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Lean Six Sigma at a Big 4 Retailer

I lead a Supply chain improvement at a top 5 Retailer in the UK that not only resulted in £57M cost savings and 30% reduction in lead time but also dramatic behavioural changes  a truly working cross-functional team and with increased responsibility and accountability resulted high performing employees.



The Retailer had a major issue with their supply chain and the products were not landing on time which meant loss Sales. The critical path for their supply chain was not effective.




  1. Very little information was readily available, data gathering was quiet complex ; therefore identifying and understanding the issues and then delivering a solution within 3 months was a key challenge

  2.  The Solution that I had to propose was to be simple and non complex as it was aimed at varied stakeholders and one version of the truth.

  3.  Even if I come up with magic one solution I had to get the buy-in of various stakeholders to agree to a common solution within a short period




  1. To gather data, I interviewed about 50 different colleagues across all functions and departments, did store and distribution centre walkthroughs, gathered information and benchmarked against parent company and . I also enrolled with the Global Supply Chain
    Council , where I gathered best practices, KPI’s , Information on competitors


  2. There were 50 different versions of the critical path each with up to 50 lines of tasks by function , by department. The break through moment , was when I inferred from the information available that defining the critical path in terms of process flow would merge all functional and departmental critical path into one. Thus a new critical path was borne.  It had only 14 steps and it was defined in terms of the process flow like strategy review meeting held, buy plan signed off, buy trip conducted etc..

  3. To get the buy-in of all stakeholders, I started involving them from the start; to break the functional silos, I set up a cross functional team of 14 representatives from each function.  By bringing them together they could appreciate the issues of each other and also able to provide solution and share ideas. Thus they were able to produce sensible ideas to reduce lead times.(Used DMAIC – tools as-is , to be , 5s Fishbone, Pareto Analysis)

  4. I also set up a communication  via e-mails, newsletters, townhall sessions for information, clarification and  addressing fears and concerns outside of the project team.  There was complete visibility of what was happening outside of the project group

  5. Training gaps were identified and  training plans were in place as simple as coupling a junior buyer with a senior buyer






  1. Created a critical path that was easy to understand and was one version of the truth.

  2. 30% reduction in lead time.

  3. Identified cost savings worth £57M

  4. Benchmarking internally and externally to set targets for improvement

  5. Recommended best practices such as VMI, SRM and forecasting

  6. Defined Metrics/KPI for monitoring performance

  7. Drastic behavioural changes, successful working of a truly cross functional team for the first time in history of the Retailer, broke silos , increased responsibility and accountability and thus improved staff performance

  8. Introduced innovative solution such as Visual Merchandising,  at home buy trip, pre pallatising, rightsizing etc


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