Video: How GRA adds value to our Clients' supply chains

GRA Partner Carter McNabb talks with GRA Director Dan Knox about GRA’s value proposition – explaining in detail how we create value for our clients.

In the interview Carter answers the following questions:

  • What is GRA’s value proposition?
  • How does GRA deliver on that?
  • What areas does GRA work in?
  • Who has GRA worked with recently?


Dan Knox: So Carter, what's GRA's value proposition?

Carter McNabb: Our value proposition is that we turn our customer's supply chains into a competitive advantage.

Dan Knox: And how do you deliver on that?

Carter McNabb: The short way of answering that is that we work with you until sustainable results are delivered.

How do we do that? The first way in which we do that is find optimal options with a blend of experienced strategic thinking, and also detailed data analysis.

The second way that we do that is very carefully and consciously engage with the team and the culture of the business to ensure that whatever options that we agree to take forward are actually owned by the team, and they feel it's their world, their decision, and have the passion and mind that's required to make sure that's sustainable in the future.

And the third way that we do that is we work side-by-side with our clients, both at the operational and the management or executive levels to ensure that the new behaviours are adopted, embedded. And by the time that we start to pull back, the business sees it as, this is the way we do things around here. So it's sustainable, it's owned, and again, we can always get back to the original business case to make sure that we're on track.

Dan Knox: Carter, can you tell me a little bit more about some of the areas that GRA work in?

Carter McNabb: At a high level, I'd say that we work in supply chain and procurement, strategy, planning, and execution.

So breaking that down a bit more. Strategy is really around network design and planning. So what sort of supply chain do we want to have globally and/or locally? What are the factors that influence that? How do we make sure that's resilient, it's optimised, and actually provides for some resilience in the future as well. We also do a lot of work in insourcing, outsourcing decisions. So what do we need to have internally? What can be outsourced, as appropriate.

We also do work in procurement strategy and strategic sourcing, so I gave some examples of that before, and also do a lot of work in the organisational design. So again, what sort of organisational capabilities and structures are required to deliver the new way, 'cause it's one thing to design it. It's another thing to live it, so we have to be very conscious of both the strategic view, the business case, the network structures, and also the people and process capabilities required to deliver that.

The second area that we work in is what we call planning. So once we have a clear picture of what the supply chain needs to look like, we then have to plan the activity on it, and that really lives in areas like S&OP, integrated business planning, demand planning, inventory optimisation, replenishment planning, and from a procurement perspective, also the category planning. And so again what we're doing here is we're trying to optimise the decisions we're making about what needs to go where and when. So again, to minimise the amount of inventory, maximise the service level, and also make sure that there's cost efficiencies.

The third area that we work in, in terms of those levels, is the execution area. And execution here is once we've planned our network and we know what it looks like, we've got the activity profile. What are the things that we're going to do to make sure that happens? And so that's really around warehousing. So it can be warehouse design, construct. It could be all of the warehouses practises and process and technologies. So what's right to deliver that outcome and to make sure we can service the business efficiently and we have the right capacity.

We also look at that in terms of transportation. So again, transportation management and planning, and some of that can tie back into the insourcing, outsourcing question.

And there's also that piece on contract execution and contract management to make sure that everything that we're doing is aligned with the premise and the performance guarantee that we had in our procurement arrangements.

If I then look at the ways in which we engage, those are sort of the levels or the categories, the ways we engage is we can work on a professional services basis.

Professional services means that we might have somebody working as a member of your team, if that's something that you want in the business as part of the team on a full-time or otherwise basis to, again, build the capability internally and create something that can be owned and handed over to the business over time.

We also engage in an advisory or consulting capacity as well. And again, that's looking for opportunities, finding the options, and kind of figuring out that way forward together.

We also have a benchmarking capability, and our benchmarking's a bit different because it's not just benchmarking of the financial and service outcomes. It does have that, but it also has some benchmarks around process performance. So we can start to make that correlation between processes and practises and outcomes, and that's quite powerful to see.

We've also got a training and education business called Supply Chain Business Institute, and we do individual tailored courses for organisations. We do mentoring programmes for people in the business that you want to build capabilities within, and we also do public, best practise short courses in a variety of topics as well, which are very well attended.

The last sort of category is systems. We believe technology is quite essential on supply chain, so we use technology to support a lot of our analysis work, and also to implement within businesses to increase capability. And some of those systems include GAINS, which is a best practise demand inventory optimisation replenishment planning system. Also has neural network and artificial intelligence capabilities, which is very powerful, and it's kind of a new leading-edge capability we're seeing in the market.

We also work with JDA, which is a broader suite. Also has forecasting and planning, but a lot in the network strategy and design. We've done some work with Llamasoft as well, which is also network design and strategy. We've got a relationship with Zycus, which is sort of a large-scale procurement platform. And a variety of other tools. We've got some in-house tools we've developed. We've also worked with most of the major, well actually, all of the major ERP systems in quite a deep way, and a lot of the other best in class or best practise systems.

Dan Knox: Well thank you, Carter. Can you give me an example of some of the industries that GRA work with, and maybe have some examples of some clients that you've worked with?

Carter McNabb: We work in a variety of industries. At one stage, I would have said we largely work with capital-intensive businesses. That's not so much the case anymore, because we've been doing a lot of work in organisations that are more process-based or service-based. So it might be the Australian Electoral Commission. That's the whole secure logistics piece around the balloting. We've done some work with KinCare, which was an in-home age care health provider, and that was really look more of a people capability supply chain. So it's certainly broadening.

If I go back to some of the core industry sectors, the main one would be retail. And some of the key clients in the retail sector would be Woolworths, Metcash, Aldi, 7-Eleven, The Reject Shop, Officeworks, Pepkor, which is Harris Scarfe and Best & Less and Collette, which is a fast fashion business. The reason why I've named those is because it's one thing to say retail, but are we talking about fresh food, are we talking about auto parts, or are we talking about fast fashion? They all have very different characteristics, and there's some similarities as well. But again, it's a broad range of different retail organisations we've worked with within that sector.

So another sector that we work in is manufacturing and distribution. Again, it's one thing to call it an industry sector. There are differences within each sector. So we've done a lot of work with the FMCG businesses. We have a partnership with the AFGC as well, with the Australian Food and Grocery Council. But some of our specific clients include Simplot, Lion Dairy & Drinks, Fonterra, and that can go across to some of the more heavy industrial-type businesses, such as, say, Laminex, Nuplex, and some of the major steel companies. And I'll put Orora in the mix as well, the old Amcor business.

The next sector is mining and resources. That has a different focus. So if I look at retail and manufacturing distribution, it's very much focused on the product. With mining and resources, it's often aftermarket or more of the services that are provided. So a few of those organisations are Coastal Oil Logistics, Rio Tinto, and Queensland Nitrates. So the next sector that I'll name is health and pharmaceuticals. I think there's a theme emerging here. It's one thing to say the sector, but again, there are differences within the sector.

We've worked with a number of the pharmaceutical suppliers. So Symbion Pharmacy Services has been a very long-standing client. We've done some work with Sigma, CH2, Clifford Hallam Healthcare, which is a wholesale supplier to the hospitals. We're also doing some work currently with New South Wales Pathology, and also KinCare.

I mentioned KinCare before. KinCare's an interesting one, because it's not a standard product supply chain. It was a services supply chain, and the question there was how to optimise and plan and match the right skills with the care requirements in that sort of organisation, and we see that as a growing opportunity in the sector simply because of the demographics of Australia.

So another sector that we've had a longstanding relationship with is defence and government. Have worked with the Australian Defence Force pretty much since the inception of GRA, about 23 years ago, so very longstanding relationship there, and very broad. We've also more recently done some work with Australian Border Force, and we also have an arrangement with Thales, which is a defence industry supplier, back to defence, where defence has asked them to take over the maintenance and management of some of the equipment they supply in defence. And we're in partnership with Thales, doing a lot of the supply chain planning work associated with one that on a full-time basis. So that's quite exciting. We see that as a growing area of the business.

We're also doing quite a bit of work with Sydney Trains, and I think I mentioned before the Australian Electoral Commission. And that's around the secure balloting and processing centres for the ballots. So the last industry sector I'll name is automotive, aerospace, and rail.

There's lots of other industry sectors I could name, but I'm just trying to consolidate to a handful for brevity's sake. These types of supply chains aren't primary product supply chains, so it's not a product going to a customer. They seem to be more what we call MRO, or maintenance repair overhaul, heavy asset that's really more focusing on the consumables, repairables, and rotables, and spare parts that support a infrastructure network.

So one of our clients in that space was Horizon, which used to be the freight part of Queensland Rail. So there's been a whole lot of work there around procurement, supply chain, strategy, and planning capability, and, again, that's all for the service parts and the service supply chain to support that infrastructure network.

We've also done a lot of work for Qantas. So again, that's the consumables, rotables, and spare parts for the aircraft. That's looking at the supply chain network, again, the planning of those parts and also the warehousing components.

Another organisation we've worked with in that space is BA Systems, so again, one of the defence providers providing equipment, and again, looking at that support component. And then I moved more into kind of the consumer space.

We've done a lot of work with some of the automotive suppliers like Honda Australia and Renault Nissan, typically focusing on their customer service division, which is, again, all the aftermarket componentry and the support as well.

Dan Knox: Well Carter, thank you very much for your time today.

Carter McNabb: Been my pleasure, Dan. Thank you for your time.


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"GRA helped us implement their recommendations; from structural changes and planning tool selection through to the development of our customised S&OP process. Because of this work our supply chain is in a much stronger position.”

– Terry White, Global Planning Manager, Comvita

Typical results

  • 20-40% inventory investment reduction
  • increased service levels ranging up to 99.9%
  • 10%-15% reduction in supply chain operating costs
  • 5%-20% spend management savings
  • the ability to fund business initiatives from operating cash flow (OCF) improvements
  • improved return on capital employed (ROCE)
  • a minimum 3:1 ROI (10:1 to 30:1 typical)