Unfiltered Insights: Future-Proofing FMCG Supply Chains Through Data-Centricity

Nulogy’s Christine Barnhart chats with Kimberly-Clark VP Scott Degroot about what it takes to embrace a data-centric approach in today’s world of supply chain.

Christine Barnhart, Chief Marketing & Industry Officer at Nulogy
WRITTEN BY Christine Barnhart

In the latest episode of Nulogy’s monthly livestream series, Supply Chain Unfiltered, I had the pleasure of welcoming special guest Scott DeGroot, Vice President of Global Planning and Logistics at Kimberly-Clark Corporation (KCC). 

Together, we explored the intricate world of supply chain management in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. If you missed the full episode and would like to tune in, click here. In the meantime, here are a few key takeaways that have been top of mind for me following our conversation.

Embracing a Data-Centric Approach to Supply Chain

The company that brings you products such as Kleenex, Huggies, and Kotex has taught Scott some valuable lessons over the seven years he’s been with the team. For Scott, one of the most powerful lessons has been the potential value of data and technology, particularly when the two are leveraged in exciting and pragmatic ways to improve margins. 

He explains: “We have all this product data, manufacturing data, supply data… but we’re starving for insights.” In Scott’s view, for data to be effective, it needs to be accessible and easily managed within the whole picture, versus sitting in individual silos within separate teams.

Scott also stressed that refining data—making sure it has the right attributions, latency, and availability—is hard work. He added that it takes a lot of resources to get all of your data extracted correctly, but amazing things happen when you strike the right balance. Clean data leads to clean insights, which eventually lead to taking informed courses of action within the business.

Scott emphasized the importance of continuity and commitment, and of resisting the urge to dive from “hype cycle to cycle, never actually doing the things that allow the experience of supply chain performance to get better.” It is a finely tuned dance: Keeping up with the speed of business, all while maintaining a strong operational foundation. 

Upskilling Your Teams for Success

At Supply Chain Unfiltered, keeping a pulse on the challenges and opportunities facing our industry is a central focus, and I firmly believe that the people around us play a critical role in solving the challenges we face as organizations. Are you continually improving as a leader? Are you empowering others around you to do the same?

I wanted to get Scott’s take and asked, “What’s your approach to a successful team?” His answer did not disappoint, as he emphasized the importance of being intentional when upskilling your team members. Similarly to when expensive equipment or technology isn’t used correctly, under-leveraging people can be just as costly of a mistake. Scott explained: “I [try to] get rid of the organizational silos and make sure that the people are trained on technology and the new business processes. They get external provocation from [colleagues] so that they can do everything on their own and then we set new performance expectations.”

He shared the idea of setting a new type of metric within the industry that examines performance more closely so that people better understand their role and the roles around them. I love this concept. 

What if an employee was trained on fire prevention instead of learning how to put them out? What if an individual who isn’t “saving the company” and therefore valuing themselves through a savior complex could get the same recognition from predicting and detecting future issues? Where would we be?

Future-Proofing Strategies

Finally, we talked about change management: a buzzword within our industry that sparks both positive and negative connotations. Aside from investing into the right tools and the right skills, is there a way to balance new processes with old?

Scott believes that we tend to underinvest in the time and re-training it takes to improve internal processes gone wrong. As many know, there’s been a strategic shift towards long-term partnerships with contract manufacturers. The implications for supply variability and dynamic planning are real. We’re living in a time where building resilience against disruption is a “must” even if we can’t see the next disruption around the corner. 

If I had to pick one insight from Scott to send everyone home with, it might be this: “We can’t just use words, we have to be intentional about [changes] to make them stick.”

Thank you, Scott, for your time and perspective! Anyone interested in keeping the conversation going is welcome to connect with Scott or me on LinkedIn. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone for the next episode of Supply Chain Unfiltered featuring Dr. Elouise Epstein, noted supply chain author and analyst, and Partner at Kearney. Until then! 

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