“If people are highly focused they can fix anything.”

Office Depot is not just a company that sells pens and envelopes.  Since opening its first store in Florida in 1986 it has grown into a truly global company. It supplies – right to your desk – anything for the office from coffee cups to computer accessories, paper towels to chairs, stationery to security. It sets itself apart from the growing number of office suppliers through its high commitment to customer service. Ross Kavanagh is at the helm of the Procurement and Supply Chain teams in Europe to ensure this pledge is not broken.  He describes himself as bullish and someone who won’t take no for an answer. Under his auspices, failure is not an option!

Interview conducted by Martijn Lofvers en Edwin Tuyn, written by Helen Armstrong

Ross Kavanagh is quick to point out that prior to being at Office Depot he did not have a supply chain background. He was appointed Vice President for Procurement & Supply Chain for Office Depot Europe after just three years as the Director for the same department within the company’s UK and Ireland region. “I think I was invited to take the European role because I never want to fail at anything. I am also very lucky because wherever I go I end up working with a great team,” he says.

Ross started his career in the Zimbabwe military, which is not a role for the faint hearted. After doing service he moved into sales and taught himself the ropes. His creative mind and entrepreneurial spirit led him to start his own company and since 2008 he has been working for Office Depot. He’s currently in charge of the European supply chain, which includes inventory, warehouses, transportation and non-trade (indirect expenditure) and in addition to this he is responsible for trade procurement. For the last six months he has also been responsible for merchandising.

Here he talks about his role and the business challenges facing the global supplier of office products and services.

What did you change when you joined Office Depot?

Just before I joined, one of my colleagues had realised that we weren’t surprising and delighting our customers in the way we would have liked to have been. This colleague is a smart guy and had already formulated a plan. All I did was execute it. We made a lot of changes to the team and formed a team which I thought could deliver. For example, we needed to improve our OTAC – One Time Accurate and Complete – a concept we eat, sleep and breathe. However, we weren’t measuring it properly. If we have an order for 100 cups and we deliver 100 cups then our OTAC is 100%. However, we used to say that if we deliver 99 cups then our OTAC was 99%. That’s not true. It’s 0% because we failed our customer. When we recalculated, our OTAC was just 75%. We put in place a three-month action plan at the end of which our OTAC was back up to 95%. The team did a great job and we got the results. I believe that if people are highly focused they can fix anything.

We’ve also reduced inventory in terms of value by nearly 50 per cent. At the same time our service has improved. We’ve come a long way in four years. Then the supply chain had no visibility but that’s changed. I am loud and I rattle cages!

  • Martijn Lofvers is Owner, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Supply Chain Movement
  • Edwin Tuyn is Founder & Managing Partner of Inspired-Search

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