increasing volumes of data from the ongoing SAP implementation.
Using the KALIDO enterprise data warehousing solution, the organization is successfully delivering a large-scale enterprise data warehouse, on time and within budget, while simultaneously rolling out a region-wide SAP system.
The new information architecture Sinfonia, powered by KALIDO, will deliver high-quality data to 4,000 users by 8 am every day across five time zones. The solution will enable better understanding of regional supply chain processes, brands, customers and suppliers, and will allow Unilever to respond rapidly to new opportunities, even against a backdrop of constant internal and external business change.
Finally, KALIDO will facilitate strategic planning and drive improved decision-making, by delivering tailored information at high speed to key business users, enabling Unilever LA to realize substantial cost savings and improved ability to capitalize on business opportunities.
Supply Chain Information Systems: Using a variety of information systems and several other supply chain management technologies, Unilever aims to enhance its supply chain business model. The following diagram describes the company's supply chain system vision:
Following are the various types of information systems used within the business model of The Unilever Group with their specific usage: -
R&D; System R&D; System (LIMS): Used for formula development
Specifications Systems: Used for Packaging, Raw Material, Formula, Master BOM, Finished Products and Process Specification.
Manufacturing Planning Systems: Used for MRP, Production Orders, Purchase Orders, Standard Costs, RM/Pack/WIP Inventory, Financial Transactions, Material Masters and Production Reporting.
Planning Systems: Used for Demand Planning (DP), Demand Req Planning (DRP), Constrained Prod Planning (CPP), VMI and Finite Scheduling
MFG Execution Systems (Various): Used for Finished Goods Production, Compounding/Batching, Quality/Lab Systems and Plant Maint Systems.
Order to Cash Systems: Used for Order Entry/Management, Terms of Sale, Deduction Tracking, Stock Allocation and Invoicing.
Finished Goods Management Systems: Used for Shipping, FG Warehouse, Transportation, Finished Goods Production (PIN) and Traceability
Supply Chain Strategies of Unilever:
Unilever's logistics operations present perhaps the biggest opportunity to streamline its supply chain and boost the company's ability to achieve its lofty growth goals. The company is in the process of consolidating its nearly 30 warehouses down to five massive distribution centers capable of shipping customer orders within a day's time.
Much of that consolidation is a recognition that retailers are adopting zero-inventory policies, which require an optimal use of flow-through and cross docking in the warehouses. To increase asset utilization, lower inventories and improve service, Unilever adopted collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) relationships with some retail customers. Thanks to those CPFR efforts, Unilever has been able to achieve 10% inventory reduction, 10% forecast accuracy improvement and 5% increase in sales due to better on-the-shelf availability.
Collaboration between manufacturer and retailer is necessary to increase forecast accuracy. High accuracy in replenishment can only be achieved through order forecast collaboration and extended supply chain visibility. Today, Unilever's logistics department is experiencing include improved relationships with retailers, better planning, improved on-time performance and more efficiency in handling promotions.