A new initiative involving some of the UK's largest retailers and suppliers has been launched today (26 August), with the aim of helping tackle hidden operating costs, delays and process inefficiencies in the inbound grocery supply chain.

Supply chain standards organisation GS1 UK says its Perfect Order programme has the potential to save the consumer goods industry several million pounds in operating costs, and it is facilitating a working group with key sector stakeholders to kick-start the first phase of the project.

From this month, GS1 UK's workshop will gather together retailers and suppliers, including Bakkovar, Boots, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Mondelez, Morrisons, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Tesco, Turners of Soham and Unilever, to develop a set of industry agreed standards for inbound logistics, ensuring that the retailers' service requirements are met in full.

In addition to addressing key grocery supply chain pain points, GS1 UK is keen for Perfect Order to compliment retail's drive to offer a seamless multichannel experience for consumers. The initiative arrives at a time when suppliers are seeing complexities and costs added to their businesses as they strive to meet the requirements set down by the major grocery retailers which are looking to meet their customers' increasingly complex demands.

Simon Mardle, who is responsible for logistics and change management at Tesco, suggested it "couldn't be a better time" to implement an industry standard, and he said Perfect Order will help support his supermarket's customer-centric approach.

"To help achieve this, it's key we work with our suppliers in new and different ways and help to make ways of working simpler and easier for all of us," he explained.

"This work is a great example of where we have to go even further and work collaboratively across our entire industry to achieve better performance for all. It will help us to fundamentally change the way we engage with our suppliers and deliver a significant cultural shift in our business."

GS1 UK said some of the key benefits of the new programme will include better utilisation of vehicles, a less customised and more direct goods receiving process for suppliers, and better product availability for shoppers.

Harshal Gore, quality assurance director at GS1 UK, commented: "We worked with like-minded retailer and supplier member companies to create the Perfect Order programme, which we see as being a catalyst for improving both trading relationships and operating efficiencies in the end-to-end supply chain process.

"In the current environment, with all aspects of operating costs being under review, we believe that this is an initiative the industry cannot ignore."

It is hoped that over the next three years, the Perfect Order programme will evolve into a full set of industry-agreed, harmonised ways of working, which will ultimately simplify the inbound logistics process and generate industry-wide cost savings.

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