Claire Turner, Stock Control Manager reveals why Octavian took the strategic decision to invest heavily in its stock control function and explains why rigorous processes, and the data gathered from them are key to continual improvement.

Claire Turner

Passionate about Process

Overseeing stock integrity within a large, standardised warehouse environment is one thing, but factor in an underground storage environment where perfect cellarage conditions must be meticulously maintained; an inventory that includes tens of thousands of locations and hundreds of thousands of unique items; not least a ‘product’ that may be delicate, high in value, equally rich in sentimental value and in some cases, irreplaceable and the task takes on new levels of complexity.

Recognising the need to drive quality and have the most rigorous stock management processes possible, Octavian took the strategic decision to invest heavily in the development of its stock control function. Claire Turner stepped into the helm as Stock Control Manager in November 2015 and over the past two and a half years, has strived for continuous improvement, greater transparency and seen her dedicated team of people focused on measuring and auditing, which provides the business with the data to drive improving the processes.

“We’re quite unusual in that most of the stock we care for is owned by customers rather than by the business. Every collection has a story. Some wines have very personal meaning to their owners. Some may even be the only remaining bottles of particular type of wine in the world. It’s fascinating to me that some of these collections have resided here for 20 years or more. That’s almost unheard of in warehousing where the focus is so often on the swift and efficient transit of stock,” Claire explains.

“But irrespective of value, whether they’re laid down to mature, or lower value drinking wines that may change hands more frequently, every bottle at Octavian is treated with the same level of care, as if it were our own property. Everything we do is geared around ensuring ‘finer, safer, more valuable wine’ – it’s a commitment that underpins the whole business.”

With a team of operatives ‘on the shop floor’ who focus on picking inventory and completing orders, it is Claire’s team’s role to analyse the stock control processes themselves. “We work independently as a second pair of eyes, looking closely at availability, analysing data and identifying ways to drive stock accuracies and constantly improve the way we do things.

“Processes are consistent; repeatable; measurable and highly traceable. Having good processes in place means you can assess them and seek ways of enhancing them.”

Having established traceability across all steps of the stock management process, from the receipt of wines through to making cases being available for picking, to physical stocktaking, Claire runs a tight and data-driven ship.

“The provenance of wines stored at Octavian is all-important and information gathered from the data helps to steer business improvements. For example, by looking at data generated from stock checks, we can be sure that stock is in the right place at the right time and this helps to avoid any delay or interruption in service.

“We also have rigorous processes in place to get to the root cause of anomalies, no matter how small. Wine labels and packaging were never designed for stock management, so subtle discrepancies over the vintage or the chateaux are inevitable. Accuracy is vital and each case is treated with the same importance,” she explains.

“Octavian really cares about its reputation and delivering the best possible service. Say you lose your wedding ring – you may be able to replace it, but it’s never quite the same. Our processes are extremely thorough and that mitigates risk. Such strong inventory management and record keeping means we have been able to secure exceptionally high insurance cover – an important layer of assurance for our customers. With full compensation available and team members focussed on minimising the claims aspect, customers can be confident that their assets are protected physically and financially.”

Claire, by her own admission, ‘lives and breathes’ stock integrity. “I’m a ‘process’ person, known for being a stickler for accuracy and for things being just right, but that’s a shared passion that unites the whole Octavian team. It’s so rewarding to see the Company’s investment in people and processes reap real benefits.”