A giant leap for Logistics

8,000 colleagues, 12 depots, and the biggest change programme this business has ever seen. Director of Logistics Andy Perry talks systems, processes, and most importantly, people.

Four weeks into his new role and Andy Perry is knee-deep in a focus group where colleagues from the depots are regularly invited to say what’s on their mind. A lady from the admin department asks a question that’s probably on the lips of everyone in the room. ‘Will you be looking at structures?’ she says politely.

“The room went silent and the whole team looked at me,” explains Andy. “I looked the lady in the eye and said ‘Yes’. I said: ‘the truth is we’ll look at our structure every year. Things change so quickly and some years that’ll mean there’s not a lot to change and in others it will.’ I never got another question after that on structures.

“You’ve just got to be as honest as you can possibly be – people really appreciate that. It means they know where they are.”

The number of changes Andy’s team are trying to land would have your head spinning.

“In all my 30 years in the Retail and Logistics supply chain industry I genuinely think that this change is the biggest I’ve ever seen,” he admits.

“The leadership planning and effort, and the sheer number of one to ones and communication, is staggering. It’s been as good as I’ve seen anywhere,” says Andy [who spent 25 years with retail giant Tesco].

Andy’s top tips for helping colleagues deal with change

  • Always be open and honest
  • Involve colleagues in the change
  • Listen to their ideas (and take them on board)
  • Invest time and capability into your team

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The three big ones

Andy’s the first to admit that when he arrived at the Co-op he wasn’t aware of how many years behind our competitors we actually were in everything from systems and processes to technology and safety.

Along with a lorry full of small changes, three big ones were evident as soon as he walked through the doors of our depots. We needed to rethink our network, we were desperate for a new warehouse technology system, and the way we picked the products and transported them to stores had to change.

Network change

“We’re about ten years behind the competition generally and three or four years behind our own growth,” Andy confesses. “We’re absolutely at capacity. The network was deemed to have a capacity of 10.5 million cases per week. But on some peak weeks we’re doing 11.7 million. In the weeks ahead we expect to be doing over 12 million.

“We’ll have an announcement at the end of June around a new facility with 600,000 sq ft. We’re investing £45 to £65 million, which will transform our capability in warehouse and transport,” he adds.

Manhattan, a new warehouse system

We’ve got a Manhattan system now but our upgrade will be a quantum leap. The reality is we’re going from a warehouse management system that is no longer owned by Manhattan or supported by them – it’s effectively obsolete and breaks down on a daily basis. A huge frustration for our warehouse and driver colleagues, our stores and customers.

“Our colleagues have a black belt in managing crises. Their sheer level of resilience is incredible. There are genuinely weeks where I look back and think: how have we actually got through this week?” he confesses.

“This is a step change for the business. We’re the first team in Europe to be going live with this new system. We’re now live in four of our 12 depots and the feedback has been brilliant. Colleagues are saying it’s more robust, more efficient.”

Pick by store

“When I first came in I asked: ‘what is the one thing you want me to fix?’ Depot colleagues, stores, and independent societies all said the same thing: ‘Pick by line’ for fresh food doesn’t work for us.

“Pick by line is where an individual picks one single product for every store. So there are often 70 colleagues picking into one store cage in the same order the stock arrives at depot.

“All the major supermarkets use this method but it simply doesn’t work for a convenience store format. This is the most exciting change because colleagues have led this. They own it.

“I don’t think there’s a single individual – either in the store or in Logistics which haven’t applauded it – which is very rare.

“This will deliver us £5m of savings per year, cut down product damage and it’s safer for colleagues. It’s a win, win. We’ve trialled it at Newhouse depot and the feedback from stores has been brilliant.

“Stores outside Scotland haven’t seen this yet but we’ll roll-out to everyone before the end of 2017.”

What Andy looked for in his leadership team

  • Diversity (mix of process-driven and operational skills)
  • Different thinking styles
  • Ability to think ‘end to end’
  • Collaborative approach
  • Openness/honesty
  • Ability to communicate with people at all levels
  • Authenticity
  • Integrity

Leading by example

“Great leadership underpins all of this. Without it you’ve got nothing to build on,” stresses Andy. ”I don’t think right now that there’ll be a Logistics Director in the UK with a better leadership team.

“I know this will help us achieve our vision of being the Number One Convenience Logistics Service in the UK.”