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Dialogue: Eric Fidoten -- Creating a High-Engagement Organization

Posted By Paul Tate, May 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM, in Category: Global Value Networks

Fidotenpicv2.jpgCampbell Soup’s Eric Fidoten is helping to transform the company’s culture so that staff and supply chain partners can work together to build a more agile, responsive, and competitive business.

Q. What excites you about your leadership role at Campbell Soup?

A. I have global accountability for developing Campbell’s strategic supply chain agenda and advancing our operational excellence, safety, acquisition, and work system initiatives. These platforms are critical areas where Campbell is driving to differentiate itself from its competitors to become world-class. My role affords me the opportunity and leadership platform to drive change across a global organization. The breadth and broad scope of my role is both energizing and daunting. Campbell has about 17,500 employees and nearly $8 billion in annual revenue, so it is a fairly large organization. One thing that is exciting for me, and others at the company, is the fact that people can truly make a difference here. The work I do every day has an impact on the organization.

Q. What’s your most important corporate initiative at the moment?

A. Campbell recently announced a new strategic direction under President and CEO Denise Morrison. We are focused on three core growth strategies and six enabling strategies. A critical objective for the supply chain is to play a leadership role in driving our growth strategies. In particular, the supply chain does this by delivering flat to declining total delivered cost and continuously improving fundamentals to world-class levels.

Campbell also places significant emphasis on how each employee contributes to delivering business results with integrity. It is grounded in the belief that an engaged organization will deliver superior business results. Within the supply chain, we have embarked on a transformational initiative to convert our plant operations from traditional work systems to team-based, high-engagement organizations. These changes will drive superior business results, accelerate our continuous improvement initiatives, and add to the agility and flexibility of our plants to respond to marketplace demands.

Q: What challenges still keep you awake at night?

A. Campbell is a global brand with deep consumer equity. When I tell people I work for Campbell, everyone relates to the brands and has a story to share about their favorite Campbell products, be it soups, V8 beverages, Pepperidge Farm products, or Arnott’s Tim Tam biscuits in Australia. All Campbell employees have an extraordinary responsibility to nurture and strengthen these consumer connections. In the supply chain, we go to great lengths to ensure that our food-safety and quality systems, as well as programs across the internal and external manufacturing and distribution networks, are robust. Nonetheless, we always need to be vigilant and continuously improve.

Another challenge is that the pace of change in the marketplace is constantly accelerating. Our ability to adapt with agility and respond quickly to consumer preference is critical in delivering products at the right time, with the right price point, in the right markets. Capital investment, automation, and superior systems drive efficiency and effectiveness within the supply chain. However, our differentiating factor is the capability and engagement of our Campbell supply chain associates. Effectively directing this capability gives us a unique opportunity to beat our competition. We are constantly looking for ways to ensure everyone is focused on fulfilling our consumer and customer needs.

Q: What key lessons have you learned over the past year?

A: Supply chains will always be held accountable for ensuring product supply, managing inventory, and controlling costs. At Campbell, we have benchmarked our performance within our industry, as well as outside the industry, to understand and set world-class targets. These are givens to any supply chain organization.

The breadth and depth of the recession has dramatically impacted consumer behavior, with consumers making more discriminating choices on what, and how much, they will spend, even on necessities such as food. Although consumer insights, marketing, and R&D play key roles in decoding consumer needs and product development, our supply chain’s flexibility and capability to innovate with agility is critical. The supply chain challenge is to understand how we can ensure that our asset base and systems can adapt quickly and effectively to these changes.

Q: What, in your opinion, will be the greatest opportunity for manufacturers over the next five years?

A: Regardless of marketplace changes, supply chains must first deliver best-in-industry performance on the fundamentals—safety, quality, service, cost, inventory, and commercialization—and strive for world-class performance where competitive advantage and value can be created. Effectively addressing emerging trends is also critical. These trends include increasing manufacturing flexibility and agility, forging upstream and downstream integration with strategic suppliers and customers, and enabling the business to bring innovation to the market in a way that is cost effective and quick.

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive

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