New phone launches have become massive, coordinated global events. An incredible 13 million iPhones were sold around the world in the first three days after the iPhone 6 was launched in September 2015. At the heart of these product launches are companies like TELUS, who have to operate effective supply chain operations to make sure product launches go off with a bang.

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TELUS has become a supply chain leader with a relentless desire to provide value by finding better ways of working with all parts of the business.  TELUS Director of Purchasing and Inventory Management Paul Lown shares that, “Product launches are a very well-oiled machine for TELUS, and the processes are complex but well automated. With the help of the supply chain team, we’re able to run large volumes through our supply chain in a short amount of time, and with the flexibility to make changes virtually on the fly.” He also shares another important piece of the puzzle that allows this and other processes to operate so well: “TELUS’ supply chain team is fairly unique in that we cover all parts of the business and have a driving desire to work with the full breadth of the company. This desire encourages us to constantly innovate and push initiatives into the rest of the company.” 

Being among the first to own the latest smartphone is a top priority for some people. For the majority of TELUS’ 8.5 million wireless customers, the priorities amount to more than just being first - they expect an all-around superior experience that includes faster speeds, greater reliability, amazing online customer support, and faster order fulfillment and repair processes.

As well as being one of Canada’s biggest retailers with 400 stores dotted around the country, TELUS is one of the biggest infrastructure investors in Canada. Since 2000, TELUS has invested $36 billion into their networks. This broadband and wireless infrastructure is the backbone of a highly sophisticated system that seamlessly connects all types of electronic devices from coast to coast and maximizes efficiency, reliability and speed. With such a large amount of technical equipment deployed across the country, TELUS’ supply chain is designed with reliability in mind, including timely builds to keep up with the growing demands of customers. In the event that something goes wrong, our rapid restoration processes help prevent outages that can impact individual customers and entire regions.

Back in 2012, managing massive, fragmented inventories of spare parts was a major challenge for TELUS. Technicians responsible for repairing systems and equipment struggled to find spare parts as inventories were managed by different business units and at a local geographic level. Not being able to find parts resulted in problems taking longer to solve and customers being exposed to potential service disruptions. To solve this problem, TELUS launched the National Managed Spares program that same year.

The project was initially driven by TELUS Vice President, Supply Operations, Frank Gallagher: “We identified an opportunity for TELUS to improve the reliability of its spares management program, centralising the planning, consolidating onto one IT platform and implementing a new operational practice so all technicians could get easy access to parts when they needed them. All while saving money. Thanks to our supply chain efforts, TELUS has driven strong sustainability outcomes, including a 30% improvement in our Dow Jones Sustainability Index supply chain score, as well as cross-company improvements in team engagement and customer service.”

The new National Managed Spares program established a standardized process for more than 1,000 technicians, which also involved implementing a new IT architecture to control and manage orders and inventory. This required a lot of hard work – notably, logging almost 250,000 parts manually to build a level of visibility and enable the system to become fully automated.

A change of this scale relies on one thing more than anything else – a focus on the people using it. In this case, the technicians who were used to doing things a certain way in a system that had evolved over 40 years, needed to accept and support the changes. Recognizing this, TELUS involved experts from across the company, including the technician teams, to develop this program, demonstrating that the supply chain function could be at the forefront of business transformation. They provided specialized training, thoughtful change management with extensive communications, and round-the-clock support to answer questions and solve problems.

The results have been impressive and customers have realized the benefits, including a dramatic reduction in the number of major network outages that are exacerbated by the lack of a spare part – in fact, this now happens ten times less frequently than before the new system was introduced.

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In today’s connected world, where governments, businesses and consumers expect their smartphones, high speed internet, and fibre optic TV to work flawlessly at all times, systems outages mean dissatisfied customers. In 2015, TELUS’ likelihood-to-recommend (L2R) - a score indicating consumer satisfaction - increased to 73 per cent, an all-time high for TELUS. By introducing behind-the-scenes changes that have transformed customer service, TELUS has successfully ensured that its customers have become its biggest cheerleaders.

Beyond the National Managed Spares program, TELUS has a number of new supply chain initiatives in the pipeline to enhance the customer experience. According to Frank Gallagher, “With ongoing investments in systems and processes that provide a seamless interaction between TELUS and its customers, including a seamless customer experience from online to in-store, omni-channel will be a major focus for supply chain at TELUS over the next few years.”