Perspectives of a Supply Chain Data Leader

2 min read
Mar 19, 2024 12:50:09 PM


Jeff Howarth
Director of Data Engineering | Dunelm

Explore a furniture leader’s remarkable transition to a sophisticated, data-informed approach, revolutionising decision-making across its entire ecosystem.

At our recent roundtable, Jeff Howarth, Director of Data Engineering at Dunelm, shared insights into the pivotal role data plays in shaping the company's supply chain strategy for future growth.

A data-informed supply chain will be key to Dunelm’s growth trajectory. Howarth emphasised Dunelm's stature as a £1.6 billion company with 182 stores, an 11% share of the homeware market and ambitious growth projections. With an extensive product portfolio of 70,000 SKUs, 70% of which are own-brand, Dunelm operates as a manufacturing-centric business. Jeff also emphasised the importance of leveraging data to inform every aspect of the supply chain, from production to delivery.

70000 SKU iamge 2

The evolution of data usage at Dunelm has been remarkable. Just four years ago, data played a minimal role, leading to delayed, reactive decision-making. However, the company has since matured, recognising data’s profound impact on the entire retail ecosystem, not just the supply chain.

A significant shift towards a just-in-time supply chain model has also been pivotal. The flow of goods through stores directly influences stock management, which in turn feeds into AI and ML replenishment tools. These tools forecast future deliveries, optimising warehouse operations and ensuring efficient store replenishment.

Visibility into data has become imperative for Dunelm's operations. For instance, understanding the lead time for products shipped via specific routes enables dynamic planning, particularly for marketing and advertising campaigns. Data-driven insights facilitate agile decision-making throughout the supply chain journey.

Looking ahead, Dunelm aims to extend data utilisation to its suppliers, despite potential challenges posed by varying levels of data literacy among them. Howarth highlighted the importance of tracking production timelines, shipping schedules, and delivery estimates to optimise supply chain decisions from factory to store.

While Dunelm leverages GenAI to support product development, Howarth emphasised the platform's role as a productivity tool rather than a creative engine. This nuanced approach reflects Dunelm's commitment to balancing technology with human expertise.

Dunelm's approach to data reflects a nuanced perspective, emphasising being "data-informed" over "data-driven." Howarth stressed the importance of not blindly following data but rather listening to it attentively, gaining clarity, and making informed commercial decisions accordingly.

For companies seeking to enhance their supply chain capabilities, Data Technology offers support in developing robust data strategies and infrastructure.

Join the Supply Chain Data Leader community to accelerate your organisation's journey towards a resilient, agile, and competitive supply chain


Get Email Notifications