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Supply Chain Capability Manager, Alex Edge, explores some potential future options for learning and development in the food and grocery industry.

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The shortlist has been unveiled for the IGD Awards 2018, the annual event celebrating the best of the food and grocery industry.

Celebrating nearly three decades, over 540 winners, 10,000 entries, 3,400 hours of judging, 15,000 attendees and 1,800 judges, the awards ceremony is a historic event that will take place in London on 2rd October, where more than 600 senior executives will gather to raise a toast to the industry’s achievements over the last 12 months.

Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD Chief Executive, said: “We have a lot to celebrate in our industry, whether it’s the exciting innovations and advancements we see in stores or creative new products that are inspiring shoppers to cutting-edge supply chains using the latest technology, it gives me great pride to be a part of a sector that achieves so much.

“It’s for this reason that the IGD Awards has been bringing businesses together for 27 years to reward the accomplishments that stand out. Congratulations to all of our finalists and we wish you the best of luck on 2nd October!”

Just under 100 companies of all sizes from across the industry have been shortlisted for the prestigious awards. Here is the IGD Supply Chain Excellence Award shortlist:

  • Heineken: Weather impact on demand of cider and beer
  • Lactalis Mclelland: Distribution Network
  • Metro AG Supplier Collaboration Tool
  • P&G: UK customer-centric synchronisation programme
  • SPAR China & Coca-Cola: Modernising the Supply Chain
  • Unilever: Invest for Success in Brilliant Execution

For the full shortlist – including the IGD Business Transformation Award, the IGD Sustainable Futures Award and the IGD Learning and Development Award – visit the IGD Awards 2018 Finalists page.

Attend the IGD Awards ceremony

Join us in congratulating the worthy finalists and deserving winners of our IGD Awards. You’ll start the evening with a champagne reception, followed by a delicious three-course dinner and exciting entertainment.

Sustainability & Strategy Manager Alan Hayes considers how the role of leadership is changing in the food and grocery industry, and how we can use leadership within supply chain to increase agility.

Messy change

I was reminded recently by a colleague that change is difficult in the beginning, messy in the middle, and glorious in the end. This echoes the message that “even successful change efforts are messy and full of surprises” (Kotter, 1995).

Every day we hear about the relentless pace of change – from our leaders, commentators, media and academia. Frequently, we also hear that the scale of change is unprecedented. The assertion that both pace and scale of change are also increasing is inescapable, especially in the competitive and fast paced food and grocery industry. 

The 21st century is already posing major challenges to the ability of leadership teams to handle the relentless stream of emerging crises around the world, whether they are viewed as sources of challenge or opportunity or both. Events around the world have accentuated the change and uncertainty that many feel. “The developing impact of Brexit in the UK and Europe, the elections of new global leaders around the world, and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Northeast Asia” (EY, 2018, pp 2) are a few examples of rapid change and increased uncertainty in 2018.

Changing policies and attitudes in many countries add a further dynamic, resulting in a level of uncertainty for business that slows decision making. Going further, IGD’s recent Vulnerabilities in Global Supply Chains: Geopolitics report states that “a rapidly evolving, more interconnected world has opened up a world of opportunity, but it has also added complexity to businesses and their supply chains” .

Leadership challenges in food and grocery

These crises emerge rapidly, from political or economic or societal shifts, and are often unanticipated by organisations and their leadership teams. They indicate a world of unprecedented change and complexity, driven by digital technology, globalisation and demographic shifts.

The forces driving these crises are also reshaping the food and grocery industry, and the challenges for leadership teams are similar to those in every other major industry. Technology and social media companies have become the new gateway to consumers, and suppliers across the entire supply chain need to change dramatically to stay relevant to consumers through the rapidly changing retail landscape.  Additionally, the continued increase of environmental risks and degradation of the global environment is straining agricultural and food production systems, as highlighted in IGD’s Vulnerabilities in Global Supply Chains: Environment and Resources report. 

Change management remains difficult 

Organisations will have to become more comfortable with operating in such an ever-changing environment. Management training focuses on the need to manage change, as advocated by leading thinkers such as John Kotter through “Eight Steps for Transformational Change” and leading academics such as Julia Balogun through the “Change Kaleidoscope”. Significant budgets and capital are invested in change programmes, change management expertise, developing change agents.

Yet, change remains difficult, and this is driven by two considerations in particular for food and grocery: 

  1. Much of the change taking place in the food and grocery industry is in fact significant disruption of established business models, and 
  2. Much of the managed change which organisations do take on is reactive, where their hand is forced by a variety of external issues (e.g. macroeconomic impacts, shopper trends or environmental considerations).

Disruption includes such trends as the rise of discount retailing, the growth of omnichannel shopping, increases in shopping frequency and changes in consumer preferences. Many of these are truly disruptive, rather than evolutionary change. Artificial intelligence and physical automation are providing the opportunities for food and grocery supply chains to cope with this disruption.

The role of leadership

One perspective on the impact of the increasing pace and scale of change focuses on how leaders can and should respond to the uncertainty which all of this brings. Coping with change is becoming a core skill set for leaders, managers and their teams. 

Given this backdrop, it is reasonable to consider the role of leaders and of leadership itself. Leaders are the individuals who hold positions at the top of organisations, functions, teams. Leadership is a process, one which involves influencing others and facilitating both individual and collective efforts towards a shared objective.

Recent leadership research is signalling the end of the “heroic CEO” (Wageman et al,2008) at the top of organisations, and the emerging opportunity for teams to fulfil much of the leadership roles within organisations. More organisations are turning to team-based leadership approaches in both profit and non-profit arenas, shifting away from reliance on the sole hierarchical leader for leadership, and indicating the limitation of a leader-centred approach to business. Many organisations operate through cross-functional and business unit teams, rather than conventional hierarchical structures with a single leader. As organisational structures become flatter, and the pace of decision making increases, the ability for leadership to be shared beyond a single individual is becoming vital.

If you need to be convinced of this, just look at the success of entrepreneurial businesses before they take on the structures of established corporates. Next, look at the impact which the failed approach by 3G Capital had on Unilever, as the latter decentralised and delayered to be more responsive and nimble, as well as more profitable through doing so.

Leadership, rather than leaders, is therefore seen as the key to addressing the challenge of leading organisations through the pace and scale of change which surround them in their markets and environments. 

Sharing leadership to increase agility

This is particularly relevant for supply chain leadership and the function itself, as supply chains are possibly the most disrupted and interrupted part of any food and grocery organisation. If our organisations and their supply chains need leadership to be fit for the world of the 21st century, then the way we think about leadership needs to change radically. This imperative is reinforced by Bersin (2018), stating that organisations need to “be digital” through rethinking leadership and management models. He has found that “70% of surveyed business leaders believe that they do not have the right leadership to adapt” (Bersin, 2017, pp4) in response to digital forces of change.

How does leadership work in your organisation, and more importantly, in your supply chain functions? Does it flow vertically, down the organisational hierarchy and through functional heads? Is there evidence of a sharing of leadership amongst teams, real and virtual, and their members where official as well as unofficial leaders emerge to take on the responsibility and reward of leadership? 

Organisations need both vertical and shared leadership. The former provides stability and control, and the latter can provide greater agility to anticipate change and respond more promptly.

Hierarchies and vertical leadership are not enough. Leadership must be shared for success in the food and grocery industry, now and forever. 

IGD attended the massive Walmart Shareholders’ Week in Bentonville recently and learnt about some fascinating new initiatives from the world’s largest retailer.

I’ve picked out a few key points for supply chain professionals to be aware of.

  1. Change while in motion / partnerships
  2. FAST unloader and robot shelf scanner
  3. People

Change while in motion, and partnerships

Walmart’s President and CEO, Doug McMillon used the phrase “We’re changing the wheels while continuing to drive the car”. I’m not sure the metaphor works, but the point is clear: the company is trading successfully now, but making big changes to the business at the same time to ensure it continues to lead in the future.

I think the aspect that demonstrates this is the new approach to partnerships instead of total ownership. Walmart is revising its international portfolio in particular, as seen in its corporate announcements recently in Brazil, India and the UK.

Walmart clearly see partnership and collaboration as a major opportunity for the future, enabling the company to benefit from local expertise while managing its capital and sharing its own global best practice.

In-store efficiencies

Walmart also demonstrated some innovative technology that will help serve its shoppers better whilst saving time on manual tasks.

We have reported in the past on shelf-scanning “robots appearing in Walmart stores amongst others. Stewart saw the scanner in action on a hosted store visit, as Walmart demonstrated how it identifies products with low or no stock, incorrect labels or pricing.

The unit travels around the store combining automated scanning with machine learning to gather huge amounts of highly actionable data. The store’s workers are able to focus on areas which need immediate attention, while the root causes of longer term patterns can also be investigated and prevented.

Walmart also demonstrated a new FAST Unloader system which is significantly improving the back-room stock process. Walmart have always unloaded tightly-packed trucks onto a conveyor for sorting and merchandising, but the new system brings a new level of automation to the process. As cases come along the conveyor they are scanned and sorted into departments automatically, much more quickly than in the past.

Data from the robotic scanners can also be linked to the conveyor system, which ensures that any stock coming off the truck which is out of stock can be sorted separately and prioritised for immediate replenishment.


The speed of change in Walmart and a tightening US labour market are factors driving the company to increase its investment in its people. In addition to that, the company clearly wants to ensure that it continues to have a “human” presence for its customers alongside all the digital developments.

They are introducing a new education benefit to help staff access affordable college education, which will drive a wider range of skills in their workforce and improve opportunities for people to progress their careers.

Alongside this, Walmart is introducing more new technology into its on-the-job training programmes. For example, Virtual Reality technology is being used to train staff on using new facilities like the pickup towers for online orders. And a new app has been developed to widen store colleagues’ knowledge of different areas such as customer service, inventory management and people leadership.

This programme should help Walmart staff to adapt to the changing world of work in both the short term and the long term, creating more flexible and multi-skilled teams.

What’s next?

These Walmart developments to create a truly omnichannel operation are further demonstration of the rapid pace of change in retailing today. Supply chain teams need to ensure they are creating business strategies that are flexible to change and absolutely driven by shopper demands. You can find out more about the merging of online and offline in our “Store of the Future” research by visiting the IGD Futures hub.

Alistair Balderson

Alistair Balderson

Head of Supply Chain Insight

The future of food and grocery.

13 November, London

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