Archives for February 2010

Packaging as a Marketing Tool

By Herb Shields | 02/24/2010 | 6:52 AM


Packaging is back as an important marketing tool according to Ralph Blessing, Exec. Vice President of GfK Custom Research – North America.  I met with Ralph recently to get a perspective from the market research point of view.  (Full disclosure, Ralph and I are former colleagues from Helene Curtis/Unilever.)


Even private label brands are making an effort to develop distinctive packages for their products in an effort to capture the consumer as she roams the aisles.  Major marketers are combining unique package design and functionality as a way to innovate, versus product performance.  Just take a walk down the daily hair care aisle and see what is going on.


From a supply chain perspective, executing the designs, tooling the packaging, and staying cost competitive are all challenges that must be addressed. Integrating product development and package engineering with strategic sourcing and inventory planning is a challenge for most companies.  It has never been easy to use up all of the old inventory as the new design is phased in.  I remember that at Helene Curtis, we assigned a project manager and a buyer to work with package engineers and marketing on this type of transition.  We were fortunate to have a large enough business to support the necessary manpower.  If your company does not have the resources, then you should try and assign a person to manage the entire process. Package re-redesigns require some hands-on attention because of the complexities mentioned above.  Include your suppliers as part of the project team.  Since suppliers are usually responsible for producing the new packages, labels, etc. they can add a lot of value to the process if given the opportunity.


Consumers in general are spending more cautiously as we continue economic recovery.  Package design will likely continue to be an important differentiator in consumer products.

Finding the right people/ people looking for jobs

By Herb Shields | 02/05/2010 | 11:01 AM


PriceWaterhouseCooper’s recently published Global CEO survey stated that 40% of CEO’s plan to increase their workforce in 2010. With U.S. unemployment at 10% and many experienced, capable people out of work, what is going on and how does it affect supply chain managers?


One result of the recession was that many people lost their jobs, and many of those jobs will not be re-filled for years, if ever.  However, the truth is that some of the losses were opportunities for companies to eliminate people who were at the low end of the performance curve.  I think we all recognize that even when companies are cutting at one end, they make strategic hires in other areas.  So the sorting out process is well underway as we continue to recover from the worst of the recession.



People are the most critical asset in any supply chain.  Companies can build the most efficient factories and warehouses, they can partner with excellent suppliers, and develop the best processes and products, but their supply chain will only be as good as the people in all of its many jobs.  Big companies have had this figured out for a long time, although not every big company necessarily practices good human resource management.  It is harder for small to mid size companies for several reasons:


First, by definition, smaller companies have fewer people, so each person becomes more critical and his or her skill set can potentially add a lot of value.  P&G, Unilever, Kraft Foods, etc. have thousands of people working in their supply chains, so one person really cannot bring down the ship.  Not so in a smaller organization where departments or functions have 1 or 2 individuals.


Second, once people start their careers in large organizations, they tend to overlook the opportunities that smaller companies offer.  In fairness, small companies cannot afford to match the salary ranges and benefits offered by the Fortune 500, but they can offer more stability, visibility, and other benefits to their employees.  It is the small companies where new jobs are more likely to be created which potentially offers growth opportunities for all its employees.  However, one challenge for the mid size firm is to provide on-going training and development opportunities for its employees.  In large businesses, training is a regular activity, budgets are created, and programs are offered in house or through outside sources.  Small firms need to create the same type of opportunity especially for supply chain people because the processes, systems, and customer demands are constantly changing.


For supply chain managers who are hiring, please comment if you see anything that I missed in terms of the job market.  For those job-seekers, keep at it, do as much networking as possible, and practice your interviewing skills, and I hope that you find the next opportunity soon.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Herb Shields

Herb Shields

Herb Shields has run Chicago-based HCS Consulting since 2000, helping clients across multiple industries and in higher education improve their supply chain strategy and execution. Shields has more than 30 years as an operations executive for capital equipment, automotive, electrical machinery and consumer products companies. As vice president of materials management at consumer goods company Helene Curtis, Shields led the supply chain organization that helped Helene Curtis win "Vendor of the Year" awards from Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp. Shields has a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University and did graduate work in business at Bowling Green State University.


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