How Does Your Garden Grow? - The Scotts Company in Europe (A) (B)

From its humble start in 1868 in Marysville, Ohio, as a seller of hardware and seeds, the Scotts Company has grown into the world’s number one marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products. Its expansion into Europe in the 1990s marked the company’s first foray into the region, an area US managers felt was ripe for growth. But after buying five businesses that had leading brands in their regions, numerous obstacles sprouted up, making it difficult for Scotts to create a streamlined, fully integrated pan-European business. Professors Luk Van Wassenhove and Regine Slagmulder, along with Research Associate Margaret Vaysman, pick up the story in this recent case.

by Luk Van Wassenhove,Régine Slagmulder
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

As the Scott Company’s new European Supply Chain Manager, Roger Bloemen understood his mission: find out why Scotts Europe was not performing as expected. Scotts’ European management suspected the disappointing results were due to supply chain problems, specifically duplications and inefficiencies in sourcing, manufacturing and distribution. Bloemen would soon discover that they were right.

Just days after starting his new job in late 1999, Bloemen began seeing the big picture: as part of its expansion efforts in 1997 and 1998, Scotts had purchased five sizeable European operations, each of which had a strong local culture and distinct supply chains and data platforms. This resulted in a costly, complex and inefficient supply chain. Bloemen realized that he could immediately realize cost savings simply by consolidating the purchasing functions. After all, there were 75 purchasing employees in Scotts Europe now, and each was buying from separate suppliers – hundreds of suppliers in total!

But this was just one of several problems he would need to address, explain Luk Van Wassenhove, the Henry Ford Chaired Professor of Manufacturing, Regine Slagmulder, Associate Professor of Accounting and Control, and Margaret Vaysman, Research Associate, in Part A of this two-part case. Scotts Europe faced numerous complex operations issues. Included in the list was the possibility of plant closures, a process that is far easier to accomplish in the US than in Europe. In addition, each country had its own registration requirements for chemicals, making it difficult to offer the same products across countries. The company also faced warehousing and delivery problems. While many European customers were pushing ‘just-in-time’, Scotts Europe was carrying high levels of inventory at a cost of roughly 12€ million per year. And its “On Time In Full” record hovered somewhere between 60 – 85%, which in 1998 cost the company 2.5€ million in lost sales.

In Case B the authors present Bloemen’s two-pronged strategy: to improve operations in order to get costs under control and make existing customers happy, and to begin the kind of advertising and brand development that had been so successful for Scotts in the US. Only then, explain the authors, could the company consider developing a Balanced Scorecard.

Case B concludes with a challenge to students: build a Balanced Scorecard that addresses the numerous issues outlined in Case A. The case, with accompanying Teaching Note, is particularly appropriate for MBA or executive education courses focused on producing, operating, and supplying.


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