Supply Chain Strategy of Seven Eleven Japan

Topics: Economics

The case study reports about the Supply Chain Strategy of Seven Eleven Japan (SEED the largest convenient store operator and franchiser In Japan. Seven Eleven Japan provides several helpful understanding about cleaving supply chain strategic fit In the convenient store industry.

In this industry, responsiveness of the supply chain is the most important factor. Firstly, SEE has a set of facilities that are strategically responsive. Its facilities are decentralized in terms of both location and capacity. The report also discusses about the benefits and risks involved.

Secondly, See’s transportation system is not only relatively efficient but also responsive and capable of rapid-replenishment. The system is a cross-docking transportation model with goods flow through distribution centers. Advantages as well disadvantages of the model are discussed.

Thirdly, SEE invested in a powerful Information system that allows rapid and efficient communication. Point of sales data are utilized to bring about a competitive advantage and a smooth cooperation of with suppliers. Features, benefits and risks associated with the system have also been discussed.

Fourthly, SEE practices an Inventory management strategy that place great Importance on freshness and choose to reduce flow time instead of holding more inventory to be responsive. Heretofore, ten report Alehouses tout ten recent moves AT s duplicate the supply chain structure in the United States.


1. 1 Seven Eleven Japan (SEE) SEE is the largest operator and franchiser of convenient stores in Japan.

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Since its establishment in November 1973, SEE has been growing quickly. By July 2007, SEE has 11,704 stores in Japan. In July 2007, 7-Eleven also became world’s largest retail chain store with more than 32,000 stores all over the world .

1. 2 Purpose This case study, by examine the supply chain strategies of SEE, aims to offer understandings about supply chain strategies in the convenient store industry.

With those understandings, several insights about how to achieve strategic fit in this industry can be gained. 1. 3 Strategic Fit in the convenient store industry To achieve strategic fit in this industry, firms must understand the customer needs, demand uncertainty and supply chain capabilities. After that, firms must develop and erect their strategy to fit with the requirements from customer and the supply chain. Below are some characteristics in customer needs and supply chain requirements in this industry.

Batch size: Usually small to medium

Response time that customer can tolerate: Medium to short. Customers usually expect to conveniently get the item they want in short time

Variety: Moderately important Service

Level: Medium to high Price: Higher than large supermarkets and wholesale malls Product innovation: moderately important


Apparently, in the convenient store industry, responsiveness is a key factor of the supply chain. Moreover, SEE places much more emphasis on the freshness of the produce it sells.

Therefore, SEE facilities were designed to support a high level of responsiveness.

2. 1 Location In terms of location, it is easy to notice that SEE locates its stores extremely close to the customers to be responsive. For example, 48% of See’s customers live within 500 meters from the stores, and 63% within 1000 meters. 53% of customers come by less than five minutes of walk or drive . In order to achieve that short distance from its customers, SEE had to develop a dense distribution network. Stores are managed through a system of clusters.

There are around 50 to 60 stores in a cluster. Stores in a cluster are concentrated closely to each other in specific areas in a market dominance strategy. A typical See’s Store serves an area within 500 meters radius of it. As stated in its 1994 annual report, the market dominance strategy offers several benefits such as higher efficiency of the system, brand awareness or competitive strength. I Nat Is ten reason winy although Is ten strongest convenient store in Japan, it has covered only 70% of Japan prefectures.

2. Capacity Although the number of SKU that SEE keep is not high, its facilities are highly Dragon palpable. See’s stores are small facilities (average area of 1200 square feet) capable of stocking only around 3,000 stock keeping units (SKIS) while large supermarkets can store more than 100,000 Ski’s. However, as said above, See’s stores form a dense network of 50 to 60 stores per area. That helps boost the capacity of SEE stores many times. In other words, the small scale of one SEE store is to serve a very small area (500 meters radius), which is not more than the capacity of the store.

More importantly, a massive collection of such small stores in a specific area has created a huge capacity for the network. Furthermore, the variety of product this system can process is also extended when SEE places great emphasis on freshness and continuously change its product mix. SEE replaces about half of its 3,000 SKU each year. Goods are retired as soon as sales decline. With such high capacity clusters, it can be concluded that the degree of utilization is not maximized. Low degree of utilization reduces lead-time and minimizes disruption delay.

Obviously, cost of the goods is higher with low utilization, however the benefits of the market dominance strategy seems to be able to offset the cost incurred. Therefore, it can be said that SEE has implemented decentralization not only in its location and distribution but also in its capacity. The high responsiveness of SEE is also reflected through a relatively small order size from the stores and high level of customer service. The small batch size is due to the limited space available in an SEE Store. That is also a reason for the introduction of the Sods.

Everyday small orders from the stores are transmitted, consolidated and delivered in full truckloads from the CDC to every store. Deliveries are made many times a day, keeping the items rest and sufficient thus offering great service level. 2.


See’s facilities are truly responsiveness driven. What SEE is doing with its facilities configuration are match with the strategic direction that a convenient store supply chain should take. SEE facilities have been decentralized in terms of both location and capacity to be closer to the customer and offers higher responsiveness.

Small batch size and continuously changing product mixed integrated in the facilities are other factors that improve responsiveness. See’s facilities have been doing a great Job to be expensive and be next to customers wherever they need it. However, it is important to notice some risks associate with those practices. For example, the strategy of decentralization and market dominance may not be efficient. Especially when the market is not so populated like it is in Japanese cities. Moreover, locating the stores too close to each other may caused certain amount of centralization.

Besides, customers in this case may not buy from one store consistently but change from store to store over time. That may contribute to the inaccuracy of demand forecasting of stores. See’s transportation has been successful. It has achieved a high level of responsiveness yet an acceptable level of efficiency.

3. 1 Design of transportation network Unlike a conventional Japanese Distribution system, SEE does not allow direct store delivery in Japan but executes a Joint Delivery Program in which its products must flow through the Distribution Centers (DC).

As can be seen from Figure 1 (Appendix 1), after receiving orders from the store managers and starting production to fulfill the orders, the suppliers begin to deliver the products to the designated Dos. Manufacturers and wholesalers are assigned certain areas to deliver the products. After the items have reached Dos, they will be sorted out by stores and delivered in a full truck to the stores. Another important factor that helps reduce the lead-time and number of deliveries further is the temperature-based Joint delivery system. In this system, See’s products are grouped into 4 groups of different temperature.

Products that are in the same temperature group will then be handled and distributed in the same truck. The above transportation process is usually managed by third party delivery companies. SEE keeps close communication with the delivery company. Distribution schedules are also planned carefully. The number of deliveries made in a day depends on the freshness requirement of the items. For example, rice balls are delivered 3 times a day. The timing of the deliveries are communicated with the logistic party and must be followed (with 10 minutes error). The Joint delivery program has brought to SEE many benefits.

Firstly, with the density of the SEE stores, direct delivery may result in inefficiency. It requires many trucks going through many routes and different trucks from different suppliers have to arrive at the stores many times. By designating a destination to consolidate the incoming items, SEE can reduce he number of deliveries per day. Moreover, with the introduction of the temperature-based system, deliveries per day are further cut down to 11 per day. Before the implementation the 2 methods of operation, the average number of deliveries to each store was 70 per day.

The number of trips decreases means transportation cost and communication cost are cut down; and the system is more efficient. Secondly, the limited space of the See’s stores requires deliveries in smaller batch size. Therefore, if SEE use direct store deliveries, the cost for transporting many small batches may increase sharply yet may not be reliable. Consolidating the orders for each store solves this problem effectively. SEE can have a reliable delivery schedule with minimal number of trips. Moreover, delivering in full truckloads also improves the efficiency of the system.

Besides, ordering lead-time is also reduced by a great amount. For direct store delivery, since different trucks of different suppliers for different types of items have to arrive one by one at the same store, more time is spent on Just loading, unloading, checking and communicating between them and the stores. The risk for traffic delay will also be minimized if the number of trips to tortes decreases. An important feature of the Joint delivery program is that the Dos do not hold inventory. Dos in this case are Just designated points of “pick and pack” to consolidate the orders of See’s Stores.

Therefore, the system helps SEE reduce cost of holding inventory significantly. 3. 2 Choice of transportation mode Apart Trot ten eagles AT transportation network, Tells can also conclave responsiveness in the choice of transportation mode. Using faster and usually more expensive modes of transport is a way to improve responsiveness. Another way to be more responsive is to diversify the modes of transportation. For example, SEE has included motorcycles, ships and helicopters to diversify its transportation portfolio. Diversification helps reduce the risk of breakdowns caused by disruption in certain mode of travel.

The drawback is that extra cost may incur to maintain and operate the portfolio. 3. 3 Conclusion The implementation of Dos system has streamlined the transportation of SEE sharply. It has provided cost savings through elimination of inventory holding cost. Besides, and more importantly, it makes the distribution system of SEE more responsive and flexible by utilizing faster and cheaper routing and accelerated product flow. Generally, there are still risks associated with the strategy of micro-matching supply and demand using rapid replenishment like what SEE is doing.

Firstly, rapid replenishment may be expensive, thus it can hurt firms’ profit margin. Secondly, risks can come from the uncertainty of the traffic condition. More importantly, for rapid replenishment and delivery on demand, one disruption event can even affect the whole area. Thirdly, the threat may as well come from competition. For example, if a store is located next to a large supermarket that is efficiency driven and can offer cheaper price, then the SEE stores may lose sales. Similarly, if SEE choose to sell products of which demand is too elastic, SEE may not be able to compete.

Lastly, micro-matching demand and supply can be efficient and lean, but demand can sometimes fluctuate largely and SEE may fail to predict such changes. For examples, during festivals, social events, or natural disasters SEE may not be able to react quickly because of the fluctuations in demand and the limited stock kept in the stores. As for direct store delivery (ADDS), it can still hold true in some situations. For example, ADDS can be used in the areas that do not have many stores concentrated.

Moreover, for items that are bulky, heavy or expensive, ADDS might be a good choice because extra handling activities (loading, unloading, security, quality assurance… ) are costly.


Information is one the most effective tools of SEE to improve its responsiveness. It connects effectively the stages of the SEE supply chain and provides valuable insights on demand and strategic operations. 4. 1 Information System An illustration of See’s information system is shown in the Appendix 2. As can be seen from the Appendix 2, the hardware configuration of SEE includes several main components. Store Computer (SC)

SC is the center of the store Information System (IS). It connects to the KIDS, Electric Order System, Graphic Order Terminal and Scanner Terminal. It can track store inventory, sales, orders and analyze POS data. Integrated Services Digital Network (KIDS) KIDS is an information network that links several thousand stores. KIDS provides a 2- way and high-speed channel of communication, which has significant impacts on the process of collection and analysis of POS data as well as feedback gathering. Scanner learn CSS streamline the process of inventory management by helping store managers check orders.

Graphic Order Terminal (GOT) GOT is a tool to place orders and maintain access to a detailed analysis of POS data at the same time for ordering insights. 4. 2 Information Collection The above hardware setting has to collect all the POS data. Moreover, the staffs also collect gender and estimated age of the customers. After collected, POS data are analyzed to find out useful information such as hourly sales trend for individual items, scrap trend analysis, stockpot ranking, sales trends for new product and hourly sales trend by customer profile.

Such complete information system helps create much more responsiveness for the stores. For example, the analysis of hourly sales trend by items and by customer profile can help a store manager determine which type of customer buy what at what time. With the information in mind, the store manager can order differently throughout the day, or can rearrange the products on the shelves many times a day. Moreover, the ordering process is also streamlined significantly. After collected, the POS data are analyzed by the store computer and ordering insights are offered. The orders are transmitted to the suppliers within 3 hours. .

3 Push versus Pull Clearly, See’s supply chain is more like a pull system. And See’s information system purports the pull strategy effectively. For example, ordering process is streamlined so that an order, after being analyzed from the POS data, can reach the suppliers in 3 hours on average. Information travels both upward and downward quickly enough for the pull strategy. 4. 4 Coordination and information sharing Information sharing is also an important strategy that SEE relies on to be more responsive. Data about life of products or hourly sales of the new products are used to determine the product mix of a store.

SEE also actively shares information with the suppliers to suggest them on product development strategies. Many of See’s manufacturers now rely on the information shared and tend to work with SEE before the launch of a new product. Suggestions about the changing taste of the customers are sometimes crucial to new product development to anticipate the changing demand. 4. 5 Forecasting Because of the huge amount of data collected and the short ordering lead-time, See’s stores forecast frequently but over very short period. Therefore, the accuracy of the forecast is improved.

4. Enabling Technologies SEE invested heavily in its IS, the goal is to streamline the operations and obtain valuable insights to be more responsive. For example, with the use of Scanner Terminals, delivery time is now sharply shortened because delivery trucks do not have to wait for store managers to check the goods. 4. 7 Conclusion SEE is a good example of firm taking advantage of modern technology to streamline their processes and become more responsive. A pull strategy is most likely responsive; however, it must be supported with information technology so that the orders can be processed in a very short period.

Frequently collected and analyzed information also allows a closer forecast horizon and thus more accurate. Firms can also De more responsive Dye snarling International Walt suppliers to anticipate Ana attics customer demand more effectively. However, there are risks involved in this strategy. Firstly, a pull system might not be able to deal with great fluctuation in demand for example, during social events, festivals or natural disaster. Secondly, usually the investment in IS is not low and without strong capital position and profitable prospect, firms may not benefits enough from this investment.

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Supply Chain Strategy of Seven Eleven Japan. (2017, Oct 31). Retrieved from

Supply Chain Strategy of Seven Eleven Japan
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