IT'S A VERY LONG HAUL, SO MAKE IT PRODUCTIVE How data keeps flowing from the New World vineyard to the shelf New World wine is one of the drinks industry's great success stories. At around £5 a bottle and of excellent quality, the attractively packaged wines of Australia, Latin America, New Zealand, South Africa and the US are seeing a sales growth of 20% a year. If this growth rate continues, they will overtake traditional European imports by 2010. Northern Europe is also acquiring a taste for these wines, where growth of 15%-25% is expected over the next few years. But the downside of these wines is that getting them on to retailers' shelves entails one of the longest supply chains in the world. Australian wines can take as long as 50 days to get from bottler to a multiple's distribution centre. P & O Nedlloyd is the world's largest carrier of New World wine, shipping 12.5m cases a year. Sales and marketing director for value added services David Charlesworth says the long supply chain coupled with the growth in demand has led to inefficient ordering and distribution practices among retailers. "The fear of having insufficient supplies to meet demand has led to retailers making large safety orders, creating inventories with as much as 5%-10% more stock than is actually needed. At the same time, decisions as to what to do with the wine are often delayed until it reaches the UK because of concerns over reliability of delivery. In the worst cases it can mean wine sitting in distribution centres for weeks at a time." Charlesworth says retailers should not be anxious about the timescales and introduce the kind of efficiencies used elsewhere in the grocery supply chain. "Time isn't the real issue. It can't be shortened and is down to a minimum anyway. What's more important is using the shipment time productively by designing it into the supply chain so secondary distribution can be planned while the wine is in transit and not when it arrives. Deliveries can be predicted just as accurately as they can on a short time scale. The essential element is to have full, up to the minute information on every stage of the shipment, coupled with effective management of the consignment, which is what we are able to do through our global value added services." Charlesworth says this flow of regular and pertinent information is as important as the movement of the product itself. "This is particularly important to the multiples who are taking the lead in the drive for greater efficiency in the New World wine supply chain. "They want reliability of delivery right down to a definite day so they can plan promotions. If there's a hold up they want to know as early as possible in the supply chain so they can respond to it. We are able to do this by taking care of every aspect from the vineyard to the supermarket shelf." As well as hassle-free delivery, Charlesworth says measurable improvements should include a 5%-10% reduction in the working inventory ­ with all the consequent cost savings. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}