Managing a mighty supply chain

Keeping ships sailing and guests happy relies on an immense supply chain involving complex systems and thousands of suppliers. Jacqui Griffiths asks operators and suppliers how they meet every stakeholder’s expectations

Managing a mighty supply chain
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Meeting the requirements of countless people from all points of the world sounds like an almost impossible task – yet that’s exactly what cruise companies, chandlers and logistics organisations are doing every day.

In effect, cruise ships are like floating cities, and when you have almost 100 of those the supply chain is a serious undertaking. Julia Brown, chief procurement officer of Carnival Corporation & plc, is spearheading efforts to maximise collaboration on all areas of key spend across the company’s ten brands. “We’re not just working with logistics and supply chain professionals,” explains Brown. “It’s all about collaborating across the brands and creating transparency about practices, and approaching suppliers to ensure that we can more effectively leverage our scale. We’re taking a holistic view of our total spend and proactively segmenting it to see which spends we want to leverage across the enterprise, which should be sourced on a regional or seasonal basis, and which are unique to a particular brand. It’s a continuous learning experience.”

Developing relationships with suppliers is key to ensuring an efficient supply chain that will enhance the guest experience across all of Carnival Corporation’s brands. “We want to ensure that we can become a ‘customer of choice’ to our strategic suppliers,” says Brown. “As we go through the process of ascertaining which categories are global, which are regional, which are local and where can we streamline, we’re identifying the strategic supplier base with whom we will continue to build a relationship – because this is a partnership, and it’s important to understand what matters to our suppliers as well as to our own brands and stakeholders.”

Good communications, one-to-one relationships with clients and rapid responses are essential, says Björn Rosén, vice president, sales and projects at TTS Marine. “We strive to have close contact with the owner at an early stage of a project to assist them in their challenge to get an efficient ship in port, satisfy their cruise guests and create an unforgettable onboard experience. In order to ensure speed and efficiency within the supply chain while safeguarding quality, we have high quality requirements; well-proven standards with, for example, electric drives; and we focus on operational issues and safety for passengers.”

It’s important for both the supplier and its clients to know the correct point of contact with each other, says Fergus Poole, cruise manager at GAC UK. “GAC has one point of contact for everything from bunker fuels to custom-designed escorted tours. We keep communication lines with customers open and manned by a dedicated cruise team round the clock so we are able to provide an immediate response to any issue, problem or procurement request.”

Sharing knowledge and experience enables GAC UK to deliver consistent quality and service wherever its clients are, says Poole. “We have a wealth of knowledge and experience on which to draw to help us deliver and maintain the same high levels of services to our customers wherever in the world they may be. GAC’s tried and tested Supplier Qualification Process is at the core of our ability to deliver speedy and efficient supply chain solutions while safeguarding quality at all times. Further, our global cruise forum provides a unique meeting place where all the companies in our group involved in the cruise business can share information, best practice, client preferences and any other helpful information.”

For food and beverage supplier Golden Harvest Shipping Services, it’s important to supply the right ingredients for the menus designed for the restaurants of different cruise ships and to make sure they arrive in excellent condition. “Although nowadays most fresh produce is available year-round, we always try our best to source local, in-season goods, to guarantee the produce is at peak condition,” says Tom Chen, managing director of Golden Harvest. “As one of the first ship suppliers in China to be certified with ISO 22000, Golden Harvest’s whole supply chain is designed with food safety and hygiene as its first priority. We have systems and training which allow our goods to be transported within set time frames and temperature ranges, ensuring that they are always in the best condition.”

Sourcing the right produce also involves putting measures in place to guarantee the best prices for customers, says Chen. “The biggest challenge we have faced is pricing and helping cruise lines to reduce as much cost as possible. Our buyers have just completed a six-month sourcing programme to expand our vendor/producer database, with excellent results. We are now more competitive while maintaining high-quality goods and service.”

Rising to supply chain challenges involves building strong relationships and efficient processes and establishing reliability, says Idris Shapurwalla of Saifee Ship Spare Parts and Chandlers. “The most important thing is for us to partner with our clients. We are not just another supplier to an end user; we’re a long-term partner entrusted with catering to their supply chain requirements.”

In order to achieve that, Saifee pays close attention to every aspect of the supply chain, from quality, service, pricing and branding to the cultural make-up of its clients, says Shapurwalla. “Our clients often have many different cultures onboard their vessels, especially when you consider the crews and the guests, and it’s important to see things from their perspective. Many of our clients have spent time working in other parts of the world where they’ve become accustomed to different market conditions to the ones we have in the United Arab Emirates. For instance, they might expect certain products to be easily available when in reality they’re not. We transparently discuss market conditions with our clients so we can effectively achieve what is required together.”

Supplying cruise ships means serving an upmarket and global clientele, and making sure that the goods they want are available when they need them, says Shapurwalla. “We hold as much stock as we can of the products our clients want from around the world, so clients can get what they need quickly. We have a lot of data on product availability and on clients’ requirements, and we analyse that data to make sure we’re best able to meet clients’ requests quickly. A lot of research and development goes into this business, and that helps to make us more reliable as a partner.”

Ensuring a fast, efficient and responsive supply chain that meets the requirements of the cruise industry is indeed a mighty undertaking. It requires a unique network of knowledge, resourcefulness and communication to meet every stakeholder’s expectations, and across the world operators, suppliers and stakeholders are delivering just that.

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
Monday, May 9, 2016