ICA Sweden, one of the biggest retailers in the Nordic region, is the supplier for 1300 independently operated stores that together account for nearly 40% of Sweden’s grocery market. In 2017, ICA Sweden partnered with RELEX to unify their forecasting and replenishment planning by standardizing workflows across the organization and enabling data sharing both within the group and with suppliers.
Andreas Persson, Director of Replenishment, and Richard Belec, Business and IT Development Manager, sat down to share why ICA Sweden decided to partner with RELEX to achieve their goals, how they are driving forecast accuracy and vendor collaboration improvements, and the importance of cultural fit when selecting a technology partner.
Andreas Persson: My name is Andreas Persson. I’m Director of Replenishment.
Richard Belec: My name is Richard Belec. I’m a Business and IT Development Manager.
AP: ICA is Sweden’s largest food retailer, with 1,300 stores across the country.
RB: About five years ago, we felt that we had to do something in the forecasting and replenishment area. We had a forecasting engine that we thought was performing pretty well. But the challenge with that forecasting engine is that it was custom-made and not future-proof. We wanted to do something about that.
Well, we selected RELEX as a partner and a solution. If I take the functionality first, we saw that RELEX had what we were looking for – a forecasting engine and an automated replenishment solution that was very well integrated.
AP: We’ve been partnering with RELEX for a number of years, and RELEX has helped us in various areas of our supply chain throughout the years. But I think I will talk a little bit more about the specific example that we had recently. RELEX has helped us provide good and accurate forecasts for campaign uplifts and promotional uplifts in the stores. It helped them to provide better and more accurate orders into ICA centrally. It has helped to reduce waste, and it’s also helped to improve sales. So, it’s been very successful.
Vendor collaboration is an area which I am very fond of, and with RELEX we have improved or made it easier to share forecasts with the supplier. But I think sharing focus is one thing, but really important is how to have a dialogue around discrepancies in terms of what we believe we will be selling versus what the supply may think – and have the open and transparent dialogue with the suppliers. And also, that they are transparent to us to tell us about problems that will occur so, we have the chance to react to them together before they hit the customer.
From my perspective, I give you my private feedback or personal feedback in terms of what do I like with working with RELEX. That’s a few things to me that stand out. One is the really true, and I say this in the most lovely way, “nerdship”, “nerdiness” of really trying to understand supply chain and supply chain problems. And that RELEX is really proud of their product and they really want it to work. And they have a detailed and thorough knowledge of how supply chain work. But I also think very importantly, it’s also caring about us as a customer that we together succeed with the project.
RB: When we choose a supplier and a system. One of the important things is what we call the “cultural fit”. It’s a little bit of a soft metric, but for us, very important that we have a partner that we like, and they like us. And the people here at ICA and the people of RELEX, we found each other on all the levels and also in the management levels.
And I also see that when we started to work together that they were very flexible and pragmatic, and we don’t like long big projects. And with RELEX, we could be pretty fast, swift, and flexible.