CHICAGO -- Lagging use of electronic data interchange for a broader range of transactions and lackluster distributor attendance at the annual Efficient Consumer Response conference were two core issues tackled at a recent ECR Operating Committee meeting here.
The meeting, held Aug. 6 to 7, focused on progress and plans in the four key "performance group" areas of activity-based costing, continuous replenishment programs, category management and electronic data interchange. It also explored plans for next year's Joint Industry Conference on ECR, March 19 to 21 in Atlanta, and at possible future directions of committee work.
One area that drew considerable attention involved electronic data interchange. While the industry has forged ahead in transmitting purchase orders and invoices via EDI, it has been slow to embrace the technology for other transactions.
"When we look back on ECR, perhaps our biggest disappointment has been that EDI, a technology around for 10 years, has not moved faster. Some companies are living the vision, but many aren't," Jack Haedicke, vice president of ECR at Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., and co-chairman of the ECR Operating Committee, told SN.
To chart a path for moving forward, a survey is now being conducted to determine more precisely the current status of EDI use in the industry and to determine implementation plans and priorities over the next 12 months, Haedicke said.
By now, everyone understands the benefits of transmitting POs and invoices via EDI, "but the issue of advance ship notices, for instance, and who benefits is a little more subtle. We're trying to get the data right so everyone understands where we are today and to establish what (that??)everyone's priorities are going forward," he said.
Plans call for the EDI survey's results to be presented at an ECR Executive Committee meeting on Nov. 14 to 15, he added.
In other performance group matters, Haedicke said a dictionary defining ABC models at different stages in the value chain will be issued by year's end. An illustrative ABC case history involving H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, is also being developed.
In the area of CRP, three ECR committee initiatives are under way. One is a study of optimum order quantities and potential trade-offs between using full vs. partial pallet loads. Another is an ABC study on CRP benefits and a third is a document outlining CRP success stories and failures.
The big news in category management is the expected release of an efficient assortment document by the end of the month and the preparation of illustrative case studies due out later this year, Haedicke said.
The meeting also focused considerable attention on attracting more retailers and wholesalers to next year's conference. "We still have a concern about distributor attendance. That's probably our overriding concern [about the show], and we're spending a great deal of time to make sure we have topics that will appeal to them," he said.
The goal for next year's show is to attract 1,600 to 1,700 attendees. To help accomplish that, the committee is striving to refine its workshop topic offering even further and to make sure that practical, real-life ECR experiences -- and not just theory -- are shared in the sessions.
"We want to have practice, we want to have practitioners, we want to have partners. If we're talking category management, it's got to be P&G and Vons, for instance, up there talking and sharing," he said.
Regarding future plans, the committee plans to take up the matter in more depth at a meeting on Sept. 19, Haedicke said.