Thursday, May 10, 2012

UNFI Supplier Community Update, May 2012

Welcome to the first of an ongoing series of quarterly communications designed to share UNFI supply chain initiatives and information with our supplier and broker partners. Our focus will be on topics and information that will be useful for your organization in working with the UNFI team.

As background, here is a quick review of UNFI’s supply chain organization:
·    Supplier Relationship Manager (SRM) – The SRM “owns” the supplier relationship for UNFI. Key job responsibilities include item mix decisions (new item commitments, discontinuation decisions), development of the proper marketing approach, inclusive of promotions and marketing vehicles, and managing pricing. The SRM team is managed by Marc Ghidotti, VP SRM, and two regional Directors: Melissa Angle, East and Chris Depetris, West.
·    Inventory Planning and Replenishment (IPAR) – Often referred to as simply the Buyer, key job responsibilities include creating Purchase Orders to ensure UNFI has the right amount of product in the right place at the right time, and managing the logistics from supplier to UNFI dock. This team is managed by Rick Moller, VP Inventory Planning with Melissa Christian, Director, Inventory Planning and Replenishment (IPAR).
·     Retail Category Manager (RCM) – The RCM is a customer-facing category manager who is focused on maximizing the sales of our retail partners. RCM’s provide consulting, market insights, and merchandising support to retailers. This team informs SRM item mix decision through in-depth analysis of internal and external market data.  This team is managed by Kirsten Hogan, VP RCM.

UNFI Supply Chain Projects
In recent months UNFI’s supply chain team has been very busy with numerous projects designed to improve our performance with both our supplier and retail customer partners. These projects include:

Streamline Supplier Contacts
·    Our ultimate goal is to provide each supplier with a single, national SRM.  As we migrate to this structure, the current regional responsibilities of our SRM teams will be replaced with national responsibilities, regardless of the SRM’s geographic location. We anticipate this move to benefit suppliers in several ways; by drastically reducing the number of suppliers on each SRM’s desk, each supplier will receive much greater focus and attention. The change will also significantly reduce the workload for suppliers by eliminating the need to present new items, promotions, and other communications to multiple UNFI regions.
·    In the past month, we have begun transitioning some of our larger supplier partners to this model. More suppliers will be introduced to this model over time, with our entire supplier base eventually transitioning over a period of twelve months or more.

·    An immediate step we have taken is to streamline supplier contacts within each UNFI region, so that each supplier is assigned to only one SRM per region.  Click here for a current list of suppliers with regional SRM assignments.

Improve Support and Streamline Processes for New Suppliers / New Items
We recognize that new items are the lifeblood of our industry and are taking steps to speed up the new item process and smooth the way for new suppliers:  
·    The SRM structure allows us to address new items in a much more proactive manner. We want your new item presentations as early as possible - when contacting your SRM to arrange presentations, please use the following guidelines:
·      If you are a current supplier submitting a new item please contact the East or West SRM who is assigned to you as your single point of contact for the region.
·      If you are a new supplier with a new item submission please contact the appropriate East or West SRM based on the category assignments for each region. Click here for UNFI SRM Category Assignments. 
·    We’re streamlining our new item setup processes, and have already reduced our internal processing time from 8 weeks to 4 weeks, and are poised to further reduce the timeline significantly in the coming weeks.
·    We are establishing a new team, headed by a National Supplier Development Manager, with multiple dedicated support staff members. We anticipate these positions to be filled by mid-June, and will communicate contact info to you as soon as possible. The team’s focus will be on onboarding new suppliers and ensuring prompt item setup. This group will support the SRM team, and will assist in executing new item commitments made by the SRM’s.
·    We’ve changed our policy on first payments to new suppliers. Payments will be issued within 60 days, without exception.

Improve Execution of Promotions
Effective and well executed promotions are essential to our mutual success.  We are taking steps to better support this vital strategic component.
·    As with the new item process, we will soon be adding significant new dedicated resources, including a National Promotions Manager, and regional support staff in order to better execute our promotions processes. These positions will be filled by the end of May, and contact information will be shared with you as soon as possible.
·    As noted above, the assignment of a single SRM for each line regionally will be very beneficial in streamlining the communication and processing of promotions between your team and UNFI.
Improve Discontinuation Process
UNFI has implemented a robust annual category review process, executed by the RCM team. Click here for a calendar detailing the review schedule. UNFI’s approach going forward is to combine a deep analysis of all available data with trend and category insights to reach a well-rounded understanding of the category and consumer behavior. Adjustments to our mix and merchandising recommendations will be based on this strategic view of the category.  We will not identify items for discontinuation based solely on movement.

We appreciate your ongoing support of UNFI.  We welcome your feedback as we focus on continuously improving our processes and approach to ensure mutual success.

John Raiche
Vice President, Marketing