RELEX’s first Fresh Food Supply Chain Summit, held in Switzerland last month, has been hailed as ‘cutting edge’, ‘really useful’ and ‘highly successful’.

The event, which focused on boosting profits through improving efficiency and reducing waste, was one of the highlights of our recent FreshLab programme looking at innovation in fresh food management.

Supply chain executives from Finland, Sweden, the UK, Switzerland and Germany met in the Swiss ski resort of Engelberg to discuss how to maximize the benefits of automating replenishment of fresh food.

Years of experience in working with retailers and wholesalers handling fresh food and short-shelf-life goods have taught us that tight margins mean that spoilage has a huge impact on profits. So by cutting shrinkage RELEX clients have seen a boost to profits of 25% or more.

Some of those clients gave presentations to delegates. Mushtaque Ahmed COO of London-based JJ Food Service Ltd focused on inventory management in the food service sector. JJ halved staff time spent on processing orders, reduced on hand inventory by 15% and improved availability by 10 percentage points.

Peter Klenberg, ICT and business development director and Tuomas Brunou, planning manager of Finnish wholesaler Tuko Logistics explained how Tuko had parlayed its supply chain development expertise to offer outsourced supply chain management services to its partners. Tuko has installed RELEX systems for customers including up-market department store chain Stockmann and they’ve managed to cut spoilage of fresh produce by up to 40% while achieving availability of over 99%.

Finally Esko Sutelainen vice president of Helsinki HQ’d convenience store chain Suomen Lähikauppa showed delegates how his company had rolled out automated replenishment across all 670 of its outlets in a matter of months almost immediately cutting spoilage by over 15%.

“The event was both informative and fun. The limited number of participants allowed for fruitful discussions both during the workshops and more informally. It was exciting to learn more about the most recent developments in the field as well as to notice that the challenges faced in different markets are, after all, quite similar,” said Peter Feledy, Business Area Director Corporate Accounts of Menigo.

There was more praise from other attendees. Daniel Odenthal, of MEGA Fachzentrum für Metzgerei und Gastronomie, was pleased that he “was able to take several ideas with me from the seminar that I can use in our business.”

While Suomen Lähikauppa’s Esko Sutelainen felt that “The best part was the opportunity to compare ideas and benchmark solution models with non-competing international colleagues.”

RELEX’s three founders, Mikko Kärkkäinen, Johanna Småros and Michael Falck, were also on hand to take part in workshop discussions covering issues such as campaign and promotion management, customer / channel level forecasting and safety stock optimisation.

Discussions also encompassed a range of other topics addressed in RELEX’s FreshLab programme, a series of webinars and white papers that looked in detail at the impact of best of breed forecasting on fresh food management in retail and wholesale.