PRODUCTIVE MEASURES

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Much of Fleming's agenda for 1997 points to the importance of productivity gains and cost-cutting moves.Through studying its business and applying technology and other methods, Fleming hopes to improve its financial performance. Among the efforts planned:General merchandise software: Fleming has developed software that will enable every stockkeeping unit in general merchandise to

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Much of Fleming's agenda for 1997 points to the importance of productivity gains and cost-cutting moves.

Through studying its business and applying technology and other methods, Fleming hopes to improve its financial performance. Among the efforts planned:

General merchandise software: Fleming has developed software that will enable every stockkeeping unit in general merchandise to carry the same code number, said Robert Stauth, chairman and chief executive officer.

"So if you order something from us, and we don't have it in one facility, we can transmit and bring it to you from another one, and you won't even know where it came from. That's pretty revolutionary. It cuts out a lot of cost."

The software has already been implemented in two of the company's general merchandise facilities, with four more to complete.

Overhead study: The company has commissioned a study on its corporate overhead, to help determine "what structure and what costs are necessary to support a $16 billion-plus company with our complexities," Stauth said. "It will be a 56-week study. We're hoping to reduce our overall costs through this in an efficient way. It will be completed about this time next year."

Productivity gains: Fleming continues to place much emphasis on productivity advances. So far the payoff has been evident, Stauth stressed.

"We had a 4% gain in the third quarter, and I'm very excited about that," he said. "It's 2.4% year-to-date. We have to continue to push productivity. It is back now and critical to keeping our health."

Stauth has made a point of noting that the continued efficiency gains at Fleming, or any other company, are tied up with the gains of the industry as a whole. As a result, it worries him that after four years of Efficient Consumer Response programs and many individual successes, some firms are being more cautious about sharing information that could benefit everyone.

"We have to get to that critical mass of 30% before it really works," Stauth emphasized. "So the major focus for '97 on the ECR Executive Committee is to get that critical mass up to 30% across the supply chain."