Barilla SpA Case Analysis
Just In Time Distribution Systems
Barilla SpA is one of the world’s largest pasta and bread products manufacturers. They ship to small “mom and pop” stores, large independent super markets and large chain supermarkets. These customers all purchase their products through a broker or an intermediary warehouse and then the distributors (also known as “Grande Distribuzione” and “Distribuzione Organizzata”) deal with Barilla’s sales and distribution centers for Barilla’s product line is composed of “fresh” and “dry” products. Fresh pasta products have a 21-day shelf life while fresh bread has a one-day shelf life. Dry products, represent 75% of Barilla’s sales and have shelf lives ranging from 10 weeks to 24 months. It should be noted that, in total, Barilla’s dry products are offered in 800 different packaged stock keeping units (SKUs). Although Barilla offered many pasta products in multiple package types, most retailers would only carry the product in one (at two) packaging options. Currently, Barilla’s distributors check their orders and place their orders once a week. Average lead time in the current scenario is ten calendar days. While the demand for pasta is relatively flat, the variability resulting from distributors’ sales volume and demand triggered the need to find a way to “take costs out of the distribution channel without compromising customer service.”
Barilla’s dilemma revolves around how product is ordered by its distributors based on a weekly ordering system. Instead of using forecasted or actual demand data, distributors used a simple periodic-review inventory system and place orders for products whose levels fall below a targeted reorder level. This system causes an “emotional” knee jerk reaction issue when an end customer is out of product. Many times the end grocer will order more product than is necessary, as may the distributor, causing the plant to go into production for a specific product that is hugely inflated. After the customer receives the order they realize they do not need the large amount of inventory and discontinue future orders. This sinusoidal ordering effect is called the “bullwhip effect” (Graph I). As can be observed, the inventory/order levels are amplified from the downstream to the upstream channels (i.e., retailers to distributors to manufacturer) within the supply chain. This “artificial inflation” results in increased costs to the manufacturing plant, distributors and end customers because of the lack of planning, excessive overtime and inventory costs in the form of floor space and potential spoiling.