Kimberly-Clark's Secrets to RFID Success

Get an in-the-trenches update on RFID from the man in charge of keeping store shelves across America stocked with Kleenex and Huggies at all times.

By Thomas Wailgum
Mon, July 30, 2007

CIOKimberly-Clark has been around for many years—135 to be exact. And while it may not be a household name, Kimberly-Clark's roster of products and brands certainly are: Kleenex, Scott, Huggies and Pull-Ups, just to name a few. According to the company, 1.3 billion people use its products every day, contributing to $16.7 billion in sales last year.

Behind the nurturing and homey images of those powerhouse brands is a company with operations in 37 countries and a global supply chain that enables Kimberly-Clark to sell its wares in 150 countries.

As one of Wal-Mart’s top suppliers, Kimberly-Clark got onboard the RFID revolution early and has been one of the technology's most ardent supporters. Mark Jamison, vice president of customer supply chain management, talked with CIO Senior Writer Thomas Wailgum about the company’s overall supply chain strategy, how RFID fits into the mix and how to make RFID work for the business.

CIO: What's the overall supply chain management strategy at Kimberly-Clark?

Jamison: Our goal is to evolve the capabilities of our supply chain to a demand-driven supply network. One of the keys to achieving that vision is to have a highly integrated suite of supply chain systems that provide end-to-end visibility and as close to real-time information as possible.

About four years ago, we started redesigning our supply chain business processes and integrating our systems to that end. The first business process we redesigned was forecast-to-stock. We chose to go with SAP's APO [Advanced Planner and Optimizer] product, and we finished putting that in the fourth quarter of last year. Following that was the redesign of our order-to-cash business processes, and we have chosen an SAP solution for this system as well.

When we implement our new order-to-cash system, we will have an integrated suite of systems, and all of our users will be working with the same information as close to real time as possible. In addition, we are developing strategies to better leverage downstream data in our business processes for supply chain, category management and consumer insights.

CIO: Supply chain integration with other enterprise systems is the holy grail of making SCM systems pay off. How big a part of your SCM strategy is focused purely on integration?

Jamison: It was a key driver, but it wasn’t the only driver. Historically, our business processes were managed with what I described as a “patch-quilt” of systems. There was a lot of handing off of information up and down the supply chain. Not everyone was working with the same information—and not even close to real-time information. And what that tends to drive in the supply chain is surprises, variability and waste. We believe that getting to the end state of high-level integration will allow us to have a more finite supply chain and also helps to manage that variability down and helps to take the waste out.

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