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Business Improvement Programme – Wholesaler and Food Importer


The Client is a highly respected food importer and wholesaler, with packing, reprocessing facilities and suppliers throughout the world. They have a turnover of about £50M.  The product range is primarily ingredients, but branded products are also an important market. The supply chain ranges from purchase of commodities abroad through to delivery into major multiples, manufacturers and small retailers, and their own Cash & Carry operation.

Following investment from a private equity fund, planned growth meant the need for changes to business operations, better management information and improved IT systems. The client realised that managing widespread change was not their speciality and they asked XMA to review the situation and recommend a way forward.


  1. To investigate the current business status and advise when an IT project should be initiated.
  2. To advise on next steps for business improvements and readiness for an IT project.
  3. To highlight opportunities and benefits of change and advise priorities for action.
  4. To plan and initiate a number of quick win projects and tactical changes.
  5. To mentor the business senior team in change management techniques.

“I know we need to change, but I need help to see what can be done, how we go about it, and what should happen next.

Managing Director

How are we doing?

An initial 5 day assessment, using XMA’s proven X-Audittm methodology to interview senior management and systems suppliers, identified the key areas for focus:

  • A detailed understanding of the business operations
  • Organisation structure
  • Cross functional working
  • Appropriate information availability
  • Business Vision
  • Project management and control
  • Change governance, ownership and responsibilities
  • IT systems fit to the business model

“The investigation quickly uncovered areas of the business for improvement and was well received by everyone involved.”

Managing Director

How do we start?

The XMA team helped the Client’s senior management through analysis of the current business processes. This phase took several months and covered their core business and supply chain processes, including:

  • New product and new market development
  • Manage information and decisions
  • Make products
  • Manage stock
  • Acquire products ready for sale
  • Manage customers
  • Sell & deliver products
  • Manage suppliers
  • Manage money
  • Manage quality

What do we need to fix?

Issues and risks were categorised into Root causes:

  • Management decisions
  • Financial risk and cost of cash to cash cycle
  • Demand management
  • Purchasing efficiencies and pricing
  • Stock accuracy and availability
  • Supplier performance
  • Customer service levels
  • Product management and Quality release
  • Control of customers
  • General lack of control
Estimated “Perfect world” financial benefit opportunities were valued by the senior team:
  • Potential additional sales – £6M
  • Impact on cash flow – £5M
  • Operational savings – £1M
  • Potential risk to the business – £300K

The next stage was to “get realistic” about achievability and then to prioritise improvement activities based on practicality, dependencies, risks and effort needed to deliver changes.  The XMA team guided the client through the use of Strategic Vision planning and Tactical Operations planning, to deliver a series of Quick Wins and terms of references for tactical projects, whilst coaching project teams on how to deliver them.

Do we need new IT?

The XMA team then focused on the interdependent areas of business and IT strategies, looking at current systems providers and software solutions, in order to deliver a set of prioritised systems improvements and detailed user requirements specifications.

These needs were put into a Request for Information exercise utilising the well proven X-Selecttm process.  This compared current systems with those from IT suppliers who specialise in Supply Chain solutions, Warehousing and Planning functions for the Import, Retail, Wholesale and Cash and Carry marketplaces.

Having compared the new offerings from the marketplace with the current system, it was decided that an upgraded current system would best fit the business for the next few years.

What next?

At the end of the assignment XMA did what all good consultants should do, “made themselves redundant”, and left the client to move forward at their own pace.  At this stage the client:

  • Thoroughly understood their business.
  • Senior management team were working together to deliver their change programme.
  • Understood how to analyse and design a leaner, better structured and integrated organisation.
  • Adopted robust techniques to ensure a focused and risk aware change process.
  • Understood the importance of getting the business prepared for systems implementations.
  • Had an IT change project focused on business needs and priorities.

“Our team now realise that they can’t do IT change unless the business fully understands itself and is organised optimally.  The operations management team now are progressing well using knowledge from the analysis & shaping work, and using methods that XMA taught us.

 “All Senior Management can benefit from a project similar to this one, especially during difficult trading times. It is essential to get the business and it’s people focused and working as efficiently as possible.”

XMA are excellent Management Consultants – things have turned out for the best as a result of all the work they did for us.”


Alan Edwards says
“Each stage of this assignment stood on its own merits, for example, even after an initial relatively inexpensive delve into the uncomfortable position held by senior management our client was able to take improvement actions straight away.”

The subsequent project based activity, including start-up, coordination of analysis and re-design, and IT systems review, coupled with mentoring for senior management, gave the client the confidence to take control of their change programme with targeted projects and benefits across the business.

Client’s must always take ownership of change in order to ensure success, and the key to this is our relationship with, and the keen involvement of the senior management team. The XMA team are experts in listening, guiding, challenging, driving and are focused on delivery of benefits.

XMA have a well developed ‘toolkit’ of methodologies that have been tried and tested over many years. They enable our consultants to make thorough investigations and the resulting documentation provides a solid basis from which business improvements can be managed.