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FMI Energy 2012: Collaboration is the Holy Grail of Food Retailing

Collaboration is a word and concept often trumpeted in the food retailing industry: Collaboration between retailers and manufacturers, and, within retail organizations, between marketers and merchandisers, between IT and operations, and so on.

Here at the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference, the collaboration theme has been front and center, starting with Monday’s opening general session on “Collaboration: A High-Performance Approach,” given by Brent Patmos, president and chief executive officer, Perpetual Development. He began his presentation by winnowing down the audience into the youngest attendee (24) and oldest (64), and the person with the least amount of experience (two months) and most experience (43 years). He brought them up to the stage and declared that they had a lot to share with, and learn from, each other. He also made the salient point that conflict and collaboration are not necessarily incompatible.

This conference is itself an example of collaboration, which resulted in the merger a few years ago of FMI’s Energy and Store Development conferences. The event now affords an opportunity for store engineers and architects to meet and work together more closely.

I think actually the best example of collaboration I’ve seen in the industry can be found among refrigeration executives at retail companies. Quite a few seem to be unusually willing to share best practices with each other. That is very evident in the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill program, but I also see it happen in SN’s annual Refrigeration Roundtable, the third installment of which takes place next week in Schaumburg, Ill.

Read more: 2012 FMI Energy Conference Coverage

The roundtable brings together five refrigeration executives from supermarkets and five executives from refrigeration contracting firms to discuss the core business and environmental challenges involving commercial refrigeration. It is co-hosted by SN and sister Penton Media publication The resulting exchange, which is covered by both publications, represents inter-company collaboration at its best. Somehow, these companies are able to put their mutual interests above any competitive concerns. And the result is they all win, and the industry greatly benefits.

One final note -- I urge all refrigeration executives at retailers to show your collaborative mettle by completing SN’s anonymous refrigeration survey, which can be accessed here. You can even win a Kindle.


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