Carrefour stimulates innovation through close collaboration with their partners

The "Cercle d'Utilisateurs": A collaboration group with the aim of building a supply chain with high added value

What prompted the creation of the ”Cercle d’utilisateurs”? When was it established? 

Olivier Dibon, Logistics Expert - Supply Chain Management - Carrefour Group: The "Cercle d’utilisateurs" IWMS (Intelligence Warehouse Management Service User Group) was set up as part of Carrefour’s global strategy, which is underpinned by three pillars: customer culture, transformation and innovation. To better serve our customers, we have to constantly rethink and improve our processes. This is what prompted our alliance with Zetes a few years ago, hinged, at the time, around the installation of voice solutions. In order to take a more in-depth look at supply chain efficiency, we realised it was necessary to directly involve our logistics service providers. Support for this idea grew rapidly thanks to the enthusiasm of our partners and the first meetings took place in 2010.

What are the goals pursued?

Olivier Dibon: Carrefour sees it as an opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and good business practice. We want to sit down together and explore new strategies for improvement. The goal is to identify solutions that meet the problems faced by all concerned and that, in turn, generate efficiencies for all concerned. They must meet a concrete need expressed by the members of the Group. Moreover, to secure the Group’s dynamism and to guarantee acceptance of the initiatives, we also insist that the solutions put forward are easy and fast to implement. 

Innovation is also a key element in our discussions. We need to think differently and find new uses for existing technologies. In this respect, the alliance with Zetes is particularly rewarding. Not only does Zetes have in-depth knowledge of our processes but, furthermore, it knows its way around all the auto ID technologies available on the market. Carrefour wants to know about the types of technologies able to provide answers to different problems, whether these technologies can be of use to us and, if so, where they will generate profits. We try to discover whether new technologies can result in the introduction of new business processes. In addition, innovative and profitable as they may be, the solutions put forward must also take into account the user, and offer added value to operational staff.

Carrefour at a glance

N° 2 distributor worldwide
N° 1 distributor in Europe

4 formats

  • hypermarket
  • supermarket
  • convenience stores 
  • cash & carry

112,245 billion € in turnover incl. tax by all brands in 2010
41K + employees

What are the advantages of involving logistical service providers in discussions on supply chain optimisation?

Olivier Dibon:  Because we want to offer a flawless service to our end customers, we have the same demands of our partners. However, this is a win-win partnership. On the one hand, we sit down together to find strategies for improvement, which is more effective than thinking alone in your own corner. On the other hand, these meetings allow participants to have faster access to the latest evolutions in the field of processes and technologies. Carrefour’s supply chain performance depends on the performance of our logistical service providers. We try to identify weak links in the chain, working on them in order to convert them into a competitive advantage.

"We need to think differently and find new uses for existing technologies. We have developed a solution that takes voice to a new level, which is based on the use of a colour code and ensures the reliability of an order."
Olivier Dibon , Carrefour

How important is innovation within the Carrefour Group?

Olivier Dibon: Innovation is an essential component of Group strategy. If we want to deliver the best service and be competitive, we cannot simply follow market trends. We have to be the forerunners. That is why we have also set up another think tank: CILTEO (Comité d’innovation logistique au service de l’excellence opérationnelle). This is specifically geared towards voice and brings together Carrefour, Zetes and Vocollect. However, innovation does not come without certain risks, as the business case must be created for one solution or another. Once again, this is where our alliance with partners plays a key role. When we want to test the solutions identified by one or other think tank, their participation is essential.

Have concrete projects already been rolled out?

Olivier Dibon: Via CILTEO, we have developed a solution that takes voice to a new level. It is based on the use of a colour code that, combined with the numerical confirmation code, makes it possible to ensure the reliability of an order. This solution was developed to answer to 3 different needs. First of all, we wished to stabilise the process of guaranteed delivery. Additionally we were looking for a solution that allowed us to change check digits without having to rely on a high level of input from other departments within the organisation, or involve heavy workforce resource utilisation. Finally, it was necessary to avoid operators memorizing the check digits. Using colour codes has allowed us to answer to all those challenges which is efficient and easy to deploy. While the advantages of voice for order taking are undeniable, we therefore realised that it was possible to go even further beyond the results already obtained and, therefore, to generate additional gains.

When did the cooperation between Carrefour and Zetes get off the ground?

Olivier Dibon: Zetes steered us through voice when it was still in its infancy within the company. At the time, Carrefour’s decision was triggered in particular by the fact that Zetes was the only software publisher in this field, which presented many advantages at the time of the integration. Zetes thus became the Carrefour integrator for all of the Group’s French warehouses and remains our strategic partner in all the other countries where the Group is present. We consider our partnership to be very important and wide ranging.

What does Carrefour hope to gain from this partnership?

Olivier Dibon: When we enter into this type of cooperation, we cannot think in the short-term. We are nurturing a mid-term relationship. We do not expect Zetes to simply implement an order that we bark out. We want its teams to accompany us in our processes and make proposals, so that they help us find the growth drivers that will allow us to meet the demands of our sector. And it is this support role that Zetes plays within the “Cercle d’utilisateurs” IWMS.

Is this solution already being used?

Olivier Dibon: This is where it becomes important to involve logistical partners in our initiatives. One of them has provided its warehouse and resources in order to set up a pilot project, which will serve as a business case for other partners. The solution was installed in August of this year. We hope that the results obtained will allow us to convince other service providers of the need for innovation and change in our sector and quickly move in this direction.

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Following a rebranding exercise, the Zetes’ logistics execution solution using voice technology is now called ZetesMedea Voice (formerly 3iV Crystal). All features and functionalities remain valid.