At our latest Breakfast Networking Event in Northampton, Eamonn Boland was kind enough to share his experience of peak planning in the Middle East.

Eamonn has 28 years of experience in logistics, working for 5 different employers in the UK, Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East.

Eamonn recently worked in Saudi Arabia as Regional General Manager for the largest dairy producer in the Middle East, Almarai, managing 65 depots across Riyadh, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Almarai produce long-life dairy products, fresh yoghurt, desserts and cheeses which are highly popular during Ramadan.

Ramadan is the business peak period in the Middle East and often Muslim workers can work for a maximum 6 hours a day if able, adding extra complexity to peak planning. Ramadan falls roughly 11 days earlier each year, product volumes can increase by up to 18% and on top of the increased demand, suppliers and contractors close their businesses for Ramadan, meaning planning for peak is a highly challenging task.

Eamonn outlined the key tasks that a company like Almarai take into account when planning for peak:
Pre-Ramadan actions:

1. Reefer Schedules – Regional Logistics Managers (RLMs) agree and sign off planned schedules.

2. Material Handling Equipment (MHE) – RLMs ensure that all MHE is in place in full working order well in advance.

3. Holiday planner – all holidays are planned and agreed well in advance

4. Depot development; New & old depots must have planned completion of existing work due to country building constraints and new site availability.

5. Border crossings – engaging in discussions with Customs Officials regaring border crossing times & restrictions.

6. Ensure all T&L 3rd party contractor support is in place.

7. T&L Central Processing Plant Reefer Park – method of recording loaded reefers to ensure correct reefers are despatched and ready for loading.

8. IT Contingency – ensure 24/7 Head Office service support is in place.

9. Promotional activity analysis – planning promotional activity of SKU’s, i.e. agreed system processes.

10. UAE Government restrictions – quality assurance verify local ‘wastage’ controls to assist depots.

11. Depot stock locations – implement defined system processes for overflow stock locations to avoid lack of control resulting in depot losses / gains.

12. Fleet – locate all sales cans into the regions and ensure spares are available.

13. All regional reefers are planned and placed at the specific depots as required.

During Ramadan peak period actions and learning:

During peak the Senior Management Team, Demand Forecast team, Supply Planning team, Production Planning team, T&L, Depot Logistics, Fleet, Refrigeration, Facilities, Quality and Divisional Logistics all continuously review operations. The reviews involve a discussion of what is going well and what improvements can be made.

Some example improvements made during Ramadan 2011:

1. RLMs to communicate all status updates and issues to DLMs.

2. Daily video conference calls to take place involving 40 managers across the entire supply chain.

3. Confirm with large depots detailing and controlling of reefer schedules.

Post Ramadan actions and learning:

As a result of this detailed peak planning, Almarai trucks and vans continually delivered goods as planned. The build-up of stock, pressure and tension result in a well-executed Ramadan Eve and Eid.

A big emphasis is placed on congratulating the teams on successfully operating through peak but this is followed by a swift reminder that the planning for the next peak period starts tomorrow…