Work to do, but retail code gains traction

Woolworths says despite the odds, the Retail Code of Conduct brought it together with arch rivals Coles and Metcash to address Chain of Responsibility (CoR)

Work to do, but retail code gains traction
Work to do, but retail code gaining traction

By Anna Game-Lopata | February 23, 2011

Woolworths General manager Logistics Geoff Thomas says despite the odds, the National Retail Code of Conduct brought it together with arch rivals Coles and Metcash to address Chain of Responsibility (CoR).

Thomas says the
code, an initiative of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC),
has enabled supply chain stakeholders to drill down to the level of detail required to pull together processes in a safe way.

Thomas admits gaining buy-in for the concept has taken a long time, but argues it is exceedingly difficult when you’re dealing with industries as large as the retail and FMCG sectors.

"We advocate that a unilateral approach simply will not work," Thomas says.

"The challenge is complex because the supply chain involves so many players at different levels.

"The Retail Code of Conduct
is focused on getting involvement from all the players and we’ve spent quite a bit of time coming up with principles addressing how we’re going to achieve best practice in the area of safety and improve how industry operates," he says.

The ten-point code addresses retailers’ obligations under Chain of Responsibility and driver fatigue legislation which came into force in 2005.

The National Retail Code of Conduct was formally launched in 2006.

Adopted initially by Coles, Woolworths, Metcash and Linfox, the code now has over 50 signatories in the retail and FMCG sectors.

Its managing committee currently has representatives from the likes of Coca-Cola Amatil, Mars and SCA, while carriers include Linfox, Toll
and the Glen Cameron Group.

The binding nature of the code covers Chain of Responsibility, OH&S, fatigue management legislation, scheduling, time slots, waiting times and loading and unloading regulations.

"We’ve had some success and traction with the code," Thomas says.

"We’ve identified issues with those involved to manage the legal obligations and understand our responsibilities in the chain," he says.

Thomas says the key issue is how to come up with a view that covers processes and flows over to responsibility in an equitable manner.

"The code enables the sort of representation you need to achieve that," he says.

"The tools and the guidelines are now in to make a difference, particularly for those newly coming on board to the Code," Thomas says.

With audits the backbone of the Retail Code of Conduct, Thomas says much of the success of the work being done by Woolworths and other signatories involves making it robust and legally binding.

"It’s not about what a retailer says, it’s about the chain and how we work together to play a role," Thomas says.

"We promote high standards of accountability and best practice for industry, beyond legal compliance to be ahead of the game."

According to Thomas, processes including load consolidation by the carriers need more focus as the next step towards true best practice.

"Retailers allocate a schedule allowing for safe driving time with a time slot for delivery into the Distribution Centre (DC)," he explains.

"Once a carrier has been engaged to perform the task, building the load including consolidating multiple customers often takes place without the mutual responsibility you need to drive the process safely.

"Our biggest focus is on what happens next, so when the carrier consolidates the load the driving schedule maintains the integrity it needs."

Thomas says creating visibility around that process represents a real opportunity for Woolworths.

"The next thing on the agenda for the code is to focus on how we manage early arrivals at the DCs, order accuracy and consolidated loads so as to understand the impact on safe driving schedules."

Thomas says Woolworths has developed technology to capture information that will be used to understand where safety hotspots still exist.

"A lot of work still remains to be done. But what this team is now about is undertaking some of that hard yakka to drill down to a level of detail that will make a difference.

"The agenda now exists and we’ve done some great work to date and it needs to continue."

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