Supply Chain Cost to Serve (CTS)
|Cost to Serve Articles
& Case Studies
|Cost to Serve Video||Cost to Serve Contacts|
Why do you need to know your Cost To Serve?
Logistics Bureau's consultants have been conducting Cost To Serve audits since 1997 across 100's of companies in many countries. You might like to note some key facts about those companies:
- Fact 1 - Up to 20% of customer orders made negative profit margins.
- Fact 2 - 5-10 % of the product range made no contribution at all.
- Fact 3 - Up to 12% of customers were totally unprofitable. Usually a range of large and small customers.
Note 1. The facts above are based purely on Sales Value - COGS - Logistics costs. Overheads were not even taken into account!
Note 2. The 100s of companies behind these simple facts, ranged in size (annual turnover) from $200 million - $30 billion. No one is immune.
Note 3. Of all the companies where we have conducted cost to serve audits, they all had major cost to serve opportunities to improve margin.
So if you don't know your cost to serve, you are losing margin unnecessarily. Guaranteed.
So one of the major Supply Chain management challenges facing businesses today, is to understand their cost to serve (CTS) in detail.
This is important to identify low margin (or indeed negative margin) products, services and customers, in order to improve business profitability across the whole portfolio.
It is not about deleting products from the range, or sacking customers, at least not until you have the facts to hand!
You can view a recent Cost to Serve Introduction Presentation here. (pdf format)
You can see our Cost to Serve Video here.
Read on to learn more about our approach and see some articles on the topic, or if you would like help in understanding the topic, or just someone to bounce some ideas off, feel free to contact some of our key staff directly, whose details are shown below.
Cost to Serve Approach
At Logistics Bureau, our consultants have a number of approaches aimed at identifying cost to serve. We have been actively involved in detailed cost to serve projects since 1997. It could be said that 'we wrote the book'. Our approaches include:
- One off 'audits' to establish cost to serve issues and identify improvement plans.
- Installation of specific cost to serve models and reporting software for ongoing use.
(Note that Logistics Bureau is vendor neutral in the software selection)
Levels of Cost to Serve
Cost to serve reviews can be undertaken at a number of levels and can target:
- Supply Chain costs
- Logistics costs
- Distribution costs
- or specific functional areas such as warehousing or transport
Cost to Serve Objectives
Our objectives for cost to serve assignments, subject to customer need, can include:
- Identify high and low cost to serve products.
- Identify high and low cost to serve customers.
- Re-align distribution channels to minimise cost to serve.
- Re-align service policies to maximise profits.
- Establish ongoing reporting of Cost To Serve utilising specialist 'customer maintained' software tools.
- Establish the cost to serve to specific customers or customer groups to support PF/FGP negotiations (see below).
- Assess the cost to serve impact of mergers and acquisitions.
- Assess the cost to serve impacts of new market entries.
- Assess the cost to serve impacts of distribution network changes.
Retail Supply - Factory Gate Pricing & Primary Freight
For companies grappling with issues such as Primary Freight (PF) and Factory Gate Pricing (FGP) as introduced by many major retailers, this detailed understanding of cost to serve is vital if they are to understand the cost and service impacts on their business. Indeed negotiating PF and/or FGP agreements without this information is fraught with danger.
Cost to Serve Articles below
Cost to Serve Contacts
To find out more about cost to serve modeling, please feel free to contact with the following senior Logistics Bureau staff:
Sydney - Rob O'Byrne
Tel: +61 417 417 307
Melbourne - John Cole
Tel + 61 411 706 726
SE Asia - Colin Airdrie
Tel: +66 819 464 490
Visit here for an Introduction to Logistics Bureau
Introduction to Cost to Serve
by Rob O'Byrne
Here at Logistics Bureau we’re been conducting Cost to Serve Audits since 1997 and for companies that have never reviewed their CTS, it can deliver significant benefits. So I’d like to give you a brief view of the concept, so you can try it for yourself.
So What is Cost to Serve? Well, it’s an approach that will allow you to identify the total cost of servicing your customers, at a customer and product level; so the Business can provide appropriate levels of service to its customers; to achieve it Business goals. And why is this so important? Because many Businesses today, maybe 50-60% still adopt a one size fits all service policy – that under services some customers and over services other customers and that drives high logistics costs.
Let me give you a couple of simple examples. Your company supplies Bread to the retail market. You have grocery retail customers who order Bread by the Truck Load, literally! Your logistics costs to supply that Bread might be 50c/unit. But you also deliver to small high street customers, cafes, milk Bars and corner stores. They only order 5-10 units each time. It could be costing you 2 or 4 times as much to service those customers. If you are able to identify the costs of activities such as: Order processing, picking & packing orders, delivery, and invoicing the customer, you’ll be shocked to see the variation in cost to serve across your customer base.
You see; different customers drive different supply chain & logistics costs. Just think of the characteristics of your customers that might impact your cost to service them. Large customers; small customers; large orders, small orders; frequent orders, perhaps once per day, and less frequent, perhaps once a month. Strict delivery time windows, detailed invoices required in triplicate, constant account management needs.
And the same is true of your products. Large products that take up more warehouse space. Products that have to be kitted or bundled, products that need temperature controlled storage and many more. So, if you can identify the characteristics of your customers and products or services that drive your cost to serve, you’ll be well on your way to identify, low margin customers, low margin products or services and high cost processes. This will help you make sure all of your customers are more profitable, by providing the right service levels to the right customers.
If you have never tried taking a cost to serve view before, just see if you can identify the 20% of your customer orders, that have the smallest value. The results might shock you. It’s not unusual to see that 30% of your customer orders are so small, that once you subtract logistics costs, all margin has been eroded.
Unfortunately most ERP systems don’t have the level of detail required to carry out Cost to Serve reporting. Here at Logistics Bureau we’ve developed specialist Cost To Serve tools over the years, But you’d be surprised at what you can do yourself with some simple database and spreadsheet models. So Good luck with your Cost To Serve Analysis.
When your customers are clamouring at the factory gate!
By Rob O’Byrne
The Factory Gate Pricing (FGP) and Primary Freight (PF) strategies, as adopted by major grocery retailers are causing a shudder up the spine of many retail suppliers. The reason for this concern is quite simple: many suppliers do not have a sufficiently detailed understanding of their Supply Chain costs, to confidently sit at the negotiating table with their major customers.
For those not fully aware of what FGP and PF strategies are all about, a simplified explanation is as follows. In the past, most suppliers to major grocery chains delivered their products directly to the retail store or their customer’s distribution centres. The price paid by the retailers for these products, took account of all the costs of making and providing the products, including delivery to the customers premises. Otherwise known in shipping terms as FIS (Free Into Store).
Under the FGP and PF models, the retailers collect the products from the suppliers ‘factory gate’. The product pricing therefore becomes ex works. The difference between the FGP and PF strategies is merely the means of recovering this transport cost from the supplier. Under FGP, the supplier agrees to reduce each product by the appropriate delivery cost. Under PF, the retailer deducts an agreed transport costs from the supplier’s invoices.
Now the issue! How many retail suppliers really understand the costs involved in distribution to their customer base, to the extent that they can identify the costs associated to delivering to specific customers? This becomes very important, when dealing with customers of varying sizes, in many different geographic locations, all with different order patterns.
One of the methods available to better understand these costs, or the ‘cost to serve’ (CTS) is to undertake a cost to serve audit of the Supply Chain. The cost to serve process is not only of value to retail suppliers grappling with FGP/PF, but to all businesses wishing to better understand their Supply Chain costs.
To illustrate the application of cost to serve, two brief case studies are taken from very different industries.
Orica Mining Services (OMS) provide explosives and related services to the mining industry. Products range from packaged explosives (like the plastique you see in the movies), to detonators and bulk slurry type explosives delivered by the tanker load. The related services include surveying blast sites, drilling blast holes and even shot firing crews.
OMS saw a need to supplement their traditional financial reporting systems, to better understand the costs of providing this diverse product and service range across an even more diverse customer base stretching from Pilbara region of WA to Mt Isa in Queensland.
Without going into the intricate detail of the cost to serve process itself, this involved the collection and collation of very detailed sales transaction and cost data. Then a cost allocation exercise took place to improve on the allocation methods used within the financial systems. This invariably includes making more accurate cost allocations from costs that are normally just lumped together at a head office level.
The whole process was completed over a three month period by a joint Orica – Logistics Bureau project team. The results have proved very interesting reading and have formed the basis of a number of commercial negotiation and process improvement projects that are now underway.
Like many of these projects undertaken by Logistics Bureau, one of the enlightening aspects is to find which products and services are not making any operating margin! This was certainly the case at OMS, though there was already a suspicion that some products may have been under performing. Needless to say, measures are now underway to address the situation.
Likewise, the operating margins reported by plant, raised a few eyebrows once the traditional reporting methods were re-cut. True cost allocations now allow OMS to better focus on performance measurement and service improvement.
Tony Fedorowicz – OMS Supply Chain Manager remarked “We have struggled with understanding our cost to serve for a long time and this project with Logistics Bureau has helped us enormously. Whilst there are areas that we are now working on to improve as a result, it was also gratifying to objectively identify those areas of good performance”
The Cost to Serve project for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was conducted for the Consumer Healthcare Division. The Consumer Healthcare Division’s product lines include such notable brands as Panadol, Nicabate, Lucozade, Ribena and Macleans toothpaste. The products are distributed to grocery chains, pharmaceutical wholesalers and hospital customers.
The catalyst for the development of the CTS reporting tool was the push by the grocery retailers into FGP and PF, and the need to better understand the costs of servicing these important customers. However, it was decided by the project team to broaden the scope to include all customers, and both the freight and distribution centre costs. The rationale was, that there was minimal additional effort to include these elements of the supply chain, and the total CTS for all customers and all products, including the impact of FGP and PF on the costs to serve of non-grocery customers, could be monitored over time.
The first part of the project was the data gathering phase. This included site visits, workshops and the collection of financial, transactional and KPI information from GSK, and their third party logistics providers. Due to the effort of all parties, the data collection stage was relatively swift and painless and provided the project team with a solid foundation to build the CTS model. A summary of the main sources of information is included here.
The project team then progressed to a paper based description of the model. This document described how the costs were to be distributed in the model. There was a two stage allocation process. Initially the costs were allocated to activities and then from the activities to customers and products. The purpose of this section of the project was to communicate to GSK stakeholders, including Logistics, Sales and Finance, how the model would work in practice. The communication process ensured that the different stakeholders had input into the structure of model, obtained buy-in and allowed them to contribute to the success of the project.
The next stage was to build and populate the model. Due to the success of the data collection and model documentation phase, the building and population of the model was relatively simple. The model can report the CTS by anyone or combination of the items listed in this chart.
The project team was able to deliver various reports based on the dimensions above. Examples of the type of information included the cost to serve by product group. This graph highlights the range of costs associated with servicing the various products in the company. The range of cost to serve varies dramatically and is explained by differences in customer behaviour, such as order size and ordering frequency and also different product handling requirements.
In addition to viewing the cost to serve by product or product group, the model allowed analysis of the cost to serve by customer and customer group, such as the freight cost to serve per case, of the different customer groups.
The above are just some examples of the information extracted from the model. The model has been deemed a great success and a very short payback is expected. GSK may also review further implementations in other parts of the business.