Viewpoints

Industry Collaboration Marks Important Milestone

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Here’s a question to separate industry veterans from later arrivals.

What is Efficient Consumer Response?

If you need to use your smartphone to look up the answer, you’re not one of those who can recall the flurry of activity around that groundbreaking initiative to improve the supply chain, reduce costs and better serve consumers.

The industry now marks the 20th anniversary of ECR’s birth at a 1992 educational session at the GMA Executive Conference, as we were reminded last week in a special salute during this year’s GMA Executive Conference in Colorado Springs.  For two decades we’ve seen the benefits of ECR, which spawned “a whole bevy of new collaborative programs,” including category management, activity based costing, scorecards, scan-based trading and others, said Gary Rodkin, CEO of ConAgra Foods and GMA chairman.

“But more importantly, out of ECR came a new brand of partnering between manufacturers and distributors that up to that point hadn’t existed,” he added.

Elaborating on that point, Fred Morganthall, president of Harris Teeter and the current FMI chairman, said, “ECR did in fact set the tone for the productive business relationships that we’ve established with our manufacturer partners.”

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A sign of advancing progress was the creation of the Trading Partner Alliance, established nearly four years ago, which focuses on issues ranging from supply chain to food safety.

The effectiveness of relationships keeps accelerating. In one case spotlighted at the GMA event, Sam’s Club and some of its key supplier partners have boosted their collaboration and fueled their businesses through a three-year-old effort to improve joint business planning.

Individuals are being recognized for their efforts. Last week Joe Sheridan, president and COO  of Wakefern Food Corp., received GMA’s Industry Collaboration Leadership Award.

Of course there’s still lots of room for improvement, but probably the only thing that could derail momentum would be a backtracking from the win-win approach to relationships that’s become more prevalent.

We may never again see an industry initiative with the sweeping impact of ECR, which over the years has gained a widespread global following. However, we may not need another project on this scale, because ECR launched a new collaborative era, now 20 years old, that continues to produce big and small gains in all corners of the industry.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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