One trend that will really matter to Marketing in 2018

By | Business Complexity, Data Analytics, Engineering, Leadership, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking, Marketing Procurement, Point of Purchase, Productivity, Shopper Marketing, Supply Chain | No Comments

It all started back in January of 2017, when Marc Pritchard of P&G, laid down a new set of guidelines for the digital industry to clean up its act. Here is an article that kicked off a potential transformation of how marketing is managed.

In summary, there are two very simple issues at stake. The first is the lack of transparency across the supply chain. The second is a result of the first. If you don’t know how the supply chain works, you won’t know where the value is created and more importantly where the waste is happening. It is back to the age-old question of marketing attribution. The reason why attribution in Marketing is so hard is that all the various activities that are undertaken cannot be easily connected together to clearly ascertain how, and if, they actually impacted the customer outcome and therefore delivered a benefit.

“It is all well and good, increasing the number of impressions, or website visitors but if that doesn’t influence any change in perception, affinity or behaviour on behalf of the customer then it isn’t valuable.”

Itis time for Marketing to start focusing on connecting the supply chain. This has been underway for decades in many other departments and disciplines. It is about time Marketing finally catches up.

Lean Manufacturing and the resulting concept of Lean Thinking originated in 1988. The foundation is based around gaining control and transparency across the entity of the supply chain and in so doing to optimise workflows and to remove waste. Another concept that is very similar in thinking is Total Cost of Ownership . This was pioneered by Gartner in 1987. A very simplified view of TCO is to look at all the costs associated with an activity — acquisition or set-up costs, operating costs and finally replacement or upgrade costs — as a means of being able to evaluate the return on the total investment made.

“Three decades is probably enough time for Marketing to wait before applying Lean Thinking & Total Cost of Ownership concepts.”

So how can Marketing adopt these concepts? Here are seven recommendations that will start you on the supply chain connection journey in 2018:

1. Have a clear customer outcome

Every objective should deliver discernible value for the customer. Establish a hypothesis against which you can measure success. Make sure the objective is measurable. Define and agree in advance how it will be measured.

2. Seek transparency from partners

Ensure that all your partners provide full transparency. Agree on what data will be provided and how. Ensure that all the data can be referenced to and analysed for customer value creation.

3. Understand the entirety of the supply chain

Map out the entire supply chain. Understand each task and activity. Define how each handover will be managed. Identify who is responsible for each step. Agree on how issues, delays etc. will be handled. Know the journey. This will ensure you gain complete control and thereby the opportunity to influence and create measurable value.

4. Connect the data

Ensure that data is not siloed and not looked at in isolation. You need to be able to aggregate / consolidate all the effort and resources applied and compare that to what outcomes were delivered. In addition, the closer a relationship can be established from one stage of the supply chain to another, the easier it will be to understand how a change in one area can positively impact the performance of the entire supply chain.

5. Consider human resource costs (for a more complete view)

A significant level of resource can be invested in people’s time. In many cases, this may not be that valuable. How often have you been in a meeting that has not been productive? It is worth considering what the costs are associated with this effort. By considering this, you may uncover significant opportunities for workflow improvement and waste reduction.

“Meetings should be small enough that two pizzas would feed the entire group. If not, the meeting would probably be too big and unproductive.” Jeff Bezos

6. Work with specialists (to build understanding and insights for waste reduction and improvement)

Supply chains are complicated. Ensure that you work with specialist partners. If third parties cannot add value e.g. they are only a communication cog, then seek ways to reduce their involvement. Data is only as good as the insights they provide. If you don’t know how to apply the data to create value, then work with people who can.

7. Adopt continuous improvement (validated learnings)

Good supply chain management will provide you with the full cost of the investment made. With a clear hypothesis of what that investment was established to deliver, you have a clear way of assessing the return on that investment. Invest time to learn as next time round it will pay you dividends. Always validate your outcomes and apply learnings to every future programme.

“Validated learning is a unit of progress process and describes learnings generated by trying out an initial idea and then measuring it against potential customers to validate the effect.” Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

May 2018 be the year that Marketing starts to connect their supply chains. In so doing, Marketing has the opportunity to transform the function and to really get to the heart of what true attribution means.

Wishing you all every success in 2018.

If you would like more information on how LeanPie can transform your shopper experience supply chain, please feel free to contact David at

Procurement – switch your focus from sourcing to supply chain management

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Data Analytics, Leadership, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking, Marketing Procurement, Productivity, Supply Chain | No Comments

I have worked in marketing for more years than I care to remember. The one key observation I have regarding this discipline is that it continues to expand in breadth whilst at the same time growing in complexity. This is clearly a challenge for marketers but, in addition, it also provides a whole new set of challenges to the procurement teams who are tasked will helping marketing make their investments go further.

I am also a cofounder of several start-ups, that have been developed to help marketing procurement leaders address this complexity and unlock hidden value. BUT to be honest I mostly find myself facing a wall of silence. However, there are some young, highly talented individuals who seek knowledge at every opportunity, embrace change, address risk and add exceptional value to a business. So, this is my way of sharing the attributes of these unsung heroes.

As Arthur C. Clarke once said:
The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to these.”

Procurement thinking
The real challenge is that Procurement focuses too much on margin reduction rather than removing waste from the supply chain. The first approach reduces the margin and profit of the supplier thereby negatively impacting them whilst the second can benefit all parties.

The challenge, if you negotiate or even bully a supplier to give you a lower price, is that several things happen; you become less important to them, you don’t gain access to their best people, they take their innovations elsewhere and ultimately, they deliver their best service to their more rewarding clients. However, the biggest negative is that they don’t see the relationship as a partnership of equals and you lose access to very valuable information. Information that is essential to remove waste and to deliver real value to the business.

Lean Thinking
Very simply Procurement needs to embrace Lean Thinking. To achieve this, you need to understand every element of the supply chain and this requires partnership with all the stakeholders. By understanding every step in a supply chain, you are then enabled and empowered to identify areas that don’t add value and to remove them.

So, how important is this? Well, Mark Pritchard certainly thinks it is. Look at what he says about the “media supply chain”. Even Mark Ritson throws more fuel on the media supply chain fire. What is interesting is that the same theme comes through from two of the most influential and experienced marketers globally; to deliver value you must have information, transparency and standards. To be honest this is not just an issue with digital advertising, it transgresses all areas of marketing spend.

 “Good procurement practice is negotiating a better price but great procurement practice is removing waste from the supply chain.”

Like-for-like comparison
It is not just standards but it is the ability to compare one element with another in an objective way. This requires the marketing procurement team to confirm that it is indeed comparing like-for-like. If comparison is not possible, how can you achieve an objective judgement?

“If you are not comparing oranges and oranges when running a marketing tender of any sort, then you are participating in an exercise in pure futility.”

Dissect the supply chain
Due to the complexity of many of the materials and services used by marketing, it is inevitable that the supplier you are working with is outsourcing huge elements of the programme. If you don’t know how the supply chain works or who is involved, how can you have any chance of identifying where savings can be made?

Spend time to get to know how the supply chain works, what the steps are, who are the responsible parties, who adds value and who doesn’t. Once you have a clear picture, identifying and adding value becomes relatively easy.

Focus on the detail
Adapting the well-known saying:
“Look after the marketing pennies and the marketing pounds will take care of themselves.”

This is very true and it is often the small details that can unravel a supply chain and cause untold problems. Identify these blockers and develop solutions which are specifically designed to remove them.

Invest in Flow
Flow is a key component of a Lean Manufacturing supply chain and it is where one task is completed and the project is moved onto the next task. Invariably marketing supply chains break down at these points. An obvious example is where Marketing have spent so long working on and approving creative, that production only has days to deliver the required materials leading to excessive overtime costs.

Gain control over the supply chain flow and these problems can be removed along with all the extra costs associated with short production lead-times or other shortfalls.

 “In a marketing relay race, it is not how fast you run that counts but how well you pass the baton.”

Take out waste
What do I mean by waste? Well very simply it is any cost that does not directly or indirectly contribute any value to the final solution. There are many ways you can identify waste. Here are a few examples:

  • Teams spending too long in meetings where limited actions are taken (resource waste)
  • Solution goes through multiple changes (duplication waste)
  • Delays happen due to late or delayed approvals (process waste)
  • Use of third parties that are just passing information from one party to another but not impacting the final solution (layer waste)
  • Too many solutions are created (production waste)
  • The wrong solutions are delivered (planning waste)

“Focus on looking for marketing waste and you will find it everywhere. Change your mind-set and transform the marketing procurement function.”

Achieving success
This is a hard one and I do not envy the challenge that many of these very capable marketing procurement professionals face in trying to deliver additional value to the business. However, you must adopt a mind-set where you seek to become the most informed individual in the supply chain. By achieving this, you will be able to focus on removing waste and in so doing, to gain the commitment, support and data that you need from all stakeholders, both internal and external, to establish a lean supply chain that is subject to continuous improvement.

So, the next time an email arrives or the phone rings, consider this. Is this an opportunity to gain further data, insights and knowledge? To succeed, you need to be open to learning something new every day, so embrace every opportunity to network, find those hidden areas and unlock that additional value.

If you would like more information on how LG&P and LeanPie can transform your shopper marketing supply chain, please feel free to contact David at

Ditch mediocrity and transform supply chains in 2017

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Leadership, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking, Marketing Procurement, Point of Purchase, Productivity, Retail Fixtures, Shopper Marketing, Supply Chain | No Comments


It is that time of year where a significant number of articles are written about the key trends that will be happening in the year ahead. I don’t know about you but I find that businesses don’t really pay any attention to these types of predictions and it takes forever for companies to adapt to market changes. There are only ever a few individuals who are willing to take a risk and actually set out to make a real difference to their business by implementing real change.

So this is for you, the mavericks, the pioneers and the risk-takers who won’t accept the status quo and where the word “mediocre” is consigned to the dustbin.

I am specifically going to focus on non-core supply chains. So here is my list of predictions for 2017. To be honest, it is more a wish list than a set of trends, but in my mind the individuals and teams who follow these principles will add significant value to their companies and transform how supply chains are managed.

1.SaaS (Software As A Service) will become Software And Services

Many people see software as a means to fix broken processes in companies but this is just not the case. Software is an enabler. It provides organisations with the opportunity to be more efficient about how they manage part of their business BUT it cannot fix underlying problems where processes are broken or skills are deficient. The challenge with supply chains is that they are complex, multi-disciplinary and require every element to function efficiently. If they don’t and one element is broken then the supply chain falls over. This is why TCO (Total Cost of Ownerhip) was introduced to ensure that there is responsibility defined for the entirety of the process.

In many cases, organisations don’t have the depth of experience and skills to ensure that a supply chain operates in the way it should and so they rely on suppliers to fill in the gaps. The end result is that these suppliers act in their own best interests rather than putting the customer first. This has created an opportunity for a new type of software company that not only provides software but wraps services around it in a highly transparent way that addresses these market shortfalls. Supply chain leaders need to embrace these new types of organisation and transform their supply chains.

2.Networkers will become the leaders

I have to say my biggest bugbear is when individuals within large organisations create barriers to information flow. They never respond to a communication, their phones are automatically directed to voicemail and worst of all they say they’ve passed on your details to colleagues who will get back to you if they need to. So how likely is it that these people have conveyed the opportunity successfully? I doubt if they even understand what the opportunity is.

The individuals who will prosper in this new networked economy will be those people that “Pay it Forward” and seek to help people both internally and externally connect. Too many people believe that an organisation comprises employees only. This is just not the case. The success of any organisation depends on all stakeholders; employees, partners, suppliers and most of all customers. Everyone has a contribution to make to the success of the company and their voices must be heard. So, if someone calls, set aside 5 minutes and take the call. You will never know what you can learn and what opportunities might await.

3.Transparency will be the No1 priority

There is a lot of focus on analysing data but the question I always ask is do you have the data you need? In so many supply chains there is little to no real transparency. You may have prices but you don’t know what the true costs are from your suppliers. It is like the iceberg, you only see a small part of the puzzle. It is imperative that supply chains are opened up and every element and every cost is transparent, so a real understanding develops of what all the cost drivers are from start to finish.

Strive for transparency but do this with the principle that transparency will help create additional value that can be shared. If you see transparency just as a means of reducing margins, with no other end result, you will promote and encourage the lack of information sharing that you face today.

4.Real-time updates will take precedence over historical reporting

The vast majority of company reporting has been focused on historical reporting. The problem for procurement and for supply chains is that this information comes too late to address any issues that have arisen or to create additional value. The problem with complex supply chains is that if an issue is not addressed immediately then the problem only gets worse. How often have you received that call from the supplier that your shipment will be three weeks late? Clearly a problem like that did not happen overnight.

It is imperative that real-time data becomes a priority. This should take precedence over any other form of reporting. Remember if you can’t influence the outcome then the data and subsequent analysis has limited merit.

5.Procurement will switch from margin reduction focus to removal of waste

Lean manufacturing principles have transformed a number of industries and functions, but procurement have been slow on the uptake to adopt these principles. Procurement’s main focus has to be to obtain the best possible price and this in general has always been focused on reducing the margin taken by the supplier e.g. negotiating the final delivered price. This needs to change. Procurement need to take ownership of the process and to switch their focus to finding ways to remove waste, where resources (people, time and money) do not contribute to the final outcome. This requires leaders to look internally as well as externally.

Consider this: A one hour meeting attended by seven people is the equivalent of one Full Time Employee. Also consider how long it takes to get anything done. Perhaps your diary is so booked that you are not able to see a supplier for 6 weeks. Well that is 6 weeks of potential opportunity to add value back to the business that has been lost. It doesn’t take long to identify significant opportunities to dramatically reduce waste in this way and to add real value back to the business.

How many of these principles will you be supporting next year?

If you would like more information on how LeanPie can transform your retail fixture and permanent POP supply chain, please feel free to contact David at

Undervalue decision-making at your peril

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Distributed Teams, Leadership, Marketing Procurement, Productivity, Shopper Marketing, Supply Chain | One Comment


When the topic of decision-making comes up, it is often a debate on how does one make the right decisions, rather than the wrong ones. However, this focus completely undermines the fact that for a decision to be of any value it has to be implemented successfully.

Decision-making in corporations is complex and fundamentally if the process is not conducted in the right way there can be severe repercussions for the potential value that is created. The most obvious issues include:

  • Lack of participation leading to substantial delays in reaching a decision
  • Lack of ownership in the decision leading to a lack of team engagement and productivity
  • Lack of commitment in implementing a decision leading to fragmentation, misalignment and poorer outcomes

So how does one go about establishing the right conditions for team decision-making to be optimal? I believe consideration should be focused on the following areas:

  1. Establish team working
  2. Understand the objective
  3. Identify the challenges
  4. Build insights
  5. Consider all options
  6. Ensure alignment on identified solution
  7. Test and validate to build confidence and commitment
  8. Focus and implement


Leading a team requires key leadership skills and it is very important to establish clarity on how the decision-making process will be conducted. Different nationalities have different ways of reaching decisions and this can be quite alarming when it is not familiar. It is also essential that the approach to decision-making is highly democratic in respect that everyone has a voice, every voice is equal and every voice is listened to. Here is a link to another blog titled “Procurement and the challenge of distributed teams” that provides some considerations for creating a high performance team.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan, Retired American Professional Basketball Player


The most usual case is that members of the team may have different objectives or different perspectives on the same objectives, so you need to start with a clear Core Purpose. Once the end goal (destination) is set it becomes easier to develop and agree on a strategy to get there. It is the outcome that is important, rather than the process by which that outcome is reached.


Define the problems, challenges and barriers to success. Be honest. Once you have identified these, you will be able to ignore distractions and focus on working to resolve and overcome the identified impediments. Identifying and addressing primary constraints are the single biggest reason why change does not happen and why team initiatives do not succeed.

“A problem well-defined is a problem half solved.” John Dewey


The better informed the team, the easier it will be to remove subjectivity and to make insightful decisions. There are generally three rules in business when it comes to decision-making, in an environment when goals are not clear and information is scant at best:

  1. Everyone has an opinion
  2. Every opinion if different
  3. Every opinion is right

Very simply the more insightful the debate, the easier it is to reach agreement.

“Collective Wisdom outshines individual judgment.” Vineet Nayar, Author Employees First, Customers Second


Consider all points of view and recommendations. The approach needs to be inclusive to promote and encourage all team members to fully participate. The best way forward often comes from the most unexpected source. Each recommendation should be treated equally and with respect.


It is crucial that each individual team member is engaged and that their agreement is provided. I have been in corporations where I attended a presentation and as I did not question the position, my silence was taken as tacit agreement. This is not acceptable. Everyone needs to voice their full agreement in an open and collaborative way.

“My opinion, my conviction, gains immensely in strength and sureness the minute a second mind has adopted it.” Novalis (1772 – 1801), German Author and Philosopher


Risk and the fear of failure can motivate some team members to withdraw their full agreement. This needs to be addressed and the best way to do this is to test the agreed hypothesis and to work through this to create validated learnings. This not only ensures you have found the best solution but it further motivates commitment, builds confidence and ensures the entire team’s full focus and support is provided.


When a team is participating in a single programme, it is likely that all team members will have differing priorities and tasks so it is important that roles and responsibilities are well-defined. In addition, having made a decision, there is no value in questioning the decision. The best possible decision has been made and the team should focus on implementing it to the best of their ability. It may turn out that a better decision could have been made, but you will never know until you act.

“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellency becomes a reality.”  Joe Paterno (1926 – ), American College Football Coach

Decision-making is often an integral part of a change management programme and therefore another useful guide for this is Growth River’s Seven Principles for Team Effectiveness:

  1. Inspired by purpose (well-defined clear goal or desired outcome)
  2. Focused on a shared journey (detailed process for achievement)
  3. Accountable and collaborative mindset
  4. Right skills in the right roles
  5. Strong and clear interdependencies, reinforcing team agreements
  6. Advocating strategies from a customer value perspective
  7. Laser focused on implementation that resolves primary constraints for the highest impact and return on investment (ROI)

The process of effective decision-making lies at the heart of why many companies find it challenging to run successful pan-regional programmes. This is especially true in complex areas like shopper marketing where very different retail landscapes are coupled with consumers with different needs, expectations, languages and cultures. In these cases, it is imperative that a clear and intentional process is created that will guide decision-making for all stakeholders in a fair, equitable and clear way.

MARKETING PROCUREMENT; How to master complexity without getting complicated 

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Leadership, Lean Thinking, Marketing Procurement, Productivity, Supply Chain | 7 Comments


Complexity is all around us. We not only see this in our personal lives but we feel it even more in our business lives, especially if you work in marketing. Marketing is a great example of how the business world has changed. There are now more ways to engage with customers than ever before and this seems to change on an almost daily basis. Just in the last week, the arrival of Pokemon Go has provided another means by which brands can effectively engage and interact with customers.

The challenge with complexity is how to deal with it. Most businesses respond by either adding more structure and processes or they try and force people to work in a certain way through off-sites and team events. The reality is that both approaches try and force a way of working on the individual that usually restricts their ability to operate in an optimal way. The individual ends up spending more time managing the complexity and their workload rather than actually doing the work and delivering value.

The Boston Consulting Group have created a great guide to helps teams overcome the complexity challenge. They call this “Smart Simplicity” and they have published a book called Six Simple Rules on this very subject. In addition, they have distilled the highlights into an eBook which you can access here.

The six rules are highlighted here:

  1. Understand what your people do 
  2. Reinforce integrators 
  3. Increase the total quantity of power 
  4. Make cooperation happen 
  5. Extend the shadow of the future 
  6. Reward those that cooperate 

I would like to take this opportunity to apply these to a marketing procurement team. In this way, I would like to provide some recommendations on how one might be able to overcome complexity, and the resulting resistance that ensues, to deliver sustainable value.

1.Understand what your people do

First of all, know what outcome marketing are trying to achieve. Then find out what is happening in the process to achieve this. Investigate the supply chain end-to-end and identify what resources are at work and where there are constraints or issues. Map this out and look at ways to remove waste and increase the flow from one stage of the supply chain to another. In this way outcomes will naturally be improved as the supply chain is more optimal and everyone benefits from the additional value created.

2.Reinforce integrators

This is about achieving cooperation. Cooperation is different from collaboration. Cooperation is helping others achieve their goals whereas collaboration is where a groups of individuals work together to achieve a collective team goal. This is all about finding a common area of value and aligning everyone to achieving it. You need to find a way to make your goals relevant to the goals of your colleagues.

3.Increase the total quantity of power

If you wish to help increase the ability of your colleagues to create more value, then arm them with the data and insights to make better decisions. This intelligence not only comes from analytics but also from the experience of others. Help colleagues become better informed through “Network Intelligence” by giving them the information they need when they need it but by also connecting them with others who can add expert advice, perspectives and recommendations.

4.Make cooperation happen

Create an environment where marketing rely on procurement for certain tasks etc. The first task, once you have gained control over the end to end supply chain, is to ensure clear definition of roles so overlaps are removed and interdependencies are created. Then look at the decision points and agree on how these will be handled so there is collective ownership on how the entire supply chain is managed. This way everyone has skin in the game and some ownership in the final outcome, not just part of the process.

5.Extend the shadow of the future

Establish a culture of continuous learning. Make sure that performance is evaluated and that validated learnings are captured and applied to all subsequent activities. This becomes more dynamic, when everyone is invested in the outcomes, so make sure everyone is involved up to the point of final delivery. In addition, by taking this approach, when issues do arise these need to be resolved as a team. This way, everyone is exposed to and has a responsibility to resolve them.

6.Reward those that cooperate

Agreeing desired outcomes upfront is clearly paramount but it is making sure that everyone is recognised for achievement against those that really stimulates cooperation. In other words, reward and recognise marketing for making costs savings at the same time that procurement is rewarded and recognised for delivering better outcomes.

I hope this provides some food for thought. We know that business is challenging and becoming ever more complex. That is why, at LeanPie, our mantra is to strive for simplicity, without adversely impacting the value of the outcome. As Albert Einstein once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Please feel free to contact me directly at

Why Marketing Procurement should focus on removing waste

By | Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking, Point of Purchase, Productivity, Quality Assurance, Retail Fixtures, Supply Chain | No Comments

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The number one priority for Marketing Procurement is to reduce cost. We all understand this. The problem is generally the way that a marketing procurement function goes about achieving this. The issue is that the focus always end up being on the supplier rather than on the process that was used to procure the goods or service.

I remember when I was the CMO in a Fortune 500 company, the marketing procurement team would invite me to a review meeting. When I arrived there would be a General Ledger print-out from the ERP system with a long list of suppliers ranked by the level of business we conducted with them. We would then spend a significant amount of time discussing each and every one of the large suppliers so marketing  procurement could establish a strategy to obtain better prices.

There are a number of key flaws with this approach:

  • The size of business we conducted with a supplier often did not correlate with the importance or impact of the goods or services delivered (from a customer influence point of view)
  • The focus was squarely directed on the supplier, whereas it should have been directed on what was being sourced, as you should not assume that they were the optimal supplier for the specific need
  • As the approach was supplier based, the strategy tends to be one that is focused on margin reduction. This has implications on the potential end product as suppliers may not invest as much or provide their best people to deliver the best possible result.
  • Ultimately and most importantly, the process and overall supply chain was ignored

A key reason that marketing procurement take this approach is a lack of data. It is not just the lack of information but it is the impact of the knowledge gap that is created. In many cases it is very difficult for marketing procurement to understand precisely what marketing is trying to achieve, how the entire end-to-end supply chain works, what is required to ensure seamless flow and thereby how to optimise the final outcome based on the total investment made.

As Arthur C. Clarke once said The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.”

Clearly marketing procurement need to work hard to improve the data that is available and to ensure if possible that it is as real-time as possible. The closer to real-time, the greater the ability to influence and add value. However I will address the subject of real-time data in a forthcoming post. What I want to highlight now is the second key reason that marketing procurement struggle to make headway and this is mindset. Rather than spending efforts on margin reduction, the approach should be one focused on removing waste. This benefits everyone, is recurring and is sustainable. It is a real win : win for all parties.

I would like to recommend that marketing procurement adopt the principles of Lean Manufacturing as translated in the Toyota Production System (TPS). The concept of TPS is to embrace the principles of Continuous Improvement and Respect for People and in so doing to improve the productivity and value delivery to the customer through the removal of waste. They define the three key forms of waste as Muda, Mura and Muri. Here is a great post providing more detail on how these objectives can be applied to product development as a great example of how they can be applied to any part of a business.

In summary,

  • Muda is any process that seeks to consume more resources than needed and this results in waste. Try and look at this from the customers / consumers point of view. Great examples include rework, or materials that are over engineered or not used
  • Mura is any process where there is unevenness in work and lack of uniformity. Great examples of this are where roles and responsibilities are not clear and there are delays in decision-making, leading to increased costs through overtime. It is also how well the process of handovers are managed and overall the utilisation of capacity that has been set aside.
  • Muri is a process that due to its complexity is beyond one’s power and is too difficult for an individual to improve. This is addressed through standardisation. Great examples are a lack of structured processes, poor quality assurance (defining the need), no understanding of the entire end-to-end supply chain and the interdependencies that exist.

Lean Manufacturing principles have transformed operations and are now being adopted by other functions as they seek to gain better control, improved data, more insights and improved productivity for critical business processes. Now is the time for marketing procurement to change their mindset, adapt lean principles and transform their ability to add value.

LeanPie helps both brands and retailers design and source retail fixtures and Point of Purchase (POP) materials. We founded the company with the single focus on removing waste but we know that this is not an end to itself, it is a journey. The TPS principles continue to remind us that we need to always seek to improve, whilst ensuring that we respect all the stakeholders we engage. Through this approach we believe everyone can benefit, both now and continuing into the future.

How to transform marketing supply chains

By | Leadership, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking, Point of Purchase, Productivity, Retail Fixtures, Supply Chain | No Comments

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We all know that business is becoming increasingly complex. The challenge is the way that most companies respond. The vast majority try and manage this complexity through additional protocols, regulation, processes and procedures. This compounds the problem as you not only have a complex issue to resolve but you also now have a very cumbersome approach to how you must about solving it. I have come across situations where approvals are required from more than ten people. How are these people supposed to know the details about what they are setting out to approve? The more steps you have and thereby the more tasks you need to complete, just extends the supply chain and delays the ability to deliver a fit for purpose and just-in-time outcome.

If you are looking for a great perspective on this, then go no further than to listen to Yves Morieux, from the Boston Consulting Group, in one of his Ted talks.

The one department that has really experienced this rise in complexity is marketing. They have not only had to cope with the rising expectation of the consumer but there has also been a fundamental shift in the way that consumers assess and engage with brands. Consumers now seek out what other consumers have to say about the brand and its offerings, rather than rely on what the brand is telling them. Brand reputation now wins over brand promise every time. In addition, with media saturation and the proliferation of engagement channels, there is a highly competitive approach to gaining the attention of the consumer and winning their hearts and minds.

Scott Brinker ,who is one of the key marketing technology influencers, has developed an infographic that conveys that there are 3,874 technology companies providing solutions to marketing. So imagine the complexity of designing, developing and implementing an omni-channel campaign. It is simply bewildering. This requires a different approach to managing the activities that need to be undertaken.

One of the opportunities for managing this complexity is to adopt the principles of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing is a systematic method for improving the performance of the entire supply chain. One of the main differences is that it is focused on reducing waste, rather than cost. In other words you identify processes or tasks that do not add value and then remove them. This benefits everyone in the supply chain and makes the supply chain that much more efficient and fast. This is a very different mindset to forcing down prices and supplier margins, with no impact on the supply chain. The cost cutting approach is just not sustainable.

James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones distilled the key principles of Lean Manufacturing as developed in the Toyota Production System (TPS) into a methodology that could be applied to any aspect of business, such as marketing procurement. They called this lean thinking. It was a new way of assessing supply chain performance and being able to identify the waste that was inadvertently generated by the way the supply chain was managed. It consists of 5 key principles:

  • Value – focus on the desired outcome as seen by the customer
  • Value streams – understand and assess the entire supply chain. If five elements work well but one is broken you still have a less than optimal result. Ensure you have full transparency, clarity and control over every aspect of the supply chain
  • Flow – focus on the constraints, the barriers and the waste, whether it be people’s time, materials or any other area of investment and remove them. Assess this at individual task level
  • Pull – make sure that decision-making, handovers and roles and responsibilities are clear. Be precise so there is no room for misunderstanding or misalignment
  • Perfection – adopt a culture of continuous improvement by always reviewing and identifying validated learnings which can then be immediately applied to any future project

LeanPie, as a company, was founded on these principles and rigorously applies them to help both brands and retailers design and source retail fixtures and Point of Purchase (POP) materials. In this way we help our clients obtain transparency, achieve clarity, reduce complexity, minimise waste and enhance the level of value delivered.

More information on how Lean Manufacturing can help transform marketing can be found here. This article also introduces Agile Methodology which is more focused on innovation and creativity.

Productivity is the real goal

By | Culture, Productivity, Supply Chain | One Comment


After ten years marketing for software companies, I made the decision to change course and to join LeanPie, a company that is setting out to transform the supply chain for the sourcing of retail fixtures and Point of Purchase equipment. When I mentioned this to a colleague, she immediately assumed I was going to focus on delivering a software solution rather than focusing on the actual manufacture of hardware items like shelving and gondola end units. When I explained the vision for LeanPie, she was surprised. So why the move?

What is interesting about software is that it is, in general, an enabler. It helps us achieve the same things but cheaper, to a higher quality and faster. However, recent evidence is proving that business has not been very efficient at applying and using all the advantages that software can provide to improve commercial productivity. A recent article by Neil Irwin in the New York Times provides an interesting perspective on what is happening in his article “Why Is Productivity So Weak? Three Theories

Another perspective is provided by Yves Morieux, of the Boston Consulting Group, who presented this fantastic Ted talk called “How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done.” I really like the way that he uses the example of a 400m relay team as to me this is a great metaphor for how a supply chain works.

The reality is that the real value of software is in how it is applied to transform a business rather than in its potential. This is where my real interest lies, in being able to use a great software solution to significantly change the way that an existing market works. This takes the combination of well thought-through processes combined with very skilled and talented people and then enabled with a great software solution. This sits at the heart of what LeanPie is setting out to achieve and in very simple terms, it is about enhancing the productivity for the sourcing of non-core materials.

Every day we will place productivity at the forefront of our agenda and through this we hope we will improve the productivity for the companies and suppliers we serve so everyone across the supply chain from substrate suppliers to customers will benefit.