BT is one of the most recognisable brands in the UK, operating successfully over the years upon a bedrock of core market facing businesses; BT Supply Chain has underpinned each of these, providing valuable experience of how supply chain can enable greater business success.
Historically providing the logistical knowhow and efficiencies to help the entire organisation run as effectively and safely as possible, the team of around 850 people has long provided the supply chain planning and logistics which helps to enable BT’s market facing businesses.
These are the words of Managing Director, Nicholas Hale, who was brought into his current position to steer BT Supply Chain and BT Cables towards the next stage of development.
“Across each area of supply chain operations we support between 40,000 and 50,000 individual orders a day. We are responsible for supply chain planning, logistics, critical spares management and inventory performance amongst many other value-added integrated services such as staging, configuration, cable management, testing and repair, and inventory performance” he explained.
“Over the past 18 months, having got that capability to critical mass, we’ve opened our doors to the external market working with target customers that like us have significant engineering field forces. We’re increasingly working with those organisations and providing similar services to them throughout our network, particularly in the UK.”
Sustainable supply chain
Replicating the internal processes to external markets required and his team to pinpoint efficiencies on a whole new level, subsequently pinpointing the key areas of service offerings that could apply across the entire spectrum of customers.
This led to what Nicholas describes as a three-pronged strategy existing as part of an omnichannel supply chain model.
“Our strategy can be encompassed under a rather simple statement which is used time and time again: ‘rethink what your supply chain can deliver’,” he said. “The three things which we believe are significant for external customers are working collaboratively to deliver a differentiated customer experience, transforming costs, and ensuring there is a sustained platform for growth through capacity and capability, but also sustainability.”
BT Supply Chain has subsequently made giant strides through “BT Collect”, a term it uses to describe initiates that use its own transport network to collect and transport inbound products, vastly reducing the amount of miles covered throughout the distribution process. Sterlite, a supplier of fibre cable products to BT Group, is one example of where we have been able to utilise the BT Supply Chain capabilities to provide logistics and other related services so that together we deliver additional value across the supply chain.
Nicholas continued: “Within performance against the key target metrics, one of the critical aspects of our inventory management continues to be stock dimensioning, ensuring that critical spares and other high value equipment is in the right place to minimise response times to service incidents and also the distance a product needs to travel.
“Engineers want spares to be 30 miles away and not 100, so customers get back online quicker while we also minimise our carbon footprint and the cost to serve in the process.”
The company has so far reduced inbound response times by 52 percent, while around 30 percent of its shipments from the docks or in the UK are now arriving via its own BT Supply Chain vehicles.
These same benefits reach to the external market as well, with BT Supply Chain on hand across a wider footprint to meet needs of suppliers quicker, ensuring vast improvements are being made in regard to rapid response times, and right-first-time occurrences.
For many companies, taking a set of services, regardless of previous successes, to a new market or customer base would come engulfed in marketing and entrepreneurial challenges, but BT Supply Chain arrived on the scene with one readymade trump-card; the scale and breadth of the existing infrastructure and services need to support BT Group business. Alongside BT Supply Chain is also BT Cables, a UK based manufacturer and supplier of cable products working with external customers across the rail, telecoms and infrastructure sectors.
“To help build on each of these assets we are able to leverage many group initiatives that further support what we have set out to deliver, both for internal and external customers. There are many parts of BT which contain hugely valuable experiences and skills, such as continuous improvement and lean, so it would be foolish of us not to benefit from them,” Hale said. “We’re proud of what we’ve established and achieved as a team at BT Supply Chain.
Management communities and academies that already exist within BT are also optimised within the BT Supply Chain business, while the company works alongside the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport as well to accredit people at various levels to aid their own and the company’s supply chain skills development.
Through the established expertise at BT’s disposal and the successful business model that BT Supply Chain has been able to replicate across the company, consumers and external businesses, the necessity of optimising an omnichannel supply chain is being put into practice to great effect.
Overseeing all channels, a BT Supply Chain control tower ensures that the service is continually managed in real time, challenged and redesigned as needed to make it as efficient, responsive and flexible as possible. nnovation is also key to this strategy, as Hale explained: “Within London, we are increasingly using public transport and our own feet to move time critical engineering spares and B2C orders around town because it’s quicker. We use a hand carry solution because, for example, the best way from Edgware Road to Canary Wharf is not in a small van, it’s on the underground.
“Again, this also reduces the cost base and carbon footprint, and we’ll be rolling that out to seven cities in the UK by the end of the year.”
Unique initiatives such as this are indicative of the market understanding that BT Supply Chain has, primarily providing for an increasingly demanding set of customers in all sectors, but particularly those with an engineering field force and similar challenges to that of BT Group businesses.
Hale continued: “Inconvenience’ is increasingly simply not a tolerated word. People want a huge amount of flexibility and options, and with minimised time scales.”
Not necessarily constrained to just B2B or B2C customers, it is this realisation that BT Supply Chain addresses in an attempt to converge the two markets as seamlessly as possible.
“I would like to be in a situation where we would no longer talk about B2B or B2C but we talk about different customer segments with different nuances of solutions or service requirements,” Hale concluded. “B2B and the supply chain has not always been dynamic enough in general and has not been thought about enough from the customer perspective that B2C always has.
“Ultimately, our ambition is to be able to say that anyone who has engaged with and received a service from BT Supply Chain will have felt that it served their needs when expected, at an appropriate level of cost and with an appropriate level of insight. But beyond that we together clearly positively impacted their business strategy and performance by rethinking what the supply chain could deliver.”
“Supply chains can’t be passive things and they have not had the credibility and business-backing that they should in the past. People’s expectations are raised now though and we have a fantastic opportunity ahead.”