The Joint Industry ECR Operating Committee, charged with setting priorities and executing project initiatives, is heading into a new era of Efficient Consumer Response with a full slate of programs.
It also is moving forward with a revised organizational focus and a slimmed-down roster of official executive members.
The makeup of the operating committee and its renewed ECR focus were detailed in an interview with Jack Haedicke, vice president of activity-based costing at Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., and Harvey McCoy, vice president of grocery category management at H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio.
McCoy and Haedicke are co-chairmen of the committee.
The ECR Operating Committee will focus on three main bodies of work: completing unfinished tasks from the initial ECR agenda, education and communication, and continual improvement.
· Unfinished Work: Under the area of completing unfinished work, the committee will oversee the publication of remaining best practices reports, analyze the current status of ECR progress and identify potential new opportunities to add value to the initiative.
"Completing unfinished work, for example, involves publishing the remaining reports. There are about two reports to go. It also entails gap analysis, looking at what we've done and seeing what gaps need to be addressed over the next year or two, such as efficient promotions and pulling in consumers," Haedicke said.
"Also under unfinished work is the Kurt Salmon status report on ECR, which will be conducted annually. Kurt Salmon Associates will still do the report, but we're going to have a heavier hand in focusing it to represent the changing interests of the committee," he said.
· Education and Communication: The education and training component will involve planning and executing the annual Joint Industry ECR Conference, scheduled for March 20 to 22 in Chicago; producing a series of CD-ROM summaries of key reports; creating an electronic bulletin board for sharing information, and getting the word out about important ECR events.
"The CD-ROM summaries would address the difficulty of weeding through 15 books on ECR. Where do you start? There's no real easy way to access all the information. CD-ROM will provide a way to access the relevant sections more easily. It will serve an easier reference tool," McCoy said.
"There will be two CD-ROMs. One will be a summary of all the reports and contain presentations by industry leaders on specific ECR topics. The second will be the full reports," Haedicke said.
"We haven't begun releasing the CD-ROMs yet. Our plan is to present it for approval at the next Executive Committee meeting in October. If we get final approval, we'll then shoot to get them out in November. We haven't set a price for it yet," he added.
The committee also is looking into creating an electronic bulletin board for posting information about new ECR initiatives and upcoming events.
"There could also be discussion groups. It will operate via the Internet. It could be a real creative vehicle for getting information out on a timely basis. It will begin by the end of the year," Haedicke said.
· Continual Improvement: The committee will explore several key elements within continual improvement, including producing a scorecard for benchmarking ECR progress, providing better direction on how to proceed with category management and organizing a series of project-specific user groups.
"The scorecard would look at different areas of ECR and then provide the user with a framework for prioritizing needs and benchmarking progress. We're hoping to present the first scorecard to the Executive Committee in October and to have it available later this year," McCoy said.
In terms of category management, the goal is "to get down to actual war stories and present concrete examples of how people have moved forward with this, and as a result, done a better job in pulling in the consumer. We hope to have a new category management report available before the ECR conference next year," Haedicke said.
The committee also is organizing a series of user groups to discuss specific areas of ECR. The first groups will focus on practices such as electronic data interchange and continuous replenishment that are already being used by many companies.
"We're going to start with a relatively small number of groups and include people already far along the road in adopting some ECR principles," Haedicke said. "We're going to get two groups running this year. Next year we'll probably branch into areas such as ABC and category management. Other user groups will crop up as the need arises." The revised slate of initiatives, however, is not the only thing that has changed. Now that virtually all the best practices reports have been published and the theoretical elements of ECR explored, the number of executives involved in the official ECR operating committee structure has shrunk radically, from about 180 to 18 people.
"Just because we're now down to about 18 folks doesn't mean the challenge is less. The emphasis has changed. A lot of the issues requiring discussion and clarification up front are gone. We're now focusing on getting tangible results," Haedicke said.
"People are implementing their own ECR decisions internally. We're depending more on individual action and the ability of people to access experts throughout the industry and move forward at their own companies," he added.