Tag Archives: sourcing

Supply chain and Procurement – The Decade in Review and Key Strategies for the Decade Ahead

Current State of Procurement
Working with some of the world’s best companies has given me a good view of procurement and supply chain over the years. As we exit 2019, we’ve made much progress, elevating the importance and status of our profession. Many firms have clearly articulated strategies that deliver year on year price reductions, restructured operations to separate transactional activity from strategic activity, and have designed multiple supply networks to meet the needs of specific market segments.

Overall, as procurement professionals, we have failed to progress developing rigorous category strategies, planning, and fail to optimize the opportunities available from detailed plans and well-executed cross-business/cross-functional business category strategies. Many of the firms I have visited in the last three years are just now embarking on developing a category planning approach. Many companies are still working with a centric, functional approach rather than recognizing that procurement is a business-wide process. Many businesses tend to have an annual, sometimes even quarter by quarter, business horizon rather than a forward-looking multi-year strategy. Many firms have not sufficiently invested to leverage technology to manage the current state and are in no position to look to the future state where data analytics and digital disruption will be a way of life. With robotic process automation, the internet of things, and automation with Artificial Intelligence are considered futuristic, and the reality is that they are here now. Data scientists are in high demand among progressive procurement, and supply chain-oriented companies.

The most surprising thing to me is that most companies do not have detailed maps of the suppliers in the supply chain. For me, this is some of the most critical intel a procurement or supply chain executive must have. It is impossible to have social responsibility, anti-slavery/forced labor, environmental or risk management programs without knowing all the suppliers in the supply chain. Knowing just the suppliers in tier one is not enough.

While we have made significant progress in the past decade, the challenges of a rapidly changing environment will force our firms to have renewed strategies that are forward-looking. The days where we chased low-cost labor around the globe are in our rear view. Far too often found out too late that our source of low labor costs put us at risk from natural disasters, political regulation and was temporary at best as standards of living are on the rise. In all cases, automation offsets low-cost labor. Robots work 24 hours a day, 24/7, never get tired or sick, and quality and productivity are consistent. Another lesson is that many organizations are building facilities close to the markets they serve in smaller footprints, making the supply chains more secure, agile, and flexible.

Strategies for the next decade

  • Enhance category management and develop robust strategies that are forward-thinking
  • Redesign the procurement process with the understanding that is a business-wide process with many owners, not a functional activity
  • Invest in bringing the technology up to manage the current state. Many companies are reluctant to invest in technology. Failure to do so will put the company at a competitive disadvantage and perhaps extinct
  • Build a TCO approach focused on total value. You could be getting low prices but higher production or management costs
  • Develop full supply chain maps of the supply chain along with real social responsibility and risk management programs
  • Provide the procurement teams with a comprehensive business orientation; in the past decade some organizations have compartmentalized jobs. When this is the case, individuals and groups fail to understand the business, company, and business strategies.
  • Manage succession planning and develop bench strength and a continuous recruiting
  • Develop a supplier relationship management program that rewards innovation, speed to market, business alignment and value contribution
  • Develop the individuals and teams in your business. Many groups need a program that goes back to basics and develops the population to build, drive and execute well-planned category strategies
  • Develop and train procurement leaders to look forward and create new processes, systems, and comprehensive business programs to cope with digitization, disruption, rapid product change, and supply chain agility

The changes I have seen in procurement have been challenging, exciting, and thought-provoking. The reality is that we are at the crossroads of change. While you may not agree with the current state of procurement and strategies for the future, I urge you to assess your organization and make a strategic commitment for the decade ahead.

Are you ready for the 2020s?

Does risk management require supplier development?

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked with three companies with a key objective to look at on-shoring components that have been sourced in low-cost countries for several years. The directive is coming from both the executive management and a Board of Directors concerned with risk management. The difficulty in resourcing some of these components is that it’s difficult to find suppliers with the capacity, scale and know-how to support the demands of large customers, because much of the industry has moved to low-cost labor countries. In some cases, whole industries were outsourced, like the tooling and electronics industries. Each industry has its own problems returning to domestic production.

The tooling industry saw many of its skilled tradespeople leave the industry, retire and they’ve failed to drive automation and capital expenditures in the absence of customers. Tooling has been sourced in Asia for more than two decades. To reshore, sourcing professionals must locate suppliers, help them gain skilled workers or encourage automation and scale up the capacity and capability to meet their demands. This is not a simple sourcing program and will take resources, time and capital to accomplish.

The electronics industry made significant investment in Asia, developed the supply chain and workforce in Asia. It, too, will take a skilled labor force, capital investment and supplier development to return sourcing to US factories. While these are just two examples of the difficulties in reshoring, many companies are now sounding the alarm to their purchasing and supply chain teams to build risk mitigation plans based on a new reality and changing environment.

As part of any market analysis, category managers must keep refreshing the Porter’s 5 Forces and STEEP/PESTLE (social, technological, environmental, economic, legal and political factors) market analysis to stay ahead of the rapidly changing dynamics. If you haven’t looked at reshoring, let the tariff imposed on Canadian softwood lumber be a warning that on critical components you may need a new strategy to locate domestic suppliers and understand what development must be done to make them capable should the need arise.

Are you prepared to develop a supplier?

Sustainability is key

If any suppliers needed more evidence of the importance of sustainability in the sourcing decisions of huge consumer goods companies, they certainly got it in spades over the last several weeks.

General Mills’ executive vice president of supply chain operations John Church announced a new corporate climate policy to track and reduce GHG emissions as part of its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. In his blog post, he said this new policy requires key ingredient suppliers to demonstrate environment, social and economic improvements in their supply chains.

Shortly afterwards, Coca-Cola increased its investments in Africa to support, among other activities, key sustainability initiatives and programs there. The company also signed a letter of intent to launch Source Africa, an initiative to secure more consistent, sustainable local ingredient sourcing for its products, in partnership with the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and Grow Africa.

On the heels of Coca-Cola, Tata Global Beverages announced their plans for 100% sustainable sourcing by 2020. A major focus of its sustainable sourcing strategy is sustainable agricultural practices, including reducing the use of Plant Protection Products in the tea industry.

Suppliers, take note.

The cost of being a bad customer

If John Henke’s calculations are accurate, General Motors could boost its operating income by $400 million per year just by improving its relationships with its suppliers. For Ford the number is $327 million, and Chrysler, $308 million.

We are not alone in claiming that suppliers don’t give their best stuff to their worst customers, but Henke, who is a Ph.D. and president and CEO of Planning Perspectives, Inc. has finally projected a dollar cost for bad relationships. He’s been studying supplier relationships and cost concessions within the automotive industry for many years, and he developed an index to measure it.

For the first time ever, however, Henke used proprietary data his firm has collected, public records, and media reports to calculate the costs when suppliers do such things as shift their innovations, A-Team support, or added value service to other customers. Foreign automakers have been able to take advantage of those shifts and have saved significantly over time as a result, according to Henke.

You might quibble with Henke’s formula, but the conclusion is pretty solid for any manufacturer in any sector. Beating up suppliers on price is a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy for profitability. Are the Big Three listening? Here’s an Automotive News video report with Ford’s chief purchaser sounding like he’s read the study and is trying to catch up, while Toyota’s purchasing chief is taking steps to shore up his declining supplier scores.

 

White House endorses quicker supplier payments

One of the maxims of this blog is, “Suppliers don’t offer their best ideas to their worst customers,” and one of the quickest routes to the category of “worst customer” is stretching out payments to 60, 90 or  120 days — as has been fashionable in the automotive and other industries. We generally applaud the idea of thinking like a CFO when you are a supply manager, but too often the finance-department led idea of pushing the cost of money onto suppliers by delaying payments results in tighter margins for the supply base that stifle reinvestment in equipment or research and development.

Apparently President Obama has come around to our thinking on the topic because he recently endorsed an organization of companies that have pledged to pay suppliers quickly, or help them find lower cost working capital.

In the White House announcement, the Administration claims its QuickPay program of paying small government contractors quickly has saved them $1 billion since 2011. The private business version of the program, called SupplierPay is an opportunity not just to save money, but to create better relationships that foster innovation.

 

Thoughts on the Chinese economy

The Chinese version of the ISM PMI® has ticked up from negative to positive territory, according to reports such as this one on Bloomberg.com.

A preliminary June Purchasing Managers’ Index from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics was at 50.8, up from 49.4 in May. An index above 50 signifies expectations of growth, and Chinese leaders are giving themselves credit for stimulating the economy without resorting to drastic measures.

A survey of analysts by Reuters came to a similar conclusion about the growth of the Chinese economy. More reporting of a stronger Chinese economy comes from the South China Morning Post.

We do a significant amount of work in China and the business environment there is unique, but it has matured since the days when U.S. automakers, for instance, were almost demanding that suppliers source from there. Large Chinese companies are not just focused on exports, but meeting growing domestic demand. They are adapting more sophisticated sourcing strategies of their own, and even investing in manufacturing plants in the United States, as described in this article in The Detroit News.

The strength of China’s economy and the rapid change in sophisticated sourcing is evident in  increasing  demand for development programs, certification programs and alignment with key universities in China.

The maturation of Chinese companies does tend to reduce their cost-competitiveness, but it also introduces elements of stability that mitigate some risks from sourcing at a great distance. Economic indicators that show slow, steady growth are also good signs of stability.

 

Move over Big Three

A seismic shift may be coming in the automotive industry.

“Not even two years after the delivery of the first Model S, Tesla Motors has transformed from fledgling start-up to arguably the most important car company in the world.  We are not joking,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas in a quote to the LA Times.

According to the article, suppliers who once dismissed this manufacturer are now considering building dedicated lines and facilities solely for Tesla’s business.

At least four southwestern states are vying mightily to become the home of Tesla’s $5 billion gigafactory which will employ more than 6,000 people to produce enough battery packs by 2020 to supply 500,000 vehicles.

But suppliers and states aren’t the only ones to sit up and take notice. One of the largest automakers in the world, General Motors, established an internal “Team Tesla” to analyze that company’s culture and success. Managing and collaborating with suppliers is one key to success.

Dare we say the current may be shifting toward electric cars?

Source Responsibly

Consumer pressure for sustainability has become so powerful that even a company that is dedicated to celebration and partying – Bacardi –  is taking a socially responsible position on sourcing. It has released a very detailed list of actions it’s taking.

These actions range from sustainable packaging to recycling waste to building a green-certified distillery in England. Bacardi even exclaims its goal to obtain 40% of the sugarcane-derived products used to make its rum from certified, sustainable sources by 2017 – and 100% by 2022.

Bacardi is using social media to promote its branded initiative, artfully called “Good Spirited.” So it obviously believes the initiative has marketing value. That tells us two things:  One. Sustainable sourcing is generally accepted as good for the company. Two. It’s still considered something that’s unique enough to set Bacardi apart.

The question is, how long until sustainable practices are so widely adopted and universally expected that touting them isn’t even worth it. What do you think?

 

Back to basics with three R’s

Strip away all the sophisticated software, instant communications tools and reams of data we can now incorporate into our decision-making and a simple truth remains: people are still the key to good procurement, and relationships among people still count.
Chris Jones at DC Velocity reminded me of that recently in a column he wrote about the three Rs of supply chain competitiveness. He says he heard them from a former professor nearly 20 years ago, and they haven’t changed much since. They are:
> Responsiveness
> Reliability
> Relationship
These are good principles to guide decisions about how we use all the procurement tools we have at our command. Will a big data analysis really help us respond quicker to changing conditions or anticipate possible risks? Does the vendor management software package make us a more reliable customer? How do faster communication channels help us build our relationships?
We often assume that whatever is new or “trending” is better, and data can often obscure as well as uncover a truth. So it’s good to have a few basic principles to guide us through all our metrics, and these are three that have stood the test of time.
They aren’t just good for supply management, they apply in general to business — and life.

Look Who is Buying From Bangladesh

It’s easy to say the right thing, but it’s not always easy to do the right thing as a recent investigation by The New York Times reveals.  The U.S. government, which encourages companies that buy goods overseas to use their spending clout to push for improved working conditions, is itself spending more than $1.5 billion each year to buy clothing from factories in Bangladesh, where hundreds of garment workers have died on their jobs.

The challenge of putting its money where its mouth is: how to spend the U.S. taxpayers dollars efficiently without supporting companies that abuse their workers. However, cities like Los Angeles and states like Maine have found ways, including requiring companies that bid on their contracts to publicly disclose the addresses of the factories where the clothing will be made.

The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium maintains that similar requirements could work on a national level if federal agencies coordinate their purchasing decisions more closely and consider conducting joint investigations to ensure they are using only the best factories.  In other words, the U.S. government should use its own clout to make a difference.