It’s no secret that today’s consumers demand higher standards, are more vocal on their experiences and are more cost-conscious—in fact, 89% of consumers in 2023 changed their spending habits to prioritize products that offer the best value for money and help them find ways to save on expenses.
In this challenging landscape, quality is more important than ever as a real differentiator. To uplevel their value propositions, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and food & beverage (F&B) enterprises need to find a new approach to quality: a proactive, strategic approach, that is embedded in all the processes and allows to create the best experience possible for the end consumer.
One of the critical elements that is required by this new approach is efficient collaboration across the entire product value chain. Whether collaboration is across internal teams or with external organizations, this is fundamental to help companies drive excellence, boost product innovation through strategic partnership and deliver superior quality.
Backed by expert insights from industry leaders, here are three best practices quality teams should keep top of mind:
1. Improve communication and connectivity across supply chains
Better communication among internal and external teams—from suppliers to retailers, through R&D, marketing and manufacturing—helps teams work together toward the common objective of meeting high consumer requirements.
Product quality issues, such as not meeting certain ingredient specifications, can cause consumer dissatisfaction and result in negative brand image and financial loss for the Company. But these issues are happening often due to lacking supply chain insight, explained Marcelo Lu, Senior Vice President, Care Chemicals North America at BASF Corporation at the recent Veeva Industries Executive Summit.
“Transparency and flow of information is very important in both directions—from customers to manufacturers and vice versa. If you don’t have full visibility into what’s happening in your supply chain, you won’t know the real essence of the issue,” said Lu. “This is why it’s important to have discussions with your marketing teams, or your research and development teams. The more we know, the more we can architect a solution.”
Information silos are common across extended CPG supply chains—various business units operate differently, have their own priorities, and can have reservations around sharing data. But it’s vital to break down those barriers and facilitate communications.
“Information transparency will become table stakes. Without it, it will be impossible to run an efficient, end-to-end value chain,” Biswaranjan Sen, Chief Product Supply Chain Officer, Beauty & Wellbeing, Unilever, explained. “The more seamless and transparent that information flow becomes, the higher the value unlocks will be.”
To ensure more efficient operations and reduce bottlenecks to products hitting shelves with the right level of quality, it is vital to promote an open, transparent communication across the whole value chain. With the technology tools available, teams can streamline processes to facilitate the exchange of information and achieve visibility and collaboration to support continuous improvement.
A communication plan can have many facets: establishing an R&D point of contact to reach out to when you run into product issues, being proactive by setting consistent cross-team meetings, and adopting digital, cloud-based software that allows you to communicate in real time, in a more efficient and effective way.
2. Leverage cloud-based technology to exchange key product data
Traditional methods of collaborating with external partners, like suppliers—making phone calls and sending emails—can be time-consuming and place a heavy burden on quality teams. It can take weeks to months to receive raw materials data, delaying the time it takes to approve new products for distribution. Automating these aspects of quality management processes is critical to maintaining efficiency and creating a collaborative environment.
A cloud-based technology system can be transformative, since it offers a centralized, easily accessible data hub where suppliers can easily upload key product information, explains Breda Quinn, Global Transformation Quality Director at Reckitt.
“For us to succeed as a supplier, we need to be very clear on what our customer requirements are. It’s critical to be transparent and able to share and access data easily, without having too many touch points to access information. So that's where I think technology and access to good quality data really helps both suppliers and customers.” - Breda Quinn, Global Transformation Quality Director, Reckitt
As an example, Quinn described the challenge of managing raw material questionnaires that may need to reach five different teams across a company before it’s complete. A cloud-based system can simplify the task of creating and sending those questionnaires back and forth—it allows teams to instantly generate questionnaires with parameter-based templates and send requests and reminders to suppliers, who can then directly upload the information. Overall, quality management teams can confirm whether ingredients meet current brand and consumer standards, faster.
Technology is a great enabler of collaboration inside and outside an organization, streamlining processes, giving access to good quality data and unifying information coming from different environments in order to get a holistic view. It offers the right capabilities for becoming more agile and adapt quickly to the continuously evolving landscape.
3. Invest in diverse methods for listening to your end consumers
Productive collaboration isn’t just about streamlining communication and data exchange within the organization or with external partners. It’s also about listening to what consumers want and responding accordingly. Getting feedback from consumers, and even having direct conversations with them, helps the company better anticipate their needs, Sen explained.
“Good quality is what the consumer wants. It’s not what we think the consumer wants,” said Sen. “At every stage in the quality management process, we need to make sure there's an obsession with delighting the consumer. This requires listening continuously to consumers and feeding that back into the innovation cycle.”
At the recent Veeva Industries Executive Summit, Sen shared that the company recently relaunched a range of products in Brazil, and received a spate of feedback across multiple channels, including social media and customer service. The company used that feedback to refine the product to meet those consumer needs. This is a prime example of how listening to consumers can drive value for a CPG business.
As CPGs look to the future, quality teams should consider taking a different approach to quality - not just looking inside their organization, but being able to look across the whole value chain and understand how to effectively collaborate with customers, suppliers and consumers.
Veeva is here to support and help streamline this collaboration to help drive productivity and quality in 2024 and beyond.
Learn more about how Veeva helps quality teams uplevel collaboration across the value chain.